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.