Some like it Hot

L' Eau de Rose cocktail from Le Petit Paris in Los Angeles. Image: Ryan Tanaka

Spicy cocktails are winning over customers

White Zin and a nice, sweet cocktail were the mainstays of most cocktail menus in times gone by, but they just don’t cut the mustard these days. In fact, mustard is more along the lines that bartenders are thinking, for many of them are offering up cocktails with heat from spices and chilies.

The residents of Nashville, TN, are excited about these, says Jenelle Engleson, beverage director of City Winery. “We see people getting more interested in exploring their palates in food and beverage. They’re becoming more adventurous and want to explore offbeat flavors, and that’s where we were driving the cocktail program, so they can taste different things.”

At City Winery, Engleson offers a spin on a Manhattan called I Sold My Soul in Manhattan. The heat comes from two things: mostly from hellfire bitters (which are non-alcoholic and made from a habanero shrub), but also from a black pepper simple syrup.

“The habanero shrub is hot on the front of the palate but it’s not on the back end, so you get the great mouth coating experience and are not overwhelmed with heat on the back,” she says. “It’s really hard to take multiple sips if there’s too much heat. This was the elegant way of finding the balance.”

The cocktail also includes Hoodoo Liqueur from Cathead Distillery in Mississippi, which is made by distilling chicory with vodka, so the story goes, under a full moon, on Friday 13th.

Men especially like the Sold My Soul, but women like it too, Engleson says, and it’s popular as an aperitif or a digestif. It costs $12 and pairs especially well with a charcuterie plate and a cheese plate. “Something simple, since the drink has multiple elements to it,” she explains.

The drink is made with flair. It’s mixed, then the bartender sets a Luxardo cherry on fire and puts a martini glass over it to smoke the vessel. The cherry floats on top of the final drink. “People get really excited to watch this,” Engleson says.


I Sold My Soul in Manhattan cocktail from City Winery - Firey cocktails

I Sold My Soul in Manhattan

Created by beverage director Jenelle Engleson, City Winery, Nashville, TN

  • 2 oz. Bulleit Rye bourbon 
  • 1 oz. Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur 
  • 0.75 oz. black pepper syrup 
  • 3 dashes Hellfire bitters 
  • Luxardo cherry to garnish 

Mix all ingredients over ice in a mixing jar. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.


El Chingon cocktail from Tanta in Chicago - Firey cocktails

El Chingon

Created by Tomy Lokvicic, general manager at Tanta, Chicago, IL

  • 1.5 oz. Tanteo jalapeño tequila
  • 0.5 oz. Xicaru mezcal
  • 0.75 oz. Lime juice
  • 0.75 oz. Simple syrup
  • Rocoto chile ice ball

Put the first four ingredients in a shaker, then pour over the Rocoto chili ice ball.


Viper cocktail from 5Church - Firey cocktails
Attribution/Copyrights: Justin Driscoll


Created by partner Mills Howell for 5Church, Atlanta, GA

  • 1.25 oz. Patrón Silver Tequila
  • 0.75 oz. Cointreau Triple Sec
  • 0.25 oz. Simple syrup
  • 0.75 oz. Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1.25 oz. Housemade cucumber water
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Cucumber slice to garnish

Shake all ingredients then strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Top with a splash of soda water and a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Add one cucumber slice to glass rim.


L' Eau de Rose cocktail from City Winery - Firey cocktails

’Eau de Rose

Created by Tybo Launois at Le Petit Paris, Los Angeles, CA

  • 2 oz. Famous Grouse Scotch
  • 0.5 oz. Rose syrup
  • Shake of Piment d'espelette
  • 2 slices of Lemon for garnish

Shake hard and serve in a rocks glass full of ice. Peel two slices of lemon to make an Old Fashioned-style garnish. Add a splash of piment d’espelette.


The Ghostbuster Margarita from MEX and Social Kitchen & Bar - Firey cocktails

The Ghostbuster Margarita

Created by the bartenders at the two MEX restaurants (Bloomfield Hills, MI, and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Auburn Hills, MI), and Social Kitchen & Bar, Grand Rapids, MI

  • 0.5 tsp. Ghost pepper jam
  • 1.25 oz. El Jimador Reposado Tequila
  • 0.75 oz. Triple sec
  • 1 oz. Simple syrup
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice

Prepare glass by rubbing lemon round the rim and dip in sugar. Shake ingredients together and pour in prepared glass, over ice. Drop in lemon.


Thai Margarita cocktail from Grayson Social - Firey cocktails

Thai Margarita

Created by Darlene Marcello, vice president of food and beverage, Grayson Social, Dallas, TX

  • 1/8 Chili pepper 
  • 2 oz. Thai chili infused tequila (housemade) 
  • 0.25 oz. Combier 
  • 0.25 oz. Lime juice 
  • 0.25 oz. Honey simple syrup (housemade) 

Muddle 1/8 (tip) chili pepper, then add remaining ingredients. Shake and strain over ice. Pour into rocks glass with quarter lime wedge, squeezed and dropped in. Add Thai chili. 

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