Pimm’s and Fish (and More Questionable Food Combinations)

Last summer, my best friend Holly and I started a new tradition of trying different recipes with specific kinds of alcohol. We had mixed success; tequila and mac and cheese was a surprisingly delicious combination, while Fireball cupcakes were better in theory than in practice. We planned on doing this every month, but unfortunately we don’t have the best follow-through and didn’t do anything for the next year. Last month, however, we decided to start it up again, and at Holly’s suggestion, we chose to experiment with Pimm’s-a spiced fruit English liqueur. Neither Holly and I had tried it before, and besides the popular English summer cocktail, the Pimm’s Cup, we couldn’t find many recipes using it, so we settled on three: the classic Pimm’s Cup, Pimm’s Cupcakes, and a Pimm’s marinade of Holly’s own creation that we used on cod.

  1. Pimm’s Cup
    Most Pimm’s cup recipes I found called for lemonade or ginger ale as a mixer, but the one Holly found actually used Sprite, and because we were lazy and didn’t feel like wandering around the crowded Aldi where we bought most of our ingredients, we grabbed a nearby box of generic-brand lemon-lime soda and hoped for the best. I was nervous when I opened the Pimm’s bottle and sniffed its contents. “It smells like wop,” I told Holly, grimacing, referring to the disgusting mess of spiked punch popular at frat parties (not that I would know anything about that…I definitely never spent any weekends my sophomore year awkwardly dancing to crappy pop music and spilling cheap, sticky jungle juice all over myself in the TKE house…). Still, I mixed it in with the sprite and slices of lemon and cucumber, topping each drink with a couple mint leaves. Fortunately, the cocktail tasted nothing like wop; it was a little citrusy, but mostly tasted like a familiar spice-Holly guessed nutmeg- and the combination with the citrus and mint was really refreshing. I can understand why it’s such a popular summer drink in England, and I would absolutely have it again.
    pimms cuppimms cup 2
  2. Pimm’s-Marinated Cod
    We couldn’t really find any savory Pimm’s-based dishes, so Holly decided to get creative. She combined the liqueur with sliced strawberries, oranges, and chopped jalapenos into an improvised marinade, which she used to pan-broil a couple cod fillets. The result was delicious; despite the orange and strawberry, the marinade wasn’t too sweet- I think the Pimm’s actually helped mellow it out- and the jalapeno gave it a nice kick. The only downside was that neither of us know how to properly cook fish, so the texture was a little chewy, but considering the purpose of the experiment was to make something tasty using Pimm’s, I would call the dish a success.
    pimms cod 2pimms cod
  3. Pimm’s Cupcakes
    After the Fireball cupcake disaster last year, I was a little nervous to try this one, but unlike the Fireball one, I found an actual recipe for this one on Lay the Table, a gorgeous food blog created by someone who actually knows what she’s doing and doesn’t just substitute water for booze in cake batter and expect it not to taste like garbage, the way Holly and I did last time. I didn’t make the batter from scratch because I am way too lazy, opting instead for a boxed mix, but I did want to try to make the buttercream frosting myself. I’m normally the “buy a can of frosting and eat most of it with a spoon instead of putting it on the baked goods” kind of girl, so I was a little nervous about making homemade buttercream for the first time, but I was proud to see it thicken into a sweet, creamy, confection- until Holly decided to dump the entire saucepan of mashed strawberries and strawberry juice we needed for coloring and flavor into the bowl rather than measuring it out. Thanks, bestie. Luckily, adding more powdered sugar-a LOT more powdered sugar- transformed it from a watery, chunky mess into a pale pink creamy glaze. I added the grated and chopped orange rind, mint, and cucumber, and mixed it into the glaze. We ended up only making six cupcakes before just deciding to use the rest of the batter to make one big cake because we are very impatient people. We were very happy with the results; the frosting/glaze was light and refreshing (who would have thought of putting cucumber in a dessert?!), although because we had to add so much extra powdered sugar, it was almost a little TOO sweet. I would definitely try this again- with the correct measurements this time.
    pimms frostingpimms cake

While we weren’t able to find as many recipes this time, I was happy with the outcome of the ones we did try. However, I don’t what the likelihood is that I would make any of them again; Pimm’s seems like the kind of thing I would buy for one cocktail and then have collecting dust in a kitchen cupboard for a couple years. The cupcakes were delicious, but I feel like I could use the same recipe without the Pimm’s and it would still taste just as good. Same for the marinade; while Pimm’s is good in a cocktail, it’s such a mellow flavor that using it for cooking is kind of pointless because it’s overpowered by other flavors. Still, it was an overall success, and I can’t wait to decide what our next boozy ingredient will be. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Fireball and Tomato Juice (And Other Questionable Food Decisions)

Holly has been my best friend since ninth grade. We formed a bond while we were waiting for our moms to pick us up after auditioning for the fall musical (and embarrassing ourselves spectacularly) when she complimented my t-shirt (camouflage with the caption “Ha! Now you can’t see me!” printed across the chest) and we commiserated over how horribly we’d performed during the audition. Nearly twelve years later, she’s still one of my favorite people; Holly is one of the brightest, funniest, most creative people I know, and she’s always been there for me, no matter how trivial my problems might be.

bff

In addition to being a generally wonderful human being, Holly is also my fine arts buddy; we do classy things like take a road trip to Chicago to see The Globe’s international tour of Hamlet or try escargot at a fancy French restaurant before going to the opening night of Fanciulla del West at the Minnesota Opera.

