Five New Pepper-Infused Spirits to Spice Up Your Cocktail Game
Spicy booze has come a long way since you shot some Absolut Peppar in college at that one party we’re not ever going to mention again. Craft distilleries are now infusing a wider range of peppers into their spirits to go beyond the simple sensation of “hot” and instead become a delicious cocktail base.
The key here is balance: Too spicy, and it becomes unpalatable, a bottle merely to taunt people with on your shelf. Too weak, and it looks as though a distillery is trying to capitalize on other similar products.
For Herbal Cocktails: St. George Spirits’ Green Chile Vodka
This vodka is made with a host of peppers. First jalapeños are macerated along with a mix of lime peels and cilantro. Next, the distiller takes four batches of distillate and infuse each with a different type of pepper—habanero, serrano, and red and yellow sweet peppers—before mixing the batches together with the jalapeño blend.
Created by TJ Palmieri of Madrina’s, Gainseville, Fla.
- 1 1/2 oz. St. George Green Chile Vodka
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz. agave nectar
- 2 thin cucumber slices
Method: Combine all ingredients with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds. (Cut the cucumber nice and thin; there's no need to muddle it.) Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a mint sprig and cucumber slices.
For Bloody Marys: Copper Horse Distilling Hot!
This vodka kicks a standard Bloody Mary up a notch or five, even if you’re not making the mix from scratch. (Ed note: When you need a mix, Zing Zang all the way.) Made with an infusion that features two of the world’s hottest peppers—the Carolina Reaper pepper (the hottest at 2.2 million SHU 1 ) and the ghost pepper (1.042 million SHU)—you don’t need much for Hot! to pack a punch.
- 25 oz. vodka
- 1/4 oz. Copper Horse Distilling’s Hot!
- 2 oz. tomato juice
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 tsp fresh grated horseradish
- 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Celery stalk and lemon wedge for garnish
Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake hard and pour into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with celery stalk and lemon wedge.
For Citrus Cocktails: Social Still Jalapeño Vodka
Jalapeños are added at two different points in the distillation process for this vodka. The result is a fresh, piquant spirit that blends well with sweet, citrusy flavors such as pineapple and lime. Social Still’s go-to cocktail for this spirit is the Jalapeño Heist.
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz. mint simple syrup
- 5 oz. pineapple juice
- 2 oz. Social Still Jalapeño Vodka
Method: Shake with ice. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a jalapeño slice.
For Micheladas: UV Sriracha
UV isn’t a craft brand by any means, but sriracha isn’t exactly without its fans these days, either. The spirit smells exactly like the sauce, and UV does a good job of making it taste fairly close to the original product—just boozier. Not recommended for anything but mixing in cocktails, it does a serviceable job in Bloody Marys, but where it really shines is in a refreshing, beer-based 'chelada.
- 1 1/2 oz. UV Sriracha
- 12 oz. light beer
- 1/4 cup tomato juice
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Method: Combine all ingredients in a salt-rimmed pint glass.
For When You Hate Yourself: Naga Chilli Vodka
Billed as the world’s hottest vodka, Hot Enough Vodka Company’s Naga Chilli Vodka 500,000 Scoville edition rings in at exactly where you think. Made with a blend of Naga jolokia chiles and bhut jolokias, there is absolutely no reasons to drink this vodka, other than to cause yourself or someone you know a great deal of pain. Trust me. For those that want to hurt, but hate themselves a little less, there are also 100,000 and 250,000 SHU versions. It makes those college days seem almost quaint.
Spiciness is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is a function of capsaicin concentration in chili peppers. Although an imprecise scale, it can give you a general idea of how much burn to expect: A bell pepper has 0 SHU, banana peppers 100–1,000 SHU; jalapeños 3,500–10,000 SHU; Habanero and Scotch bonnets 100,000–350,000 SHU; Bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) 1 million+ SHU.