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Spicy Cocktails Heat Up Bar Menus – US Food Trends

16 December 2009

Chiles, ginger and other piquant ingredients heat up cocktail programs.

This article first appeared in the 1 November 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.

By Kate Leahy

The drinks are part of a broader movement in which beverage managers look beyond the back of the bar to the back of the house for inspiration. Sourcing ingredients-in this case, chiles, dried spices and more-from the kitchen creates harmony between beverage and food menus, says Jacques Bezuidenhout, master mixologist at Square 1682 in Philadelphia's Hotel Palomar. And it demonstrates to guests that the bar pays as much attention to ingredients and seasonality as the rest of the operation does.

By showing off their craft with house-made spice-infused liqueurs, simple syrups and bitters, bartenders also are creating distinctive drinks capable of attracting more business.

"You need something to bring customers back again," says Kara Newman, author of "Spice & Ice"(Chronicle, 2009), a book of seasonal spicy cocktails. A unique cocktail tinged with heat, Newman says, can be "a competitive differentiator."

So what's hot? At The Grove in Houston, Beverage Director Rawad Semaan serves up a Clear Bloody Mary made with chipotle vodka and tomato water. In Frederick, Md., Neil Dundee, beverage director at Volt, uses jalapeÁ±o simple syrup to sweeten an apertif made with Cava and tequila. At San Francisco's Nopa, bartender Neyah White adds a few drops of Hellfire Bitters-a concoction of white rum, coffee grounds and jalapeÁ±os-to strong spirits such as bourbon.

Here, recipes for spiced-up cocktails.But before you start, read these tips for managing heat.

SCOTCH BONNETYield: 1 cocktail

Director of Cocktail Development
Eben Klemm, B.R. Guest Restaurants
Adapted from Spice & Ice by Kara Newman (Chronicle, 2009)

  • HabaÁ±ero-Infused Scotch, recipe follows 2 oz.
  • Pineapple juice 2 oz.
  • Pineapple spear, for garnish 1
  • HabaÁ±ero pepper, for garnish 1

In an old-fashioned glass, stir together Scotch and pineapple juice.

Add ice.Garnish with a pineapple spear and habaÁ±ero pepper.

Yield: 8oz.

  • HabaÁ±ero pepper, sliced 1
  • Scotch 1 cup

Steep habaÁ±ero in Scotch for at least 1 hour, then test for strength. When Scotch reaches desired heat, remove the habaÁ±ero.

AKASIN FIZZYield: 1cocktail

Mixologist Trey Barnette
Benjy's Houston

  • Vodka 2 oz.
  • Ponzu 1 cup
  • Simple syrup ¼ oz.
  • Orange slices 2
  • Mint leaves 2
  • Shichimi togarashi* a few pinches or to taste

In a cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, ponzu, simple syrup, orange, mint and shichimi togarashi. Shake with ice; serve in a double old-fashioned glass.

*NOTE: Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese spice blend made of orange zest, seaweed, chile flakes, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, peppercorns and sesame seeds.

Yield: 1 cocktail


Beverage Director Rawad Semann
The Grove, Houston

  • Cherry tomatoes 2
  • JalapeÁ±o slices 2
  • Tomato water* 2 oz.
  • Chipotle vodka 1½ oz.
  • Hot sauce 1 dash
  • Cracked black pepper 1 pinch
  • Salt to rim the glass
  • Basil oil 3 drops

Skewer tomatoes and jalapeÁ±o slices on a toothpick. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the tomato water, vodka, hot sauce and black pepper. Shake together with ice; strain into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass. Finish with drops of basil oil and garnish with the skewered tomatoes and jalapeÁ±os.

*NOTE: To make the tomato water, blend the pulp and seeds remaining from tomato concassé into a mixture resembling a chunky salsa. Season the mixture with salt; placed it in a china cap lined with cheesecloth and allow it to drain overnight. The liquid that drains off the tomato pulp is the tomato water.

Yield: 1 cocktail

Mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout
Square 1682, Philadelphia

  • Raspberries 5
  • Green bell pepper 4 slices
  • Lime juice ½ oz.
  • Citrus-infused vodka 1¾ oz.
  • Ginger liqueur 1 oz.
  • Lemon twist, for garnish 1

In a mixing glass, muddle the raspberries and bell pepper with lime juice. Add vodka and ginger liqueur; shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a lemon twist.

*NOTE: For more heat, Bezuidenhout suggests muddling a slice of jalapeÁ±o with the bell pepper and raspberries.

Yield: 1 cocktail

Bartender Joe Thompson
Buddakan, New York City

  • Silver tequila 1 qt.
  • Chipotle-infused triple sec* 1 oz.
  • Tropical fruit purée 2 oz.
  • Hibiscus tea ¼ oz.
  • Strawberry 1

In a cocktail shaker, mix the tequila, triple sec and fruit purée. Shake with ice; pour into a double rocks glass. Using a spoon, float the hibiscus tea on top. Garnish with a strawberry.

*NOTE: To make chipotle-infused triple sec, infuse one bottle of triple sec with 7 oz. of chipotle peppers in adobo for 24 hours. Strain thoroughly.

NOTE: For the purée, Thompson combines equal parts passion fruit and mango purées with pineapple, orange and kalamansi juices.

Yield: 1 cocktail

Beverage Director Neil Dundee
Volt, Fredrick, Md.

  • JalapeÁ±o Simple Syrup, recipe follows ½ oz., plus extra for rim
  • Spice Mixture, recipe follows as needed
  • AÁ±ejo tequila 1½ oz.
  • Cava 4 oz.
  • HabaÁ±ero pepper, for garnish 1

Pour a small amount of the simple syrup onto a small plate. Pour a small amount of the spice mixture onto another small plate.

Dip the rim of a champagne flute into the simple syrup and then into the spice mixture.

Mix tequila and ½ oz. simple syrup. Pour into the flute. Top with Cava. Garnish with habaÁ±ero.

Yield: 1½ cups

  • Sugar 1 cup
  • Water 1 cup
  • JalapeÁ±os, sliced into thin strips 3

In a small pot over high heat, combine the sugar and water. When the water starts to boil, add the jalapeÁ±os. Bring the mixture back to a boil; lower to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat; strain well; cool.

Yield: about 1/2 cup

  • Almond flour ½ cup
  • Sugar 1 Tbsp.
  • Cinnamon, freshly grated 1 tsp.

Mix flour, sugar and cinnamon together thoroughly.

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