Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hot D Wake Up Juice rides specialty-foods wave

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2008 at 9:35 AM

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It’s been nearly seven years now since Chris Pinta, an admitted tomato-juice addict, started puttering around his Ohio City kitchen, searching for an antidote to a job he despised. “I guess I was looking for an exit strategy,” he told C-Notes recently. And as it happens, he came up with just that, in the guise of Hot D Wake Up Juice – a robustly seasoned, tomato-based drink that’s both an energy booster and a damn fine Bloody Mary mix. Along with his brother Scott, Pinta finally premiered the beverage two years ago, at a Las Vegas trade show. Since then, it’s gotten play in publications ranging from the Plain Dealer to Nightclub & Bar magazine, and it now seems poised to make a major splash on the national scene. ... “Already we distribute to more than 400 bars, restaurants, and markets in Ohio, including Minotti’s, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and Flying Fig,” says Pinta. “It’s being carried in Meijer supermarkets in five states. Online orders have been going crazy, especially from New York. And both the Today Show and U.S. Weekly have contacted us for further information.” (The mixer also can be ordered online, from Rocky River’s pZazz Hot Sauces, Rubs, & More.) And yes, Pinta has long since quit that detested job. After having a chance to sample Hot D three ways (straight up, with a splash of gin, and mixed with Pacifico for a rousing michelada), I can definitely understand its buzz. Thick, savory, and umami-packed, it’s a fresh-tasting blend of wholesome ingredients – tomato juice, honey, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, cocoa powder, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt, among others – that gets a gentle boost from caffeine and taurine. (Incidentally, the name, Hot D, is an acronym for “hair of the dog.”) “I really wanted it to be a functional energy drink,” Pinta emphasizes, “where all the ingredients are actually good for you, not just a bunch of sugary sweeteners and corn syrup.” If it matters much to Mary fans, Hot D is also preservative free, fat free, and offers significant amounts of Vitamins A and C. Pinta has recently come out with a second mix, too: Hot D Thick & Spicy, featuring an eyebrow-searing blend of tomato, garlic, honey, horseradish, and five peppers – habañero, pequin, jalapeño, de arbol, and cayenne. “We left out the taurine and the Worcestershire sauce this time, so it’s vegan, too.” There’s also a caffeine-free version in the works. Besides serving as a fine mixer for vodka, gin, or beer, Pinta says he’s heard of people using Hot D as a base for pasta sauce, sloppy joes, or even gazpacho. “Personally, I prefer it with vodka, with a pickle, some olives, and a squeeze of lime,” he says. Hot D is brewed and bottled locally, by Ohio City’s American Culinary Concepts. Retail price per 32-ounce bottle is approximately $7. Pinta provided the following recipes: Bloody Fitz Hot D Thick & Spicy, your choice of vodka, topped with a Porter in a pint glass. Hot D Fusion Juice Cocktail (Courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company) Original Hot D blended with strawberries, pineapple, oranges, your choice of vodka. Serve in a pint glass with a lemon and lime garnish. Hair Of The Dog Michelada Hot D Thick & Spicy and your choice of pilsner or lager in a pint glass, with salted rim and lemon squeeze. Hot D’iablo (Courtesy of Dave @ Flying Fig) Equal amounts of Hot D Thick and Spicy and your choice of tequila, shaken with three freshly squeezed lime wedges. Serve in a martini glass with a salted rim and an olive and jalapeno garnish. -- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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