Monday, March 12, 2012

Skyrim Cocktail #2: The Velvet Lachance

The Velvet Lachance
Last week on FeastyGeeks... we posted our recipe for the first of three Skyrim cocktails, the White Gold Tower. This week, Lexi and m'self proudly present number two: the Velvet Lachance, named for Lucien Lachance, the former Speaker of the Black Hand from Oblivion. Talen-Jei describes the Velvet Lachance thusly:
...a mixture of blackberry, honey, spiced wine, and a touch of nightshade. Perfectly safe, I assure you.
For this recipe, we enlisted the help of our friend-and-guest-barista Jeff (of Jeff's Chicken Noodle Soup fame), a fine young man whose awesomeness is rivaled only by his height.

Being an assassins guild, any drink named for the Black Hand should be just a little dangerous but pleasant and smooth - at first. A few sips in, you realize that you got a little more than you bargained for; is it poison? What is that taste? The final notes must be mixed with pleasure and the realization that you feel a sting like the cold steel of a blade discovered too late.

This time, all the in-game ingredients exist in the real world. The 'spiced' wine used was a Port, redolent of dark, gothic plots and old crumbling estates. The juice of canned blackberries in light syrup gave a nice blackberry flavor without adding too much sweetness or any berry seeds. If you must use commercial syrup, apply caution since they can easily become overwhelmingly sweet.

One of the ingredients, however, is definitely poisonous: nightshade. Since we're not interested in killing anybody (outside of the game, anyway), we had to figure out an analog for the nightshade. As with the Dragon's Tongue from the White Gold Tower, we thought about whether or not we should try to emulate the plant from the game, or figure out a real world substitute:

Nightshade. Image copyright Bethesda, via the Elderscrolls Wiki.
I first considered using an edible daylily. Added to the drink as a garnish, it would probably look very lovely. But daylilies aren't in season here right now, and my spider sense told me that we really wanted something that would serve as an ingredient, not as decoration.

Hello Wikipedia! With a little more research, I found that despite its poisonous nature, there are quite a few plants within the nightshade family that are edible. Eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes make the list, along with a surprising ingredient possibility: chili peppers.

The idea seemed weird on the surface: chili powder has a distinct flavor and scent, and we wondered if it would blend with the other ingredients. I suggested chipotle as a possibility, since the smoky flavor seemed a reasonable pairing with the sweet blackberry and red wine.

Our first text mixtures didn't work at all. The ratio of chili powder to everything else was high enough that the flavor of chili was overwhelming. We thought of using cayenne, just for the bite, but we didn't have any.

And then Jeff miraculously fixed everything.

Jeff works as a barista at a local coffee chain. He's made every coffee drink under the sun, and he's damn good at it. Not long ago he started experimenting with chocolate chili pepper mochas, heavy on the dark chocolate syrup with just a touch of chili powder. The biggest challenge was figuring out how much chili powder to add, but after some practice he got it just right. Jeff's chili mochas are heady and delicious, much like a traditional Mexican chocolate.

The trick is to add just the lightest, barest dusting of chili powder on the surface of the drink. To get the right amount, Jeff puts about 1/16 of a teaspoon of chipotle in the palm of his hand, takes a tiny pinch with his fingers, and sprinkles it sparingly.
We had just the right blend of honey, wine, and blackberry. Jeff's chipotle powder elevated it to perfection. Here's the final recipe:

The Velvet Lachance
1 part port wine
1 part blackberry juice or flavored syrup (NOT blackberry pancake syrup!!)
Chipotle powder

Ingredients: blackberry, honey, wine
Drizzle about a 1/4" to 1/2" honey in the bottom of the glass.

Honey in the bottom of the glass
Mix the port wine and blackberry juice in a cocktail mixer, then pour into the glass. Gently stir some of the honey into the juice/wine mixture, but don't mix all of it in - leave a layer of honey at the bottom of the glass.

Chipotle powder dusted on top
Add the lightest, barest pinch of chipotle chili powder to the surface of the drink. We're talking hardly any here, just the faintest dusting, enough so that you can smell the smokiness of it, but not enough to be able to taste it. (We recommend using Jeff's pinch method, as outlined above.

Let it sit for a minute or two, and enjoy.

The chipotle is the stroke of genius in this drink. After a few minutes, the powder starts to sink into the liquid, eventually sticking to the layer of honey at the bottom. If you've gotten the amount right, you shouldn't be able to taste the chipotle at all, just note a slight whiff of smokiness.

A few moments after taking a sip, our lips started to tingle and burn - the drink has bite, like the sting of an assassin's blade or a brew you realize only too late was poisoned. It gets sweeter the further down you go, as the honey gradually mixes in. It ends with a sting in its tail: the final swallow is an unexpectedly spicy taste of honey laced with smoky heat.

