Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Adding Spice


There's more to spicy cocktails than the Bloody Mary.


We could all use a little warmth this time of year, but sometimes a hot, steaming cup of something just isn't what you're looking for. As Jason Wilson detailed in last week's Washington Post, when a drink can use a little fire but you don't want to dispense with the ice, it's time to reach for the chiles that can push your liquor into Scoville unit territory.

As prevalent as jalapenos, Thai chiles, serranos and other members of the pepper clan are in the culinary world, they're notably rare in the realm of drinks. Aside from a souped up Bloody Mary (or its relatives), most drinkers and bartenders ignore this section of the produce stand when selecting flavors for a cocktail.

It's easy enough to throw a slice of habanero into a mixing tin or drop a jalapeno in a jar of vodka and see what happens. But if the idea of lacing your scotch with a Scotch bonnet makes you cringe, Wilson recommends this helpful new book that can guide you through this relatively untrammeled terrain: Spice & Ice, by Kara Newman.

Newman methodically tackles the topic of spicy drinks, detailing which peppers and other spicy ingredients work best with which spirits and, even more importantly, the steps you can take to avoid turning a modest bottle of tequila into a gut-searing jug of liquid fire.

And to spark (ha, sorry) your creativity with these spicy spirits, Newman also lists recipes for 60 peppery cocktails, ranging from a Pisco Punch doctored with rocoto peppers to a bright aperitif of Aperol and gin with serrano, cinnamon and clove syrups.

"it's not too difficult to turn up the internal thermostat by fixing a drink"

The weather outside may be frightful, but if a fire isn't in your future, it's not too difficult to turn up the internal thermostat by fixing a drink with a spicy edge. Some bars and home bartenders have experimented with peppers and other warming spices in their drinks; do you have any favorites?