Stirred, shaken or… spicy? The cocktail scene is heating up—and we mean that literally. This summer, spice-infused drinks are being poured in restaurants and cocktail bars across the country.
“Spicy cocktails are really popular at Bar Amá,” says Jeremiah Doherty, the beverage director at Bar Amá in Downtown Los Angeles. “It’s an easy way to add unexpected flavor.”
Doherty has two ways to add spice to his extensive cocktail list. First, he’ll use dried chiles to infuse liquor or a shrub—as the chiles rehydrate, they add subtle yet firey heat to the liquid. He’ll also muddle fresh peppers, which add a vegetal flavor, in addition to heat “My favorite fresh peppers are the red Fresno chiles. I take two slices of those and muddle them up real quick and they add a good kick of spice to the cocktail, along with some color.”
Up in San Francisco, Danny Louie, the bar manager at Chino and Mosto, is slinging equally spicy drinks, like the crowd favorite Pasion at Mosto. “It’s tequila with a hint of habanero pepper,” says Louie. “It balances sweet, tart and spicy without masking the main component—the tropical passionfruit, or nectar of the Gods.”
To heat up his cocktails, Louie infuses his sweeteners with spice by simmering chile peppers in a simple syrup or adding spice to agave, for example. Then, he follows an easy ratio to keep it all balanced: “Generally speaking, I like to use a 2-1-1 ratio on simple cocktails with spice.” That’s 2 ounces of a spirit, 1 ounce of citrus, and 1 ounce of sweetener with spice. “This is a good starting point to a balance drink.”