And sometimes we do not-so-classy things like adding fireball to a bunch of stuff to see what it tastes like.

I promise this isn’t as stupid as it sounds.

The plan stemmed from a growing need to get rid of a bottle of Fireball Holly left in my freezer on Halloween (we combined it with root beer, and the result tastes like liquid Red Hots; a candy-flavored drink seemed like an appropriate choice for the holiday). And yes, I am an amazing friend for not drinking any of it for eight months.

As it turns out, Fireball’s website has an extensive list of recipes (most of which have the word “balls” in them, which appeals to my twelve-year-old sense of humor), and a lot of them involve combinations I never would have thought of.  In the end, we each chose two recipes: one cocktail and one food. I only had two guidelines for the cocktails: they had to be ones we hadn’t tried before, and they had to be ones that didn’t involve other types of alcohol; as delicious as some of the ones on the website sounded, I really didn’t want to buy a huge bottle of butterscotch schnapps or pumpkin liqueur or some other obscure ingredient that would just end up sitting in the back of my fridge forever after using it for one drink.  All of the recipes we tried besides the cupcakes were from Fireball’s official website, although we tweaked them a bit. In some cases, doing that worked out really well; in others, we probably should have experimented a little more.

THE FOOD

1. Fireball barbecue sauce

I figured this one would be hard to screw up, which appealed to me because I never cook and wanted something easy. The recipe on the site was technically for baked barbecue chicken, but because it was hot as balls outside that day and we were already using the oven for Holly’s recipe and I didn’t want my apartment to feel like Hell, I decided to just mix it in a crockpot with frozen meatballs. The result: they were delicious. You couldn’t really taste the Fireball that much; the sauce was kind of sweet, but that was probably just the brown sugar. Holly noted that the syrupy-ness from the Fireball was kind of detectable, but it wasn’t overpowering. I would definitely make this again.

meatballs

2. Fireball cupcakes 

Technically, this recipe didn’t call for Fireball, they’re just called Girl on Fire cupcakes (after The Hunger Games success), but because they came up in a Google search for Fireball recipes, we rolled with it, replacing the water in the batter with the cinnamon whiskey. We also added a little Fireball to the frosting as well, hoping to increase the cinnamon flavor. Unfortunately, the cinnamon flavor was cooked out of the cupcakes, leaving behind only a rotten whiskey taste, so it was more like somewhat bland cupcakes with an ass-flavored aftertaste. They didn’t even look as cool as the ones in the recipe (although that might have to do with the fact that the original baker used a professional frosting tube and we just cut a hole in the corner of a plastic bag…hey, we get points for resourcefulness!). We used boxed yellow cake mix, which is what the recipe called for, but we think we would have had more success if we had made the batter from scratch….and just added cinnamon rather than Fireball. Conclusion: Fireball-THEMED cupcakes have the potential to be awesome, but actual Fireball cupcakes taste like sugary poop.

cupcakes

THE COCKTAILS

1. Fireball and Iced Tea

I thought this one would be my favorite because I love cinnamon tea. I figured it would just taste like cinnamon iced tea with a bit of a kick. However, we underestimated the strength of Fireball, and despite using the amounts of iced tea and whiskey listed in the official recipe, it just tasted like a big glass of watered-down Fireball. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t something I would be able to drink a lot of; it took us a while to finish the one drink, just because the Fireball was so overwhelming. Next time: more iced tea, less Fireball.

iced tea

2. Fireball Bloody Mary

This was the one I was the most nervous for; seriously, what weirdo over at Fireball headquarters was like “You know what would taste great together? Tomato juice and cinnamon.” Even the site’s name for it, “Bloody Balls,” is disgusting. But I really wanted to try an unusual recipe, so we risked it. At first, it lived up to my expectation that it would be gross; it just tasted like sugary tomato juice. Then, Holly had a stroke of genius and added a good squirt of sriracha to it…and it was SO. DAMN. GOOD. The spiciness of the sriracha helped combine the sweetness of the Fireball and the savory-ness of the Bloody Mary mix into this unique, amazing flavor.

bloody mary

BONUS SHOT RECIPE!

Inspired by the Bloody Mary success, Holly tried to recreate a shot she had tried at The Shout House in Minneapolis called an Atomic Fireball, named after the candy, which apparently the shot is supposed to taste like. The shot at the bar combined Fireball and Tabasco, but because the only hot sauce I had in my kitchen was sriracha, we had to make due with that. Lesson learned: sriracha and Fireball is not the same as Tabasco and Fireball, and it definitely doesn’t taste like candy. It does scorch your throat going down, so that’s fun.

atomic fireball

Overall, it was a successful experiment. True, some of the recipes weren’t anything I would ever willingly ingest again, but I had so much fun spending the evening with my bestie. Seriously, I’m so lucky to have this girl in my life. We go together like Fireball and tomato juice….and the sriracha is our bond of friendship…okay, this simile is becoming more of a mess than the cupcakes, so I’m going to stop now.