Flavour Revolution – Sriracha

Fierce Flames

Hailing from eastern Thailand, Sriracha has burst onto the world scene over the last few years, even being used by restaurant chains, such as Subway, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and many others.  Even McDonald’s has jumped on the Sriracha bandwagon. The hot sauce is made from chili pepper paste, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, and it will leave a sizzle on your taste buds. Let’s learn some more about the product that is sometimes referred to as “cock sauce”, thanks to the rooster adorned on the bottle:

Sriracha No Sauce

That cock symbolizes Huy Fong Foods and Sriracha founder David Tran, who was born in the year of the rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac. Huy Fong can push out 3000 bottles of Sriracha each hour, from their production plant in Irwindale, California. 100 million pounds of red jalapeno peppers are used each year to make the sauce and are all provided by Underwood Ranches in Amarillo, California.

Si Racha, where the sauce has been originally traced back to, is actually a seaside town in Thailand, with a population of almost 20,000 inhabitants. Sales of the Americanized version have topped 20 million bottles per year and that number just continues to rise.

On the Scoville scale, which measures how spicy different sauces, peppers, and other food items are, Sriracha gets a score of 2200 points, which is actually quite low, in the grand scheme of things. The hottest pepper currently listed on the scale is the Carolina Reaper (great name!) at 2,200,000 heat units. Your face would probably implode if you put that pepper in your mouth!

Sriracha Eye Drops

Sriracha has now been infused into everything from candy canes to potato chips. One of those sounds delicious and the other disgusting and I bet you know which way this potato chip monster is leaning. The spicy dip has also been added as an ingredient to lollipops, beef jerky, lip balm, and even cocktail bitters.

Portland’s Rogue beer and spirits company has produced a Sriracha Hot Stout Beer. I’ve had and enjoyed the company’s Chipotle Ale, so I’m curious to also try the Sriracha offering. Perhaps, the Sip Advisor will get his grubby hands on it during Easter weekend, when the Sip Family is planning a crawl of the Portland scene!

While Sriracha has made its way around the world, it has also left our atmosphere, aboard the international space station, demanded by astronauts, to be used on their dehydrated meals. Some folks are quick to put the sauce on anything and everything, but the most popular items include pizza, burgers, noodle dishes, eggs, and stir fry.

sriracha-food-pyramid

A 34-minute documentary on Sriracha was released in 2013, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, which saw 1315 people donate $21,009 to the cause, in just 31 days. All this success – sales increases by about 20% each year – despite never advertising their product. Sriracha is also not trademarked, so that’s why imitators may be aplenty, including a version made by Tabasco.

The Sriracha story hasn’t been all sunshine and chili peppers, though. The Huy Fong company has been sued and shutdown over the smell omitted by their factory. Complaints from area residents included sore throats, burning eyes, and nosebleeds. That’s a small price to pay for convenient hot sauce!

The factory opened again, once the odor issues were dealt with and fans of the sauce can actually take a tour of the place, getting to see how peppers become paste and how Sriracha makes its way from harvest to bottles to consumer’s mouths. Occasionally, there’s also an ice cream truck on the site, offering Sriracha-infused ice cream!

Flavour Revolution: The Cocky Rooster

The Cocky Rooster Beer Cocktail

  • Rim glass with Salt
  • 1.5 oz UV Sriracha Vodka
  • Top with Beer
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Soy Sauce
  • Garnish with Lemon Wheel

In a not totally surprising note, I first experienced Sriracha in potato chip form and liked it enough that I want to give it more opportunities aboard Sip Advisor delicacies. I’ve heard of a Sriracha-mayonnaise mix, which has me very interested.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (1.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink is similar to a Michelada, but altogether different, at the same time. While I’m really getting into this Sriracha Vodka, I did not like this drink. I just felt that things didn’t work well together and the taste was off. The beer I chose to use was Red Truck Ale, as I wanted something that would allow the other flavours to take over and take over they did… just not with good results. Back to the Sriracha Vodka, my only qualm is that it’s not actually red, but clear. The bottle is red and I was hoping the alcohol would be too, adding a new element to my collection.

