Courtesy of Florida Cookery at The James Royal Palm
From mild anchos to seriously hot Scotch bonnets, chile peppers add nuanced flavors and, at times, lip-numbing sensations to cocktails. Drawing inspiration from her Peruvian heritage, the Miami-based beverage director Nicole Candusso, of the new restaurant Florida Cookery, likes aji panca chiles—fruity, smoky red peppers commonly grown in Peru. “I think people are using too much jalapeño and chipotle, so I wanted to use a different chile,” Candusso says. The result is her Mucho Humo cocktail, whose name translates to “lots of smoke.” Candusso starts with a blend of Del Maguey mezcal and Buffalo Trace bourbon, then adds a syrup infused with dried aji panca peppers and chocolate mole bitters for more spice and complexity. The drink is shaken, poured on the rocks and garnished with fragrant pineapple leaves. Here, more cocktails made with a range of chiles.
Copa d’Oro; Los Angeles
One of F&W’s 50 best bars in America, this Santa Monica spot features the sweet, spicy and bitter X Fuera 99 cocktail, made with a jam combining ancho chiles and red bell peppers. London dry Fords gin is mixed with Aperol, fresh lemon juice, orange bitters and a generous spoonful of the jam, then shaken and strained into a martini glass. The drink is garnished with mint and a thin ring of bell pepper.
The Gallows; Boston
This upscale gastropub created the popular Brazen Bull, a spicy gimlet made with jalapeño-habanero-Scotch bonnet-bell pepper–infused vodka, lime juice and a touch of simple syrup. “People describe it as addictive,” says Gallows owner Rebecca Roth Gullo. “Your first taste is sweet, then you feel the heat, then the coolness from the lime.”
Tyson Cole’s Houston branch of Uchi offers the Kara Kyuri cocktail with Thai chile (a.k.a. bird’s eye chile). To temper its heat, the thinly sliced chile is muddled with cooling cucumber and cilantro. Bartenders add sake and tart yuzu simple syrup before shaking the drink and straining it over ice in an old-fashioned glass.
M.Y. China; San Francisco
At Martin Yan’s first San Francisco restaurant, a slice of bright red Fresno pepper gives the Fire in the Wok cocktail a gentle kick. The garnish’s heat bleeds into the drink—a mix of tequila, lime juice, agave and soda water—and makes your lips tingle.