...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:
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.
Nightshade. Image copyright Bethesda, via the Elderscrolls Wiki.
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 dusted on top|
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.