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March 14 – Nutty Irishman

Party Places

To this day, the Sip Advisor is still proud to say that he not only celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, live from Dublin, Ireland… but that he also survived the trip! You don’t have to go all the way to the Emerald Island to get your green on, though. Here are the Top 5 most unique St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, from around the world:

#5: Prohibited Partying

The idea of a dry St. Patrick’s Day celebration seems absolutely ridiculous, but that’s exactly what the officials of Hoboken, New Jersey have tried to accomplish with their annual parade. Public intoxication has grown to such extremes for the event that a zero tolerance policy was enacted. To the Sip Advisor, it all just sounds like a challenge: to get as wasted as possible, while avoiding the establishment and their exorbitant ($2,000 minimum) fines. It would be like the alcoholic version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!

meanwhile-in-ireland

#4: Shamrock Shake

In the otherwise non-descript town of O’Neill, Nebraska, is the world’s largest shamrock. The massive clover was originally painted in the middle of the road, at the intersection of Route 281 and Highway 20. It has since been reinstalled as coloured concrete, ensuring its prosperity. Founded by Irish national, John O’Neill, the place celebrates in some unique ways, including a Children’s Literature Festival, the reading of Dr. Seuss’s ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ and a massive fish fry.

#3: High Flying

This one may be hard for the average person to achieve, as I’m sure you need some serious credentials just to be launched into space. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield didn’t let floating high above the world, aboard the International Space Station in 2013, disrupt his celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Hadfield decked himself out in green, performed the song “Danny Boy,” and snapped some photos of Ireland from outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Green Meaning

#2: Fun in the Sun

The island of Montserrat – part of the West Indies – is known as the “Emerald Island of the Caribbean.” It is one of the few places in the world, outside of Ireland, where St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday (Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, being the others). How did this Caribbean nation become a hot bed of Irish activity and celebration? Well, it was established by Irish refugees, duh! If you visit, your passport will be stamped with a shamrock and you can celebrate a weeklong St. Patrick’s Day festival with a calypso flavour.

#1: Short and Sweet

While the St. Patrick’s Day parade I witnessed in Dublin wasn’t the most thrilling thing I’ve ever seen, it did provide a taste of Irish culture. The festivities in Dripsey, Cork, may have been more up my alley, though. Dripsey is home to the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, stretching just 100 yards and starting from one of the town’s pubs, while finishing at the other. That means, you can grab a pint of Guinness at the start and be ready for another round at the finish!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Nutty Irishman

Nutty Irishman Shot

  • Rim glass with Nuts
  • 0.75 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.75 oz Frangelico
  • Garnish with Nuts

Where have you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day? If you’ve hit any of the preceding places, let the Sip Advsior know how it was. You never know where our next travel plans will take us!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I was hoping to rim the glass with Lucky Charms, but I couldn’t justify shelling out $7 for a box of cereal that I don’t really need. The shot was pretty good and any lover of nutty flavours will enjoy it. Best of all, I got to enjoy a ton of Honey Roasted Peanuts in the process of making the shooter!

Ireland – Blarney Stone

Luck of the Irish

Bouncing around Europe to make sure the Sip Advisor ended up in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day was a must. Of course, the day celebrates the death of and feast for Saint Patrick. But what do we really know about this patron saint of boozing and his namesake holiday? Luckily for you, my little sippers, I’m here to educate!:

Don't Have to be Irish

Saint Patrick has become a symbol of national identity for the Irish, despite being born in England. He is credited with using the shamrock as a teaching tool and figure for the holy trinity (the father, the son, and the holy spirit… had he plucked a four-leaf varietal, would he have had to make up a fourth element for the concept?). Despite common belief, Ireland’s national symbol is actually the harp, not the shamrock. Mmmm, it gets me thinking of Harp Lager, which is my favourite Irish brewing import.

