Some Like It Hot

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I like things hot and spicy. Even when it comes to my cocktails. There’s something about icy concoctions playing with a snap of heat that’s very appealing to me. Seems I’m not alone. More and more establishments are offering lively libations featuring a fiery twist, such as New York City’s Jalapeno Restaurant, Katsuya in Glendale, California and Chicago’s Lark Creek at The Whistler. It’s really not a surprising development. Pepper infused vodka has been around for a while. I particularly like Absolut Peppar, and have enjoy it in many an interesting cocktail – including my favorite Bloody Mary’s – for quite some time.


Now, I will admit that to some a burning cocktail seems somewhat convoluted. People are accustomed to spicy foods with the accompaniment of a cool and crisp drink to counterbalance the heat. That’s what they’re used to. But it has been my experience that when you offer the average Joe something different, it doesn’t take much time for it to become fashionable. I think we’re there.

I actually became enlightened to the wallop of heat in a cooling cocktail one Christmas Eve many years ago when a Ukrainian friend treated us to a chili pepper and honey infused Vodka imported straight from his homeland. When he explained what we were about to imbibe, we were very cautious. I had thought chili peppers were just for Mexican cuisine. Then came the first sip, neat. Mmmm, I thought. This ain’t bad. I liked it. Needless to say he, my Dad and I finished the whole bottle in one sitting. Sometimes on ice, other times by the shot. All was good that evening.

I’ve been seeking the same experience ever since, and am discovering it everywhere I go lately. The hottest restaurant mixologists are creating their own black peppercorn vodkas and serrano kissed tequilas, as well as horseradish and Tabasco spiked goodies. And they offer them in very artistic potions, I must say. I’m even encountering this intriguing trend at home parties. Friends are peppering my margaritas with Tanteo Jalapeno Infused Tequila, or at the very least rimming my glass with the juice of a jalapeno before salting. I’m served hot rum punches steeped with lots of fresh ginger. The ginger bites back, and I appreciate it. My martinis are sometimes handed to me with a biting pickled chili, instead of the ubiquitous olive. I’m even offered a dusting of cayenne on many of my hosts’ cocktail creations. Thought it was nutmeg. I was pleasantly surprised.

I find that sweet drinks in particular serve as the perfect counterfoil to the intensity of heat that, say, a habanero can offer. After all, we see this very often in Asian cuisine. Why not in our cocktails? So when I’m playing around with my own scorching inventions, I prefer using citrus and cranberry juices, as well as pureed fruits. Of course, I vary the intensity of the heat depending on what my audience can tolerate. I almost always put a little sweat on their brows, though. It’s all good.

If you’re interested in pursuing spicy cocktails recipes, check out an online magazine my colleagues and I create weekly at and join us on a heated journey that’s surprisingly quenching…and good.

Victor Ribaudo

The Selma Hayek
By: Aurora Nessly

Bright vivid colors accent this margarita from the fresh cranberries to the sinister blood orange puree. It’s time for a walk on the wild side. Release your inhibitions…

Yield: 1 margarita

¼ cup fresh whole cranberries
2 tablespoons blood orange puree (or 1 squeezed blood orange)
2 limes, 1 juiced, 1 for garnish
2 ounces silver Tequila
4 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces Triple Sec
jalapeno salt for dusting (or use the juice of a fresh jalapeno around the glass rim and then mix on sea salt)

1. In a food processor, puree cranberries until finely minced. Add in blood orange puree and juiced lime and pulse further. I
2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add tequila, cranberry juice, triple sec, and cranberry and blood orange puree. Shake well.
3. Rim your low-ball glass with salt either by using a lime slice squeezed around the rim and dipping into sea salt cracked onto a plate or by going bold and using the juice of a jalapeno.
4. Strain your margarita into your glass and serve with a garnish of lime.

Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Aurora Nessly
Food Stylist Gina Mingiovi
Blog syndicated at the
Courtesy of Heat Magazine