June 3, 2010

I am an oyster lover. No discrimination takes place in this relationship, I love all kinds, from all regions and as proof of my love, I would never dream of gulping. I chew, savor, swallow, repeat. My first oyster experience was in Louisiana (and every day I say some prayers for that piece of the country) where I got my fill during a 25-cent oyster happy hour. Best! Happy! Hour! Ever! Nowadays at $2-3 a piece, it is incredible how times have changed! And I’m not even that old. I can’t imagine what the prices will be like 10 years from now, especially if we continue to treat our planet like it’s a sewer. Digression.

The Louisiana style of dolling up a raw oyster is to shuck, slide it onto a saltine and douse with lemon and Tabasco. I was in heaven. They went down pretty quick and easy, voracious oyster novice that I was. Though the memory is a little blurry, I remember throwing down a couple of five dollar bills at a time, now that’s good eating. As for the drinking, I think beers were 3 for 1. Ahhh. New Orleans…

As I learned from that first foray, beer goes great with oysters.  A bit of bubbly, a pale wine or a drop of fancy sherry are not uncommon accompaniments either. A chilly glass of vodka certainly has its place next to the ice platter (especially at the banya) and you can stick an oyster in my Bloody Mary anytime. But recently, and for the first time, I found myself holding a faithful glass of Jameson when a platterful of oysters arrived in front of me. Laughing at a happenstance pairing, I shut up when I realized the whiskey actually had alot to offer the experience. The smooth alcohol kick did nicely to balance the richness of the oysters, and I didn’t miss the carbonation of a beer or sparkling wine, which I realized I might not love with my oysters. A fairly basic whiskey such as Jameson didn’t really linger on the tongue. Instead it sharply cleansed and reset the palate for the next variety, as we had different kinds of oysters from both coasts. Also the deeper notes of a brown liquor; hint of sweetness, touch of caramel, a little burnt spice, really enhanced the oysters’ mellow brine as it simultaneously did its real job of getting me drunk.

While thinking under the influence, I guessed that a whiskey with some more peat might really be interesting because oysters are also delicious smoked. But instead of using it for a pairing where it might overwhelm, I thought to use it as an ingredient and where better than in my favorite oyster condiment, mignonette. Mignonette is a very basic little maceration of shallots and vinegar  just waiting for cooks to do creative things to it like add champagne or chiles or fish sauce…or whatever catches their fancy. I was the cook who added a bunch of booze. I used a combination of a super peaty scotch and a milder one in hopes that the smokiness would be a subtle player and not overpower the sauce or the oyster. It turned out a nice surprise on both raw and grilled oysters. The longer the mignonette sat, the better it tasted because the shallots had more time to spread their joy. I was pleased that the concoction remained quite true to a classic mignonette and turned out just subtle tweak to a tradition and not a complete overhaul.


1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 large shallots, finely chopped

2-3 Thai chiles, sliced in half lengthwise

1/4 cup mild scotch (like Glenlivet)

1/3 cup peaty, single malt scotch (like Laphroaig)

1/2 teaspoon salt

  • In a glass jar or lidded container, shake all ingredients together. Check for balance/seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Let stand at least one hour before using. Serve with oysters on the half shell.


  1. This is brilliant! Can’t wait to try it with our Eades Islay vatted malt

    • thx pat! the recipe is just a guideline, make it fit your taste and, of course, the taste of the scotch. and most importantly…enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: