Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Other Cocktails

Heat Check

Heat Check cocktail / Tim Nusog

The Heat Check brings the heat, as its name implies, with chile de árbol peppers. But it also offers layers of aromatic complexity thanks to the herbal liqueur kümmel and a rich cinnamon syrup. 

This recipe comes from Colin Bugbee, the head bartender at Cure in New Orleans, which kicked off the Crescent City’s craft-cocktail revival. The drink gets its namesake fire from a blend of vodka and chile de árbol peppers, which pack a neutral, burning heat. These tiny-but-mighty Mexican chile peppers, also called bird’s beak chiles, rate between 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville units on the heat index (jalapeños rate 2,500 to 8,000, by comparison). 

You’ll want to procure dried ones, or dry your own. “I like to use dried peppers because they’re more easily controlled and more consistent,” says Bugbee. They’re also more neutral in flavor than fresh chiles, allowing the kümmel’s spices, namely caraway and cumin, to take a starring role alongside tequila’s vegetal notes. 

Bugbee balances out the fire of the chiles with fluffy, soothing egg whites, lemon and grapefruit juices, and rich cinnamon syrup, which sweetens the drink while also lending additional layers of spice. Lastly, a splash of refreshing club soda in the shaker helps to keep the heat in, well, check.


  • 2 ounces Gilka kümmel

  • 1/4 ounce Tapatio blanco tequila

  • 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1/2 ounce rich cinnamon syrup (2:1)

  • 1/2 ounce egg white

  • 8 drops árbol tincture*

  • 1 ounce club soda, chilled

  • Garnish: dried chile de árbol pepper


  1. Add all ingredients except the club soda into a shaker and vigorously dry-shake (without ice).

  2. Add one ice cube and whip-shake.

  3. Add one ounce of club soda into the shaker.

  4. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.

  5. Garnish with a dried chile de árbol pepper.

*Árbol tincture: Place a handful of chile de árbol peppers in a quart container and add vodka to cover peppers. Briefly blend the mixture with a Vitamix on high, then strain and bottle.