Sacsayhuamán

Recently, we have been reminiscing about the restaurants and bars we used to enjoy before the global pandemic changed the way we think about dining. Some establishments have weathered the storm exploring new ways of connecting with customers, but many have not. Time will tell when we might find ourselves ordering fancy cocktails at a bar or restaurant again, but that hasn’t stopped us from making great drinks at home. Conversation about restaurants in Portland, Oregon will eventually come to Andina, the Pearl District’s Peruvian fixture that has been impressing diners for years. And you cannot mention Andina without talking about the Sacsayhuamán (pronounced “sexy woman”), their spicy signature cocktail that seems to show up at every table. The recipe appeared in Portand Monthly about ten years ago and it is practically an unwritten rule that if you go to Andina, you have to try this drink.

We have ordered the Sacsayhuamán several times over the years and it is almost unbelievable to finally realize that it is nothing more than pepper vodka and passion fruit syrup. But the key to making it taste so delicious is quality ingredients—and that requires some DIY. For the vodka, Andina makes it in-house by putting six habanero peppers in a jar and filling it with Monopolowa for a week. We didn’t have any, so we made a batch using dried Szechuan chilis which totally worked and proved there is some flexibility without sacrificing quality.

Sacsayhuamán
1.5 oz infused habanero vodka
2.5 oz house made “Sexy Mix”

Shake with ice to chill, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with superfine sugar and garnish with a cilantro leaf.

To make the Sexy Mix, make a 60:40 ratio of passion fruit puree with rich (2:1) simple syrup.

In addition to the infused vodka, this drink really benefits from a homemade passion fruit syrup. As noted above, they call it Sexy Mix, and the secret to a good mix is quality fruit puree. In the restaurant you notice this drink has some texture from the passion fruit, so you don’t want a thin syrup. The recommended proportion favors the fruit over the sugar. Fortunately, we have made good passion fruit syrup using a quality puree—we just never thought of it as sexy.

We rarely make drinks with a sugar rim, but if you want to stay authentic to the original, wet the rim of your glass with a saucer of water or rub it with a cut lemon. Dip the rim into superfine sugar. We made some using a mortar and pestle and it only took a few seconds. It’s not absolutely required, but the passion fruit is tart, so it doesn’t hurt the flavor one bit.

It may not seem like a big deal, but the fresh cilantro garnish adds more than just a touch of green color. The scent is unmistakable and pairs nicely with spicy peppers, but it also works surprisingly well with passion fruit. This cocktail is deceptively simple but so delicious. The pepper burn contrasts with sweet and tart in the best way, and it is little wonder that this drink is so popular and memorable with guests. You can make them at home, but we look forward to enjoying a few rounds over dinner at the restaurant!

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