Move over Ghost Pepper vodka, we’re going to show you how to make our “Scorpion Juice”-  80 proof vodka made with Technical Reserve and the world’s hottest pepper, the Trinidad Scorpion Moruga.

Hot peppers and alcohol go together in ways that are both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful in that the two were pretty much meant for each other (more on that later) and terrifying because their unholy union can have some pretty amazing, uh, “effects”. Then again, one person’s amazing is another’s “what in the hell did I just do to myself?!??!

Trinidad Scorpion Maruga - up close and personal

Trinidad Scorpion Moruga – up close and personal

So back to that whole “alcohol and hot peppers go together like peas and carrots” thing. What makes hot peppers, well, “hot” is a chemical called capsaicin – this stuff tricks your poor nerves into thinking they’re on fire, you even get an endorphin rush… what’s cool (puns) is that capsaicin is highly soluble in alcohol but it’s virtually insoluble in water.  What this means, in a nutshell, is that if you want to make spicy-as-all-hell vodka, you really shouldn’t be starting with vodka at all. However, if you want your spirits to taste like anything other than just spicy, you’re going to need some water to extract all of the sweet, flavorful, pepper flavor. So how do you do that?

In this little tutorial we’re going to show you how to make not only the spiciest vodka you’ve ever had, but make it taste amazing too (if you dare take the plunge). We’re going to start with a Technical Reserve extraction and then extract a second time with plain old (filtered) water to make the ultimate in spicy sweetness.

For this recipe you’re going to need:

  • 5 fresh or dried Trinidad Scorpion Maruga peppers. Because Technical Reserve is so high proof, you can use fresh peppers but if you’re not using Technical Reserve, we recommend dried peppers for the best result.
  • a bottle of Technical Reserve (we’ll be using about 160ml)
  • a small jar with a lid (about 250 ml) for macerating and steeping the peppers (Teflon lid always preferred!)
  • a second small jar (no lid needed) for collecting liquid
  • a 375 ml bottle for your finished spirit
  • a funnel that fits in your final bottle
  • a small strainer
  • coffee filters or laboratory filter paper (preferred for the best filtration)
  • GLOVES (not a joke, you’re going to want these)
  • knife and cutting board
  • 100ml or 250ml graduated cylinder (toss out that measuring cup!)

 

  1. Here we go… gas mask not required!

    What you need to make Scorpion Juice

    Soup to nuts, this is what you’re going to need. Check out the links in the recipe section if you need help finding some stuff.

  2. Gloves on!

    Glove up for Trinidad Scorpion Peppers

    Glove up (seriously). We highly recommend nitrile gloves.

  3. Remove the stems from your peppers.

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    Pull off your pepper stems and discard. If your peppers are dried you might have to snip them off with scissors.

  4. Cut your Scorpions into segments. If you’re using dried peppers, coarsely chop them up.

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    Believe it or not, the spice of the pepper is located in the seed and on the inside of the pepper interior. If anyone has ever told you to just pop a whole pepper into vodka before, well, now you know. Cutting up the peppers exposes this to the Technical Reserve. No need to mush it up, remember we want to extract capsaicin, not pepper juice!

  5. Get ready for your first extraction.

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    Pack your pepper segments into your steeping jar. You can push them down gently (try to only touch the outside of the peppers!) to pack them all in.

  6. Measure out 130ml of Technical Reserve using your graduated cylinder (*hint* if you don’t have a graduated cylinder you can use a scale!).

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    This is where the 191.2 proof power of Technical Reserve really shines.

  7. Cap it!

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    Pour the 130ml of Technical Reserve into the steeping jar with your Scorpions and close the lid. The tan colored liner in the lid of this jar is a PTFE (Teflon) disc. Teflon is really the ultimate seal when you care the most about your flavors but also about easy and complete cleanup later. PTFE is the only plastic that is completely resistant to high proof alcohol and most other chemicals.

  8. Shake it up and then leave it be (or come back and shake when you feel like it).
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    Shake the steeping jar hard for a minute or two. The more you shake it, the better the extraction. You’re now going to let the scorpions steep for 8-24 hours shaking the steeping jar as much as you like. Technical Reserve does a really excellent job of stripping off the oils which is why the extraction is so fast.

    IMPORTANT! BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR GLOVES AS YOU TAKE THEM OFF. Remember, they are covered in peppery pain…

  9. After 8-24 hours…

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    After you’re done steeping, your peppers are going to be surrounded by a beautiful orange liquid. Yep, concentrated (and high proof!) liquid pain…

  10. Decant your deadly-spicy extract.
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    Using your small strainer and funnel, strain your jar of spicy death into your extra-small jar. Try to keep the peppers in the steeping jar, don’t worry if you don’t get all of the Technical Reserve out.

    Measure out another 30ml of Technical Reserve and pour that into the steeping jar. Shake for a minute or two and pour this through the strainer into the jar (again, keep the peppers in the steeping jar). This “washes” any residual alcohol-soluble material off the peppers and jar.