Patrick worked his way across Ireland setting up monasteries, churches, and schools to help with his converting and was arrested many times by the Celtic Druids (a wicked name for a rock band), managing to escape their capture every time. His inclusion of native Irish rituals helped in bringing people over to Christianity. Patrick is credited with creating the Celtic Cross, by adding an image of the sun (an important Irish symbol) to the Christian cross.

As with most saints, Patrick has been recognized for performing a number of miracles during his life. Those phenomenal feats include driving snakes out of the country, although most scientists believe there were never any serpents in Ireland to begin with. The term serpents could have had more to do with converting paganism followers to Christianity and exiling those who did not wish to jump ship. Legends also state that Patrick was able to raise the dead.

Ireland Snakes

While wearing green is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, Saint Patrick’s garments were actually blue. I have so much more blue in my wardrobe (it accentuates my eyes!), so I kind of wish we would celebrate March 17 with some historical accuracy. Other traditions for the day include kissing the blarney stone, which for Mrs. Sip and I means going to the local pub of that name and getting drunk enough that your face meets the floor.

The leap year tradition of women proposing to men has also been attributed to Patrick. The account states that when Saint Bridget complained of women waiting too long for men to propose (hey, we’re just enjoying what’s left of our freedom!) Patrick made this little alteration to courtship guidelines. Bridget tried to propose to Patrick, but the wise missionary turned her down.

St. Patrick’s Day is known as one of the booziest days of the year and it was no different in Patrick’s time. He is said to have endorsed drinking on his feast day, stating that everyone should have “a drop of the hard stuff.” Along these lines, it is customary to drop the shamrock you’ve worn on St. Patrick’s Day in your last drink of the evening, thereby ‘drowning the shamrock’.

st-patricks-day-dd

Everyone seems to get in on the St. Patrick’s Day act from the Chicago River in the United States being died green (although that might just be all the people expelling their green beverages) to the Canadian province of Newfoundland celebrating a provincial holiday… I really wish that this would spread across the entire country, rather than the French language. The day is also celebrated in Argentina, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, and other locales around the globe.

And earth’s atmosphere apparently can’t contain the festiveness. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been known to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, including American Catherine Coleman playing instruments belonging to Irish musicians The Chieftains and Canadian Chris Hadfield taking photos of Ireland while in orbit and donning green for a rendition of Danny Boy.

File this under the ‘say it ain’t so’ category: From 1903 to 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious observation, which equated to all pubs being shut down each year on March 17. When that law was overturned and the day was recognized as a national holiday, the booze was back. Thank god (or Saint Patrick) we remedied that!

Ireland: Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone Drink Recipe

  • 2 oz Irish Whiskey
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge

So, raise your glass (whatever it is, it better be green) and join me in reciting this great toast: “May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead!”

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink is great. It combines three of my favourite ingredients: Whiskey, Ginger Ale, and Lime Juice. The taste is light and refreshing and thanks to the two ounces of booze, you can get pretty trashed just like Saint Patrick would have wanted!

Denmark – Cloudberry Dream

Playtime Pleasures

Mrs. Sip and I recently viewed The LEGO Movie, which the Sip Advisor believes is a must-see attraction for young and old alike. It was the final piece, if you will, that cemented LEGO being a topic discussed while we visit Denmark as part of the Around the World liquor showcase. This fascinating product has a rich history and one that should be shared with all you little sippers:

Humble Beginnings

Ole Kirk Christiansen started LEGO when his carpentry business was faltering in 1932. Christiansen chose the name by combining the Danish words LEG and GODT, which means “play well” together. In Latin, LEGO means “I put together”. He used the excess lumber he had to make wooden toys, which he sold locally. The LEGO blocks we know and love today were the result of Christiansen buying the rights to Kiddicraft blocks after the inventor committed suicide. A patent for LEGO’s ‘toy building brick’ came in 1961, which improved on the Kiddicraft design and the rest is history.