The Night Mother would be proud.


  1. A little late to the party but I can't resist chiming in.
    Atropa belladonna (more commonly known as deadly nightshade) is in fact very deadly, but it takes ten to twenty berries to poison a fully grown adult. A single berry would have been fine, it just would have lent the drink a little psychotropic kick.

  2. Why not use actual spiced (mulled) wine? Just heat sweet red wine with mulling spices--like used to make spice cider--and cool.

  3. Hi there - thanks for the comment. In our test kitchen we actually did try a pre-made spiced wine, and the port just tasted better against the blackberry juice.

    That said, there's no reason why any of our readers can't take a recipe we've put up here and try your own variations on it. So I'd encourage you to try it with mulled wine - and if it's delicious, let us know how it turned out!

    1. WAY late to this party. I came up with my own recipe, then came online looking to see what others suggested. We did a Merlot, Blackberry liquor, honey, and All-Spice. Roughly 2 to 3 parts wine to 1 part blackberry liquor, 1 part honey. All spice was a nice heavy dusting. Turned out pretty good, but now I'm thinking I might want to try the chili powder twist (sparingly as you suggest). Thanks!

  4. A bit late to the party on this one, but ah well.

    Do you happen to have any recommendations for what type of port might work well with this (ruby, tawny, etc)? I'm eager to try my hand at making this (it sounds like it could be really good!), but don't have a lot of knowledge of port wine. Thanks!

  5. Hiya Henry - honestly, I'm not a huge port drinker either, but we used a tawny port and it worked well. I'd lean towards dark and sweet for this one, in keeping with the overall character of the drink. But as with any of our recipes, absolutely try your own mixes, and post how they turn out!

    1. Thanks for the reply! I tried it with Copke's Ruby Port, which worked nicely, but I'll try it again later with some tawny port if I get the chance.

      As for my experience with it--I used ruby port, Welch's blackberry juice (took me 6 different trips to find ANY blackberry juice; I was about to just juice some berries to get some), and some farmer's market honey. It was awesome.

      I tried mixing some Pom pomegranate juice (to see how the slightly tart taste would affect the mix), and I think I found my favorite combination in a 1 part blackberry, 1 part Pom, 2 part (ruby) port mix. It's quickly become a hit with my friends, too. Thanks for the recipe--I'll be trying out some of the other Skyrim cocktails when I get the chance, and I'll let you know how they turn out. :)

  6. Right on, glad the port worked, that sounds yummy!

    We had a hard time finding blackberry juice too, fwiw. We discovered early on that using blackberry syrup tasted WAY too sweet and way too fake. This is a sweet drink, but syrup is just too cloying. Lexi then came up with the brilliant idea of using the juice from a can of blackberries. Still sweet, but not thick and awful, and much of it was in fact actual blackberry juice.

    The Pom sounds like a nice touch as well, to offset that sweetness with a bit of tang. Will have to try the variation myself sometime!

  7. This sounds absolutely delicious! Going to try it with my favorite sweet red wine. Blackberry juice won't be a problem, as I know someone who makes their own. I only need to find some chipotle and I'm all set.

    1. If you're still looking, try your local fancy grocery store, Mexican grocery or spice shop. It's not that hard to find.

  8. Super late to the party as well... This sounds amazing and clever with the chili powder. A suggestion to others that wish to play with the recipe a bit, there is a liquer called creme de cassis, has a wonderful dark berry flavor and is a rich blood red color, would maybe add a little extra kick! Great recipes!

    1. That's a great idea, let us know how it turns out!

  9. Late here too, but Solanum nigrum is a type of nightshade that could be used. It has many culinary uses over the world.

  10. Oh man, tried this last night and it has to be one of my favourite drinks now. We may have added a bit much because I could taste the slight smokiness of the chipotle, but I'm also sensitive to subtle flavors. I loved the smokiness as it added that "wow" factor of wondering what else might have been slipped into the drink. Definitely worthy of the name Lachance.I think I might try it with pomegranate sometime like some others are suggesting as I think that would also be wonderful.

  11. I think when he said a touch of nightshade he meant the flowery part as a garnish it not lethal if im correct.but excellent idea useing the same family XD.

  12. I didn't have all the thing you guys had so I decided to take inspiration and make my own spin on it. I noticed that Talen-Jei said he used spiced wine, so I figured Ginger would add that spiced note without muddling it up too much. I decided to make a spiced simple syrup using Ginger, a dried thai chili, honey, and blackberry juice. Instead of port, since I didn't have it at the time, I used Hana brand Lychee sake (which is great served cold and has a pleasantly sweet flavor). I stirred the syrup into the sake and placed a large ice cube in it so that it was as cold as a steely knife. It was OH so smooth and then the thai chili and ginger sneaks up on you. really turned out great.