Spicy cocktails have been all the rage for the last few years but in my experience about 10% of them get it right. The other 90% is made up of the polar extremes: most of which lack even an ounce of bite, while the other small percentage destroys your taste buds. And you can easily see how this could happen. One of the challenges for bartenders when it comes to spicy drink making, is that spice tends to be a bit subjective. From drinker to drinker, the range in spice tolerance is pretty damn drastic. So my guess is that most places default to the weaker of the bunch and we all end up with pretty unfortunate cocktails. Same thing happens with Indian and Thai food in NYC. When’s the last time you had anything that was actually spicy when the menu showed two cartoon hot peppers?
But I’ve got the perfect solution for your home bar-mixing. Because at home, you’ve got all of the power, and presumably a bit more time to mess around with infusing spice levels. So here’s my quick guide for making spicy tequila and a delicious cocktail that takes perfect advantage of that fiery bite.
(1) If you need something quick, use a habanero. Let’s say you have a last minute craving for one of these PFDs (see recipe below). Slice up a habanero pepper add it seeds and all to a cup or so of tequila. If you are making a big batch for a crowd, obviously use more tequila. After 15 minutes, start tasting using just the tip of a spoon. You’ll be shocked how quickly the alcohol picks up the spice from the pepper and my guess is that you won’t need much more than a half hour at most to get your desired spice level.
(2) For a more pepper forward blend, use jalapeños. The spice will still infuse pretty quickly but I recommend this mix for when you are prepping for future cocktails. Slice the jalapeños in half length wise and remove most of the seeds. Leave the membrane (white part) on and soak a handful of these suckers in a mason jar full of tequila overnight. You may even want to let this go up to 72 hours. What you’ll find is the tequila not only takes on the spice, but it also takes on the beautiful flavor of the peppers themselves. Like a grassy sweetness of sorts that goes great in margaritas.
(3) Lastly, experiment! If you are having a crowd over, make a few batches of (1) and (2) and vary the spice levels. By changing up the quantity of peppers or the time you let them soak, you can develop a nice arsenal of infused tequilas and let your party-goers choose their own adventure.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
2 oz Spicy Tequila
1 oz Orange Liqueur (Cointreau will do)
2 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 oz Lime Juice
In a cocktail shaker with ice, shake all of the ingredients together and pour into a rocks glass rimmed with salt. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and few thin slices of jalapeños.