A Fire in the Belly

Wednesday, November 3, 2009Koala Crop
Cajun Martini

I was looking forward to this drink, namely since it calls for pepper vodka and it would give me an excuse to buy some to have on hand for Bloody Marys – nothing quite as tasty as a Bloody Mary made with pepper vodka.  However, I was soon dismayed during my stock-up trip to BevMo to find they no longer carried Absolut Peppar, or, apparently, any other variety of pepper vodka.  There was a chipotle vodka there but I wasn’t quite adventuresome enough to spring for that.  Actually it was Hangar One’s Alchemist series, which after reading more about it, I wish I’d bought a bottle of it.  I may have to go back and buy it anyway, despite the cost, it sounds tasty:


Brother, Can You Spare $45.99?

No. 3 on the Alchemist Series. Base vodka distilled from fresh peppers, blended with separate infusions and distillations of fresh roasted Fresno chiles, habaneros, jalapenos, bell peppers and pasillas.  Aye, now THAT’S a pepper vodka!

Anyway, I digress.  I was looking for a reasonably-priced small bottle of Absolut Peppar.  I did not find it.  I did ask the one decent-looking older guy at my La Mesa BevMo for assistance and he told me they hadn’t had any there for awhile, and that I was about the 10th person to ask him in the last couple of months.  Hmmm, what does that mean to you?  ORDER IT.  It’s a good thing I don’t run a business, I’d obviously be incompetent at it.  Let’s see, my customers keep asking for something, what should I do?  I did find mini bottles of lemon and citrus vodka for a couple of future recipes that I have calling for them – not that I mind having more vodka, but the space in my freezer gets a little tight sometimes.  No luck on the chai syrup for the Maharaja Martini I still need to make, so I’ll have to try elsewhere or just order it from the Torani website.  I confess I had no idea they make some forty million varieties of flavored syrups.  Right up there with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, except only the good varieties!

The good-looking BevMo clerk promptly turned his attention to a couple of high-maintenance cougars who were stocking (stalking?) up for a party of some sort, apparently, neither of whom had as much between her ears as she had in the silicone inserts in her boobs.  The clerk was falling all over himself waiting on them and carting stuff out to their car – a red Corvette, naturally.  Spare me.  Who says only men have mid-life crises?  Meanwhile, I carry my own box of liquor to my car myself and am chuckling at the thought that I could probably blow off the Corvette with my mere 304 hp Cadillac CTS only because the two cougars probably drive like pussies.  I then head out to the vet to pick up more medicine for one of my cats. 

I have a diabetic cat, his name is Purrthos.  He’s had diabetes for 6 years now, he gets an insulin shot twice a day.  He is about the most easy-going, happy, mellow cat you could ever meet.  He also is on blood pressure medicine and has a heart arrthymia.  My vet has to thump him in the nose to get him to stop purring long enough to be able to hear his heart when I take him for checkups.  We should all be this happy and so easily content.  Anyway, I hit the vet’s office, find myself wishing I could knock over a bank as I pay for his insulin and blood pressure meds, and head back home to Santee.

I live in Santee, California, which is just slightly north and east of San Diego.  Santee also has an unfortunate reputation for being a rather redneck, somewhat ignorant part of the county.  A lot of it is justified, a lot of it not.  I think it depends on where you are in town and who you see and who you associate with.  I don’t hang out in Santee much – for one thing, the place isn’t known for fine cuisine and I like good food and I like martini bars.  Most of the places here have that strip mall generic aspect to them – Olive Garden, Chili’s, Mimi’s Cafe, and a host of taco shops and all the usual fast food suspects, plus the county’s first Sonic burger joint, which I have yet to go to.  I figure my arteries have a hard enough time staying open as they already are, I really don’t need to encourage them to slam shut with the typical Santee restaurant fare.  I’m probably one of the few people in Santee who voted for Obama, and even got cursed at by the rotund street flower vendor near the freeway onramp for 52 for putting up the sole Obama campaign sign before last year’s election. I can’t say as I’m totally thrilled with the job the President has done thus far but I will say I think he inherited a hell of a mess, and thus end my political discussion with that and keep the rest of my opinions to myself, they don’t belong in this blog.  Santee, however, tends to have the type of folks out here that still have their “W ’04” sticker on their truck, even though that was, oh, FIVE YEARS AGO now at a minimum.  Lots of trucks with the tailgate testicles, too.  If you haven’t seen those, it’s where the rear bumper has a pair of large, fake, rubbery testicles hanging down where the trailer hitch would usually go.  Really, really charming.  I gotta say, I see those and just think what a catch the driver must be.  NOT.  Last but far from least, there is a large preponderance of what I’d call “rolling memorials”.  They are car window decals that usually look like this:

Rolling Memorial

Now this is not to say I’m unsympathetic to anyone’s loss of a loved one.  Far from it.  However, I do think that your love of the dearly departed is better expressed via a more dignified method than, say, a cheap vinyl window decal.  Like perhaps with a marble headstone or a nice urn, or blasting their ashes into space, or a memorial sealife reef with a plaque dedicated to them on it.  Any number of things.  If this was the way my loved ones choose to honor me, I’d tell them to spring for a couple of carwashes instead.  I understand that you miss them and you loved them … but for the most part, the people around you on the road have no idea who this person was.  And you probably rarely see your own memorial sticker, because it is on the BACK of your car.  If you want to remind yourself of your loved one’s departure, put the sticker on your bathroom mirror instead.  I just don’t get the appeal or how this is really honoring someone. 

This past week, however, I actually saw a rolling memorial for someone I’d heard of, a dear friend of someone who is very close to me who passed away in February of this year.  Turns out his grown daughter and family live in the family home out in my neighborhood, and lo and behold, I’m on my way out on Monday morning when I actually see a sticker on the back of a Yukon with this man’s name on it.  Then, in what has to be pretty high odds, on my way back from the vet today with my cat’s medicines, I see ANOTHER sticker, on a different car (a pickup truck) dedicated to the same guy.  I think the Yukon is the wife’s car, the truck must be the husband’s.  What are the chances?  I’m starting to think I should get one myself and slap it on my car’s window just so I don’t feel left out.  Nyah.  I still never knew the man myself, and when I told my friend about seeing these, he wasn’t overly impressed or touched, thought a nice headstone made for a more fitting memorial.  And it does give me pause to wonder – what is it we are hoping to elicit from those around us with stickers like these?  Sympathy?  Pity?  Does the sympathy of total strangers really mean that much to you, if you were to get it?  Something to think about.  Me, I’d rather know that a few very special people loved me and missed me than know that a thousand strangers were going to see my name on the back of a car someday and wonder, “Who the fuck was that and why should I care?”   If I were to put a sticker like this on my car at the moment, it would look like this:

Ideal Bars

My Kinda Memorial

So after my second viewing of the same rolling memorial sentiment, I reach Santee and pull into my local Mom and Pop (actually I think it’s Pop and Son) liquor store, Mr. Liquor, to see if they, by chance, have any Absolut Peppar.  They do.  Tons of it.  Of course, it is vastly overpriced compared to BevMo, but this store does carry a surprising amount of variety.  Whenever I can’t find something at BevMo, this place usually has it if it’s alcohol-based.  Two reasons I don’t go to this store more often would be: 1) You guessed it, price.  I don’t need to pay $24 for a bottle of Absolut Peppar; 2) Seedy people in the parking lot.  Granted, they come and go, as they are customers, and the store has a sign outside discouraging people from consuming alcoholic beverages in the parking lot.  Now, the fact that they have to HAVE such a sign up is usually a warning sign anyway.  It never occurs to me to guzzle a six-pack in the parking lot at BevMo, for instance.  This liquor store, though?  Well, different story.  Depending on how often I drive by it in the course of a day, I usually see at least one or two customers heading back across the street to the apartment complex directly opposite, already swilling something out of a paper bag.  I’m sure it’s just a Diet Coke.  There’s also a pay phone outside and I inevitably see someone using it.  How often do you see anyone on a pay phone anymore?  In Southern California?  At least in well-populated areas?  Pretty rare, and no, I’m not trying to sound like I’m dissing anyone for using a pay phone, I know there are still people who don’t have cellphones and can’t afford them … it’s just strange to see someone using one these days. I don’t even know how much a call costs. 

So I come out of the store with my own paper bag with my pepper vodka, finally.  Sure enough, there is a guy on the pay phone.  His car is parked next to mine.  I get into my car, glance over at his car, and become suddenly thankful that I’m looking down into my lap.  His car is an older BMW, one of the really boxy-looking ones, bright blue, with light blue fur on the interior.  FUR.  Not just on the dashboard.  Oh no.  It’s on the insides of the door panels.  NICE.  It sticks up above the bottom of the window so you see this line of fur where the window meets the door. Now that, my friends, is Santee class.  I should have checked for the rolling memorial window sticker on my way out, but I was trying so hard not to laugh that I forgot.

Home at last.  I mix up my Cajun Martini to go with my Lean Cuisine dinner, some shrimp and pasta thing that is actually pretty decent.  Now the image of the Cajun Martini in The Martini Book is rather deceptive, as it is pictured as this pretty, red-orange drink.  Again with the color issues like I had with my Nyquil drink of my previous post – but in this case, my drink is perfectly clear.  Maybe the Hangar One Chipotle is red, I guess I’ll have to buy a bottle (oh, twist my arm!) and find out.  Or whatever was used for the photograph was red.  But Absolut Peppar, which is about the most common pepper vodka I’ve heard of, is quite clear.  6 parts pepper vodka, 1 dash of dry vermouth, garnish with olive stuffed with pickled jalapeno pepper.  The photo shows a red pepper floating in the cocktail – I don’t think jalapenos are red, are they?  At any rate, it sure as heck isn’t an olive.  Photo FAIL, Zeva Oelbaum (the photographer for the book).  Not that it isn’t a lovely image, no slight intended there.  Just not one of the drink as it is prepared.  So I try to get past my lack of a pretty reddish orange martini and cope with it.  It took all of about three seconds, about the time it took me to drop in an olive.  I have double-stuffed, garlic and jalapeno pepper stuffed olives, so that one had to do, and I finally sampled my Cajun Martini at last.

Whew.  If nothing else, I can use this when I run out of drycleaning fluid.  Well, if I had such a thing sitting around, anyway.  Kind of right up there with horseradish except without the benefit of covering a juicy piece of prime rib.  STRONG.  Too strong, really, to be enjoyable.  By the time I got about halfway through the drink, I found myself adding a touch of straight vodka to it, and put in two more olives – one of the previous variety, and one of the ones stuffed with bleu cheese, to soften up the drink a bit.  That helped a lot, surprisingly.  If I made this drink again, I would make it with probably equal parts pepper vodka and regular vodka, and change the olives.  As the recipe is stated, I’d give it only 2.5 stars.  With my modifications (not thoroughly tested, mind you), it would probably move up to a 3.5 or 4 star drink.  I’ll get back to you on that after New Year’s, I’ve still got a lot of other martinis to finish first!

Your hostess,


~ by rachelroust on November 6, 2009.

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