Just about every cuisine in the world, from Mexican to Italian to Thai, uses chile peppers. There’s a rainbow of varieties out there that chefs utilize to the fullest, but some mixologists have been slow to embrace the full spectrum of the fiery fruits. (Yes, fruits: Peppers are classified botanically as berries.)
In order to spark some creativity, we tracked down a few tasty drink recipes calling for chiles you don’t usually see in cocktails.
Prolific Los Angeles bartender Julian Cox has created menus for an array of watering holes, and his list for modern Mexican restaurant Rivera is full of chiles, along with tequila and mezcal. And Rivera’s signature drink, the Barbacoa, muddles together both mild bell pepper and pureed chipotle, which is actually a dried and smoked jalapeño. Ginger syrup and a beef jerky garnish emphasize the cocktail’s mix of sweet and savory.
Another place where pepper-based drinks hold sway is, of course, the Southwest. Albuquerque taqueria Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila infuses tequila with a combination of fresh and roasted poblanos to create the Chalchihuitl, a tipple named after the Aztec word for turquoise. The formula is the same as the classic Margarita, but the charred and spicy flavor from the chile make it something altogether new.
And chile-heads who like to get creative should definitely check out Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur. This spirit, now rolling out across the US, is based on a 1920s recipe from the town of Puebla in central Mexico and offers a beautiful balance between sweet and spicy. It’s surprisingly versatile, able to replace the base spirit in standards like the Mojito, Paloma or Daiquiri or to serve as an intriguing component of an original creation. In the Estridentista, it’s part of a stirred elixir with elderflower liqueur and dry vermouth.
Try one of these deliciously different cocktails and you’ll agree that expanding your pepper horizon is a good idea.