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"I was afraid to even drink the stuff," Eric Houser of Parson's Chicken & Fish says of mustard oil, the ingredient with which Hanna Mutsch (Kuma's Corner) challenged him to create a cocktail. "It's real pungent. It's in the horseradish/wasabi family, so it has that sinus spice to it, but also a chile spice. And you're drinking oil, which is gross."
There's also the fact that mustard oil hasn't been approved for human consumption in the U.S.; bottles sold in this country are required to bear the label "for external use only." While mustard oil is commonly used in the cuisine of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, studies have shown that it may cause heart problems in lab rats, leading the FDA to ban its sale as a foodstuff.
When Houser began experimenting with mustard oil, he encountered issues beyond its potential health risks. "Everything was turning into salad dressing," he says. Houser tried to do a play on a pousse-cafe, a layered drink using alcohols of different densities. "It was disgusting. With a spicy, highly flavored oil like that, if you try to add sweet to it, it just starts getting goofier and goofier."
Houser settled on a savory drink: a take on a Bloody Mary inspired by the Indian soup rasam, made with tomato, tamarind, and mustard seed. Instead of tamarind and fresh tomato, he used tomatillo and sun-dried tomatoes, along with Indian spices, cucumber, celery, garlic, and cilantro. To add mustard flavor, he infused gin with the mustard oil, spooning out and straining the oil from the gin before adding the spirit to the cocktail. The final elements of the Totally Rasam were lemon juice and habanero hot sauce; he garnished the drink with a celery stick that he'd vacuum-sealed with beet juice to turn it purple.
Houser rates the cocktail "between not terrible and pretty good," which won't earn it a place on the menu at Parson's. Asked what he will do with the leftover mustard oil, he responded, "I heard you can use it for diesel fuel."
Houser has challenged Graham Courter of the Matchbox to create a cocktail with spotted dick, a traditional British steamed pudding made with suet (mutton fat) and currants.
1.5 oz mustard oil-infused gin (infuse 2 oz Letherbee gin with .75 oz mustard oil for 24 hours, then strain)
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz habanero hot sauce
6 oz tomatillo mix*
Rim a glass with salt and pepper. Add all ingredients and stir; fill with ice and garnish with celery.
4 sun-dried tomatoes
Half a cucumber
1 celery rib
1 garlic clove
Handful of cilantro
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp biryani spice mix
Salt to taste
8 oz water
Blend till smooth, but don't strain.