Monday, November 7, 2011

Rasputin's Revenge with Incentive Vodka and Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup


At the Chicago Food Film Festival in September 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Ronnie Campbell, who introduced me to Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup.  I was intrigued and delighted when a package arrived the following week from Ronnie that contained several jars of this esoteric, elegant food and beverage ingredient.  I decided to feature this wonderful asset in my next cocktail demonstration, and I wanted to add a little Midwestern charm to the mix. A cocktail demonstration event was scheduled in February featuring Incentive Vodka, I thought this would be a perfect fit as the event was scheduled very close to Valentine’s Day.  I began working on the cocktail, and had several people sample my creation to check its balance. On an interesting note, I found that the samplers loved the cocktail but were scared and apprehensive of the flower - at the end of the drink you can eat the flower, its natural flavor being similar to raspberry and rhubarb. In fact, most people would not try it unless I ate one at the same time. Once they actually experienced the sensation of the wild hibiscus flower, they were hooked.  I would jokingly add, “see?  I didn’t poison you today.”  I decided to name my cocktail “Rasputin’s Revenge,” paying tribute to Russian vodka and the man who refused to die from poison. The cocktail turned into a huge hit, so I also served it at the Boyne Mountain Chef’s Challenge in April, 2011.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is a small, family-owned and operated firm run by a passionate team in Sydney, Australia. Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup are the original creation of Lee Etherington, who invented the product eleven years ago in 1997.  Under the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s supervision, contracted growers in tropical northern Australia produce and hand pick the crops of flowers, 25 percent of which are certified organic. The fresh flowers are individually picked, deseeded, cleaned and packed into jars entirely by hand at their factory in the tiny village of Kurrajong, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Hibiscus flowers grow in several different shapes, so they are placed in predetermined positions in the jar according to shape, to ensure that none are squashed.


Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin was a Russian Orthodox Christian and mystic who influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei. It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. Rasputin was seen as "the dark force," and in order to save the monarchy, several members of the aristocracy attempted to murder the holy man. On the night of December 16-17, 1916, they tried to kill Rasputin. The plan was simple, yet on that fateful night, the conspirators found that Rasputin would be very difficult to kill. 

Rasputin was poisoned, shot four times, and badly beaten, but an autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning after the conspirators threw his body into the frozen river. It was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.

Rasputin’s Revenge
Incentive Vodka, Sturgis, MI

2 oz. Incentive Vodka
¾ oz. Wild Hibiscus Syrup
½ oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice
½-inch Piece of skinned ginger root, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp. Seville Orange Marmalade


Muddle ginger root and orange marmalade in a mixing glass.  Add Incentive Vodka, wild hibiscus syrup and lime juice.  Shake ingredients with ice in a Boston Shaker for 10 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with wild hibiscus flower.

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