In this twist on the classic by Erin Cusick, a bartender at Clover Club in New York City, a bit of mezcal, chile liqueur and spicy bitters combine forces to give the Negroni a smoky and piquant finish. “The most common misconception around spicy cocktails is that they’re just heat and no nuance or flavor—but when you tap into spice with actual flavor by using the right ingredients, you can create a nice, savory drink with some serious heat,” says Cusick. Combining different spicy ingredients—such as Ancho Reyes red chile liqueur and Bittermens’ Hellfire Habanero Shrub bitters, in this case—can help to reach those levels of complex spice that Cusick recommends.
If that’s still not sufficient for the heat seekers, Cusick offers another method to raise your drink’s position on the Scoville scale. “For some extra kick, you could infuse your mezcal or any other base spirit with your own custom pepper combination,” Cusick adds. “This could be as simple as throwing some sliced jalapenos into a container of spirit, or a curated mélange of hot peppers, depending on the flavors and level of heat you’re hoping to achieve. Either way, check on the mixture after one hour, and then taste every hour after that until you deem it ready. If you want extremely spicy, you can leave the infusion overnight and see what it tastes like the next day.”
With your newfound spice skills, there’s a whole world of possibility ahead. Play with fire, starting with Cusick’s Spicy Negroni.
Click Play to See This Spicy Negroni Come Together
1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Ancho Reyes red chile liqueur
2 drops Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub bitters
Add the mezcal, Campari, sweet vermouth, chile liqueur and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into an Old Fashioned or rocks glass over fresh ice.