6:30 Whiskey Soaked Shrimp
You can’t help but pick up the lingo from your place of work. It makes sense, considering that the 8 or more hours a day that gets spent with your peers and colleagues, or customers as the case may be, often exceeds the paltry half hour here and there of quality time that you get with, you know, your family.
Such was the case during my many, many, (seriously, way too many) years of paying my bills by pulling pints in a series of local bars. I learned quickly that Mr.Crotchety-But-Kind was looking for a corona with no lime when he’d growl, “Go get me another goddamn NFL.” (What he meant to say way, “Thank you Tina, I appreciate your hard work and positive attitude while you put yourself through school! If only more bar staff were as gracious as you were, I might even start to TIP, or something crazy like that!”). I also learned quickly, after a bout of voracious chastisement that took me weeks to live down (bastards), that a Harps and Lime did not mean a pint of beer with some fruit on the side. Sigh. God, I wish I missed the good ol’ days.
One term that I learned but didn’t figure out the message behind until months later (yes, I actually mean ‘years’, but don’t pick on my early naiveté) was “a shot of 6:30”. The last bar I worked at, which was responsible for the greater part of my misspent youth (6 years, of course, being an infinity when you’re 21) used to refer to shots of Crown Royal as “6:30”. Now this didn’t apply to mix drinks, so a Crown and Coke was still….a Crown and Coke. But for shots? Six-thirties, all the way.
Eventually, when I couldn’t take my curiosity any longer, I had to ask one of our regulars why in the name of god’s green earth they would call shots of Crown “6:30”. I scanned through our patrons, lingering only briefly on Mr. My-Ashtray-Has-Two-Butts-Are-You-Going-To-Clean-It-Or-Is-That-Not-What-You’re-Paid-For? and flying fleetingly over Mr. My-Kids-Are-At-Home-But-I-Keep-Forgetting-Their-Names-Can-I-Have-Another-Pint-Please, before I finally found one of my favorites. Yes, an actual favorite, not just a lesser of evils kind of favorite! Wheeeee!!
I had met him about 5 years prior. He was a wee little half pint of a guy, standing about 4’10” with boots on, but wiry enough that I’d put my money on him to win an arm wrestle against Hulk Hogan any given Sunday. I should also mention that he was a relatively recent Chinese immigrant, which has relevance only because I worked in a British pub. And you know what boisterous drunks in a British pub like to do, even more than neglecting their families and lying to their spouses about where they were? They like to pick on tiny little Chinese men. The first time I met this guy they had literally hoisted him up and hung him on a coat hook. Yeah. I really wish I missed those days.
Anyway, he was one of my favorites because he truly had the kindest soul, he treated everyone like an equal (regardless of whether that was entirely undeserved), and no matter how much guff he got from the other patrons he bravely soldiered on to establish himself as one of our Rightful Regulars That We All Adored. Oh, and sometimes he’d bring the waitstaff in some very good Chinese food. Mmmm…..delicious dumplings……huh, I think I lost myself for a minute there. Back to the Crown.
I walked up behind him and lightly tapped him on the shoulder. He swung around so rapidly, with the crazy kind of Kung Fu reflexes that was like watching a stereotype unfold infront of my very eyes, and managed to swivel, stand up and sit down in less time than it took me to withdraw my hand (all of it without spilling a drop from his pint). I was impressed.
Tina: “Psssst…..hey! I have a question for you! I need to know….you just ordered up five “Six Thirties”, right?
Favorite Customer: “Yes, yes!”
Tina: “Okay, so I need to know. WHY do you guys call them 6:30? What’s the story on that one?”
Favorite Customer: “Ohhhh! HO HO HO HOHO!! Tina, you fu-nny! Funny Tina, ho ho! You want know why call six thetty? Because like hands of clock!”
Tina: “I don’t….I don’t get it….”
Favorite Customer: “You drink Crown, right?” He swung down off the stool and dangled an arm between his legs. “You drink many shots Crown and you get six thetty! Like hands of clock! OH HO HOH HOHOH HO!! Hang at SIX THETTY!!!”
Huh? Like the…..oooooohhhhhhh…….okay. *Snicker snicker*. NOW I get it…..
From that point forward, every time that I thought of Canadian whiskey I would see a 4’10 Chinese man swinging a limp arm between his legs and shrieking, “6:30! 6:30!!! Tina, need 8 more 6:30! No, no, NO, need NINE more 6:30!!!!” And so went another round at the local pub. Okay. It’s true. Maybe I do miss those days, just a little bit.
And see? It just so happens that when I sold my soul to Be’elzebub, I really DID need the whiskey for a pile o’ shrimp…..
6:30 Whiskey Soaked Shrimp
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer, 2-3 as an entree
- 500 g extra large or large size (21/24 or 26/30) raw shrimp
- 1/3 cup Crown Royal *
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp sriracha chili sauce **
- 2.5 tbsp light soya sauce ***
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lime (1 tsp zest + juice of 1/2 lime)
- small 1/2″ knob ginger (about 1 heaping tsp grated)
* You can substitute the whiskey that you have on hand for Crown Royal. Jack Daniels would do the job quite well, as would your favorite bourbon. The shrimp aren’t fussy, just thirsty.
** Sriracha is a very spicy and flavorful Asian chili sauce. If you don’t have sriracha you could use sambal oelek (increase the amount slightly), Chinese chili-garlic sauce, or even about 8 dashes of tabasco in a pinch.
*** If you have a soya sauce labelled ‘strong’ or ‘dark’, decrease the amount to 1.5 tbsp or the salty flavor will be too strong.
Grab a smallish mixing bowl. Peel the garlic and ginger. Finely mince both into an almost paste like consistency, or use a rasp to grate them into submission. There should be about 1-1.5 tsp (loosely piled) of ginger. Use a rasp or citrus zester to add 1 tsp of lime zest and squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime. Add the maple syrup, sriracha and soya sauce. Whisk the mixture together lightly until everything is combined.
Peel and devein your shrimp, if that hasn’t been done for you, but leave the tails intact. Put the shrimp into a large ziplock bag, or a shallow casserole dish, and pour the drunken marinade overtop.
Let the shrimp stew away at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and no longer than an hour (or the marinade will start to denature or ‘cook’ the shrimp). Flip the shrimp or shake the bag occasionally to make sure that they’re able to soak up the marinade evenly.
While the shrimp are gettin’ their drink on, soak a handful of bamboo skewers in cold water for that half hour. This doesn’t actually prevent them from burning on the grill, but at least it slows the process somewhat.
Snuggle two shrimp together (I’m sure they’ll be amenable after their little booze fest) in a yin-yang shape and thread them onto a skewer. Add one or two more pairs of shrimp to the orgy, depending on the size of your skewers and the size of the shrimp.
Grill the skewers over moderately high heat for 2-4 minutes per side, or just until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through.
Ooh, sizzling and caramelized whiskey soaked shrimp. Your inner alcoholic is going to thank you for this one.
We served our skewers with some of that sweet and spicy zucchini jalapeno spoon bread, and, of course, some *extra* grilled zucchini on the side. Because we have no choice at this point.
(I swear that plant is breaking my spirit)
As much as I like serving Grand Marnier soaked chili shrimp brochettes when my girls come over, I’m more likely to make the Crown Royal soaked shrimp for our fellers. After all, as long as the seafood is the only thing which has been getting 6:30’d while we’re gabbing in the kitchen, I consider that to be no harm no foul.