Spicy and Numbing Sichuan Bloody Mary
Why This Recipe Works
by Sasha Marx
Sichuan cuisine may be famous for its use of fiery chili oil, but the ingredient that makes Sichuan dishes unique—everything from Chongqing chicken to mapo tofu—isn’t a spicy chile. And despite their name, Sichuan peppercorns aren’t even peppercorns. They’re actually the dried seed husks from a small Chinese citrus tree called the prickly ash. And instead of the burn we get from the capsaicin in chiles, Sichuan peppercorns contribute a unique tingling or buzzing sensation in the mouth, not unlike how it feels to sip a carbonated beverage. The tingling is caused by a pungent compound called sanshool, which acts on receptors in the mouth that usually respond to touch. Spicy and numbing Sichuan chili oil is known as má là, as it combines Sichuan peppercorns (má) and chiles (là). We wanted to bring that numbing heat to a brunch cocktail, the Bloody Mary. A good Bloody is all about balancing sweet, spicy, and savory elements in a drink that keeps you coming back for more. The classic source of umami in a Bloody Mary is Worcestershire sauce, which gets its savoriness from anchovies. Here we replace it with two potent sources of meatiness: oyster sauce and broad bean chili paste. And to deliver the mouth-numbing effects of Sichuan peppercorns, we infuse just enough of them into the vodka to create a slow-building mouth (and if you have more than one, head) buzz. Day drinking just got a lot more fun.
Photography by Kevin White
Food Styling by Catrine Kelty