The Ile Rouge (which in French means Red Island), is a spicy and sweet drink made with tequila and peppercorns, grapefruit juice and vanilla liqueur. Developed by drinks consultant Aisha Sharpe, the cocktail is an exercise in balance. Vanilla and tequila marry well together, as do tequila and grapefruit, and heat is a popular thing to add to tequila drinks. While it’s unusual to see all four elements sharing a glass, it works surprisingly well here, as the crispness of the citrus balances the rich sweetness of the vanilla liqueur, which in turn tempers the heat from the crushed peppercorns.
For tequila and, somewhat less so, for vanilla liqueur there are plenty of options to choose from. A blanco tequila or reposado are the best in regards to age, as the richness and smokiness of an añejo can overwhelm the other ingredients—plus, its darker hue will make the red of the drink less vivid. And, of course, a low-quality tequila means a low-quality cocktail, so it’s wise to good mid-shelf at least. For the vanilla liqueur, Giffard makes an exemplar with its Vanille De Madagascar Liqueur, but others on the market can fill in as well.
With any shaken cocktail, it’s best to double strain the Ile Rouge: In addition to the strainer built into a three-piece shaker or a Julep or Hawthorne strainer that goes over the mouth of a shaker tin, using a small kitchen strainer will help catch all the shards of ice and any juice pulp, and keep your shaken drink clean and pretty. But with this drink it’s especially important, as it will catch the shells of the crushed peppercorns, keeping them from adding bitterness or, worse, crunch to your otherwise pristine cocktail.
Finally, the drink is garnished with an “island” of pink peppercorns, from which it derives its name. It takes a steady hand but if they’re each carefully dropped in, they should float together to create the eponymous red island. As elegant as it is, be sure to not swallow them whole when enjoying the final product.
- 15 pink peppercorns
- 1 ounce vanilla liqueur
- 1 ounce premium tequila
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 3/4 ounce ruby red grapefruit juice
- Garnish: pink peppercorns
Muddle the peppercorns in a shaker.
Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice.
Shake and strain into a chilled Martini glass.
Garnish with a few more peppercorns, floating them on the surface like a peppery island.