Backwards Compatible

Statistically Speaking

560 billion LEGO pieces have been manufactured as of 2013 and only 18 of every million bricks come out defective. Seven LEGO sets are sold every second around the world. LEGO produces more tires than companies like Goodyear and Bridgestone. In fact, they make 381 million each year… sure they’re miniature, but that’s a lot of rubber! If this ever helps a reader with a pub trivia night, you owe me a Coke.

Across the Universe

While you can build just about anything using your imagination (porn theatre, strip club, grow-op, meth lab, etc.), LEGO collections allow kids to travel anywhere from floating through space, to sailing the seas with pirates, to battling dragons and defending castles. 13 LEGO sets have actually been brought to the International Space Station to see how the pieces react in gravity.

Good Company

While today, LEGO has licensing deals with a number of commodities (Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, etc.), it all began in 1999 when the toy company partnered with Star Wars. Along with the previously mentioned sets, the likes of Santa Claus, Spider-Man, and even Steven Spielberg have been immortalized as LEGO mini figures.

lego-piece-missing

Home Sweet Home

A life-size LEGO house was built in 2009 by James May, for his Toy Stories TV series. With the help of 1,200 volunteers, the two-floor, four bedroom abode was constructed using 3.3 million bricks and also had a wooden support structure. May spent one night in the home, and ironically said he slept like a brick. The house was demolished after an agreement to have it sent to LEGOLAND fell through because of costs. The pieces were donated to charity, however.

Theme Party

Sticking with LEGOLAND, there are six LEGO theme parks around the globe, including resorts in Billund, Denmark (home of the first factory); Windsor, United Kingdom; Günzburg, Germany; San Diego, USA; Winter Haven, USA; and Nusajaya, Malaysia. There is also a chain of LEGOLAND Discovery Centres with five in the U.S., two in Germany, and one each in the U.K., Japan, and Canada (stupid Ontario gets all the cool attractions!).

Work of Art

Nathan Sawaya has gained a cult following as a block artist – wouldn’t it be considered an offshoot of cubism!? – using LEGO bricks to make renowned pieces of art. Sawaya quit his job as a lawyer (perhaps this is also in Mrs. Sip’s future!) in 2001 to dedicate his life to LEGO art and it’s worked out pretty well for him. His show ‘The Art of the Brick’ is touring museums across the United States. He’s even made a life-sized Stephen Colbert.

Stepping on Lego

Creation Theory

Speaking of using LEGO for art, starting in 2001 (that seems to be the year men around the world went nuts for the toy), Brendan Powell Smith began creating illustrations from the Bible, using LEGO. His website, The Brick Testament contains nearly 4,000 images telling more than 300 stories. Perhaps this will inspire the Sip Advisor to take up religion… no, I think I’ll pass.

Honourable Mention

LEGO was named Toy of the Century in 2000, narrowly beating out the Teddy Bear, Barbie Doll, and Action Man. The three runners up went on to form an alliance, looking to overthrow LEGO from its lofty perch through propaganda, a smear campaign, and other dirty tactics. Then, Barbie Doll and Action Man had an affair that upset Teddy Bear and caused a irreparable rift within the coalition!

Denmark: Cloudberry Dream

Cloudberry Dream Drink Recipe

  • 2 oz Cloudberry Liqueur
  • 1 oz Akvavit
  • Top with Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with Cranberries

I was huge into LEGO as a youngster and one of the few things I’m looking forward to as a future father is bringing home my kid’s first LEGO set… then ignoring my duties as a dad and husband, playing with children’s toys for hours on end!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
An invention as great as LEGO deserves to be partnered with a drink this delicious! It has me looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Akvavit. The Cloudberry Liqueur was as wonderful as it has been in the past and throw in all the citrus elements and everything’s coming together perfectly!