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Wasabi Is The Spicy Kick Your Cocktails Have Been Missing

Wasabi paste in black bowl
Wasabi paste in black bowl - Medolka/Shutterstock

Fellow spicy cocktail lovers, it seems the world has finally caught up to us. Savory drinks are having a big moment, showcasing not just sweet, bitter, and sour, but umami flavors as well, like saltiness and heat. The spicy margarita is finally in good company, it seems, as fancy cocktail bars around the country debut original creations loaded with chiles, peppercorn, hot sauce, and other fire-starting ingredients. But if you haven't yet, there's one hot ingredient you need to try in a drink ASAP: wasabi.

Wasabi is a root, related to other spicy botanicals like horseradish and mustard, which is commonly grated or ground into a paste and used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine. You may be familiar with it as the green lump served with sushi, alongside pickled ginger, although that's rarely real wasabi — because actual wasabi is so tricky to work with (not to mention to cultivate), the stuff you encounter on a regular basis is actually a substitute made from horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring. People who have tried both, however, typically report that the taste isn't too far off from the real thing.

In any case, wasabi (and its cousin horseradish) have a kind of heat that we tend to experience more in the nose and sinuses than in the mouth, unlike with chili peppers, where the sensation stays primarily in the mouth. It's a unique and exhilarating kind of heat that deserves to meet your bar cart.

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

To Wasabi Or Not To Wasabi

Wasabi root and sharkskin grater
Wasabi root and sharkskin grater - Karinsasaki/Getty Images

Professional bartenders are using wasabi in all sorts of different drink styles, and you should, too. Drinks on the sweeter, fruitier side can benefit from some heat to amplify and balance out the flavors that are already there, while adding a whole new element to the experience. Even dessert cocktails, perhaps counterintuitively, can be jazzed up with a bit of wasabi — it adds some interesting depth of flavor, while the creamy ingredients help subdue some of the bitter edge that fresh wasabi can have.

But don't sleep on simpler drinks. You can find a handful of recipes out there for original wasabi cocktails, but you can also try mixing a pea-sized dollop of wasabi paste into drinks you already make on a regular basis. The powerful ginger flavor of a Moscow Mule can stand up to wasabi without being overpowered; a standard daiquiri gets an interesting twist when its basic rum, lime, and simple syrup meet the spicy root. Ditch the Tabasco and stir some wasabi into your Bloody Mary for a different kind of heat.

Turn Up The Heat

Green cocktail in short glass
Green cocktail in short glass - Solstock/Getty Images

Mixing wasabi paste into the body of a cocktail, though, isn't the only way to get that glowing warmth in your nose. You can buy or make wasabi salt to rim your glasses — try it with your next margarita and maybe add a bit of ume liqueur, too, to further develop the Japanese culinary theme. You can also try infusing vodka (or another spirit of your choosing) with wasabi by simply combining the two in a glass jar and letting it sit until it develops a flavor you're happy with. Then you can swap your wasabi vodka for the regular kind to make hot, spicy cocktails without even having to add another ingredient.

If wasabi isn't hitting, you can use these methods with other spicy ingredients, like habaneros, jalapeños, black pepper, pink peppercorns, or hot red pepper for a different kind of burn — all of which are fairly commonplace in the drink world today. But while wasabi is still an unexpected ingredient to find in a cocktail, get ahead of the curve and start perfecting your recipes before it goes mainstream.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.