(includes cocktail mixer recipes)
Though they can also be used as an exciting garnish, salad ingredient, or in frozen desserts, Szechuan Buttons (aka Sichuan Buttons) excel as the cocktail mixer of the future, and a lot of cutting edge mixologists are experimenting with them as we speak. Most often the tiny yellow/brown petals are used (pinched off or cut off, and then sprinkled or mixed into things). Beyond alcoholic beverages, they’re also delicious with coconut water (either store bought or from fresh coconuts), sparkling water, and citrus drinks like lemonade.
But what if you’re not an expert mixologist and you’re trying to use them for the first time? Here are a few pointers we’ve come up with through experimentation. The three methods below impart different levels of tingle to your drinks, so they’re all useful…it just depends on what effect you want.
Four Ways to Add Szechuan Buttons to Drinks:
1. (Weakest) Shake/Mix Them In
Using a cocktail shaker, muddler, or blender to integrate szechuan buttons into your drinks seems to impart the most mild and inconsistent tingle. However, it’s a great choice for drinks where you want an almost ethereal buzz without overpowering your drink. You can also simply sprinkle the petals on top.
2. (Strongest) Garnish With a Button, to be Consumed.
As it takes a few seconds for the tingle to develop anyway, having the drinker chew on some of the petals directly, then drink the cocktail/cooler means that the tingle will hit right as they’re drinking. Chewing the button’s petals like this also imparts a much stronger buzz that lasts longer, so it should carry the drinker through most of the cocktail, unless they take a long time to nurse it.
We actually like to combine methods 1 & 2 by mixing the petals from half a button into each drink, and garnishing with the other half to be chewed. This gives the initial wow factor while also imparting more mild tingling to carry them through later sips.
3. (Most Evenly Distributed) Infuse Beverage Ingredients with Buttons
Steeping szechuan buttons in your cocktail ingredients seems to evenly distribute a slight buzz throughout the cocktail. It requires a little forethought, but we think it works extremely well. Here are two infusion recipes we’ve tried and loved:
Szechuan Button Infused Gin
8oz of gin
2 szechuan buttons
1. Pull the petals off of the buttons and mash them with a mortar and pestle or muddler.
2. Add to the gin and let macerate for at least four hours, though overnight or even longer would be better. We tried it after two weeks and it was delicious!
Szechuan Button Infused Citrus Juice
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 szechuan buttons
1. Pull the petals off of the buttons and mash them with a mortar and pestle or muddler. Juice the citrus fruits.
2. Stir the mashed petals into the citrus juices and let macerate for at least four hours. After a few days, the electric sensation subsided, so be sure to use this immediately.
4. (Evenly Distributed, Strong, Fast) Alcohol Flash Infused with Buttons
Flash-infusing uses special equipment (a cream whipper) to infuse the alcohol very quickly. If you don’t have a whipper, you can also slow infuse Szechuan buttons using the two recipes above this one.
120ml of room temperature alcohol (gin, tequila, etc)
6 szechuan buttons
1 N2O charger for cream whippers
Fine mesh strainer
Cream whipper/foamer (we use an iSi Gourmet Whip Plus .5L)
1. Chop Szechuan buttons up with a knife.
2. Combine buttons in the whipper with the alcohol.
3. Charge the whipper with the N2O.
4. Swirl the base of the whipper for 30 seconds.
5. Let sit for 5-10 minutes (even longer may be even better) depending on desired strength. Longer = more tingle.
6. Release the gas from the whipper.
7. Unscrew the top & pour the alcohol out through the strainer.
8. Serve on the rocks or use in cocktails.
We hope this gives you a good starting point for experimenting with these exciting little flowers. If/when you’ve tried them please feel free to leave a comment below with your tips, we’d love to hear them!