The Alive cocktail challenge: Barbara Reynolds

Joel Oliphint

Before moving back home to Central Ohio in 2015, Barbara Reynolds spent about 10 years in Miami, where she discovered Peruvian dishes and drinks. On a hot, humid day, Reynolds loved to pair fresh red snapper ceviche in a tart sauce with a pisco sour, a signature drink of Peru.

So whenAlive challenged Reynolds to create a new cocktail with a mystery ingredient, and that ingredient turned out to be a 15-ounce bag of frozen Choclo — huge kernels of white Peruvian corn — she had to chuckle.

“To see that corn in particular, I was just ready for it, honestly,” Reynolds said recently at the Bottle Shop, the Victorian Village bar and market she owns with her husband, German Vasquez. “I actually had a drink on my menu with corn in it the summer of 2016. … I feel like in 2016 people just weren't quite ready for that to be an ingredient yet.”

But Reynolds has watched visitors to the Bottle Shop become more and more adventurous with cocktails in the last few years, so she excitedly got to work on a drink inspired by that nostalgic pairing of ceviche and a pisco sour.

“I thought about the corn and what function it would serve in terms of flavor and texture, and I pretty much immediately decided to use it as the sweetening agent,” said Reynolds, who soaked the corn in hot water, then added sugar and cilantro, blending the ingredients together to make a cilantro corn syrup.

From there, Reynolds had two ideas: combine the syrup with strawberry jalapeno vodka and lime juice to make a drink with a “summer salad” flavor profile, or take a more direct route to the ceviche and pisco sour inspiration by adding the syrup to pisco (a clear grape brandy), Ancho Reyes Verde (a green liqueur made from fire-roasted poblano chilies) and lime juice. Ninety minutes later, she had a clear winner.

“I liked the idea of having a glass with strawberries layered in it and the color contrast of the red and the green. … And strawberry and corn go well together,” she said. “[But] I did it over crushed ice, and I think it got a little watered down. The texture of the syrup didn't come through as much as I wanted.”

The pisco drink, on the other hand, provided an irresistible combination of sweet (from the corn syrup and pisco), spicy (the Ancho Reyes tickles the throat just slightly, while the lime provides a ceviche-inspired citrus kick) and savory (the cilantro lends an herbaceous quality).

The Bottle Shop serves most drinks in antique glassware, and because this drink would be served up (sans ice), Reynolds chose a petite, six-ounce coupe. For a garnish, she used a torched Thai chili atop a dehydrated lime wheel. “The Thai chili is for the aromatics. Once we torch it, you really get that burnt chili smell when you take a sip,” she said. “The dehydrated lime wheel is just meant to keep that guy floating. It's a nice little raft for it to sit on. And it just looks cool.”

Reynolds named her new creation Tiger's Milk after the citrus marinade used on ceviche (“leche de tigre” in Spanish). “There are drinks on my menu that I made 20 times, tweaking something here and tweaking something there before it was right. And other times I think of something and I try it, and it immediately works,” she said. “I made this once and it just worked.”

Tiger's Milk

  • 1 oz. Capel pisco
  • 1 oz. Ancho Reyes Verde
  • .75 oz. cilantro corn syrup
  • .75 oz. lime juice
  • Dehydrated lime wheel
  • Thai chili

For the cilantro corn syrup, use equal parts by weight white sugar, water and Choclo. Soak kernels in boiling water, then add sugar and cilantro. Combine in blender, then strain out solids. Add lime juice, pisco and Ancho Reyes. Shake with ice and double strain. Serve up and garnish with torched Thai chili atop dehydrated lime wheel.