  11. If you just wanted to make a concentrated peppery death liquid, congratulations, you’re good to go (or you can filter it, see below). This extract is great for cooking – a couple of drops is all you need to flavor anything that might need that perfect searing heat. Just be careful with it, this stuff is nasty…

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    Just look at that color.

  12. Filtering: while this stage is optional, filtering with coffee filters (lab filters are always preferred ) gives you the clearest, dare we say prettiest extract. If you don’t want to filter, just pour the extract into your final bottle. If you want to filter, you can filter right into the bottle like we’re doing here.

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    Filtering is super easy and takes less than an hour. To use lab filter paper or coffee filters with a funnel, fold the circular filter into quarters and then pop it open like a cone. Place the cone in the funnel and viola, fancy pants filtering for the masses!

  13. The next part is what makes this recipe unique. After we stripped away all of the alcohol-soluble capsaicin and other veggie oils, what we have left are sugars and water soluble plant flavors. Since we want to make a hot AND flavorful vodka, we’re going to extract all of that goodness and mix it with our Technical Reserve extract (reducing the overall proof to vodka-strength in the process). Measure out 150ml of water and pour it into the steeping jar.

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    The water phase extraction is what give this spirit it’s sweet tangy flavor. You could skip this if all you want is searing heat.

  14. Shake it up and let it sit.

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    We’re going to treat these peppers like making tea. Shake up the steeping jar and then let it sit for 30-60 minutes. Don’t let it sit longer than that, we don’t want to start extracting the bittering components. You might notice that the jar gets a little warm and cloudy when you add the water. This is the Technical Reserve reacting with the water in a slight exothermic reaction. Neat.

  15. Decant your steeping jar into your extra little jar with the funnel and strainer. Measure out 90 ml of water and use this to refill your steeping jar. If you used dried scorpion peppers you’re probably going to want to add a bit more water to make up for anything that got absorbed by the dried peppers – figure another 10-20ml.
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    *if you did a good job removing the Capsaicin with the Technical Reserve and then did an equally good job washing twice with the water, there should be very little spice left in these peppers now. Since we didn’t mash them up for the extraction, there is still a good bit of sweetness left in the flesh. Enjoy!

    Shake a few times and then dump the entire contents of your jar into the strainer. If it doesn’t fit, just use the strainer to hold back the peppers in the steeping jar until all of the water is drained. Discard or eat* the remaining peppers.

  16. Filter (or don’t if you don’t want to filter your vodka) the peppery water using your funnel and a fresh piece of filter paper, right into the final bottle.
    technical_reserve-scorpion_juice-img_5222

    It’s like a layered drink… but with burning.

    This is going to be really fun looking as the much denser water slowly pushes the bright orange alcohol and pepper oils up. 

  17. Cap it up and shake it up
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    You can see just how well separated the two liquids are. These are called “phases”. Luckily, the alcohol phase is miscible in water, so all we need to do is…

    Shake!

    technical_reserve-scorpion_juice-img_5226

    Like a polaroid picture… but with burning.

  18. At this point, you should clean up your tools, throw away anything that might have gotten spicy-d on, and wash your bottle. When you’re good to go, take off your gloves and get ready for the most important part – the label!

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    It’s only fair to warn people what’s in the pretty orange bottle. After that, it’s totally up to them.

  19. And there you have it, 80 proof (ish) Scorpion Juice Vodka.

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    I’m sweating just looking at this.

So how hot is it? Well, without sending this off to a lab to have an actual scovilles assay done, we’re going to take a wild guess. If you consider that each Trinidad Scorpion Moruga pepper clocks in at around 1,200,000 scovilles (yep, that wasn’t a typo) there is a quite a lot of fiery in this bottle. If we were to assume 100% extraction (which we didn’t get but it makes the math a bit simpler) and that we used 5 scorpions for this recipe, then if you drank the entire bottle you would have consumed something like 6 million scoville units of pain (PS, don’t do that. Seriously. No really, extra seriously, we don’t condone that in any way shape or form).

That said, if you were to consider that a normal shot is about 30 ml of liquid and our bottle is 375± ml in total volume, then we’re “only” looking at around 480,000 scoville units per shot. Even if we called it 50% extraction (which we most definitely exceeded), you’re still looking at 240,000 scoville units. Yeah, we’ll just leave that right there.

I love this stuff. I use it for extra spice in a bloody mary, a kick (in the face) in 4 bean chili, and of course celebratory toasting. Yes, we have consumed “The Scorpion” and have record of more than a few brave folks stepping up to take a dram. The sensation is overwhelming at first, with an ever-building heat that plateaus and sustains for a silly long time. Eventually (much later…) this subsides and you’re hit with a fantastic sweet and vegetal flavor almost like a perfectly ripe red bell pepper with more of a citrusy bite. If you’re a pepper-head, this is going to be a treat – for everyone else, proceed with caution.

enjoy!

PS, “scovilles” auto-corrects to “evillest”. Not too far off, eh?