There’s a new cocktail trend this summer and it burns. It’s already hot outside, but these cocktails aren’t hot in temperature, they are hot in flavor. Spicy cocktails are burning up glasses from Bangor to Tacoma. “Spicy cocktails have the same appeal as spicy food,” says Jason Percival, Beverage Manager at Post 390 in Boston.
The reason spicy cocktails work during the summer is because the heat of the spices stimulates the appetite, which for many people isn’t as strong in warmer weather. “As in food, spice balances sweetness so these kinds of cocktails often feature sweeter fruits (again, more often found in the summer).” Spice can also be more subtle, with warm spices rather than peppery ones.
A spicy or smoky profile of a cocktail adds an interesting dynamic to any drink. “I feel as we associate cocktails as being mostly sweet or bitter, however, with a smokey spirit like Mezcal or a peated Scotch we have found a new dimension to cocktail creation,” says Jacob Kress, bartender at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston. “It’s like spicy food, people like it. Spicy drinks are in style,” says Julio Carbrera, mixologist at Regent Cocktail Club in Miami.
As with any cocktail, balance is the most important element. “Spice by itself needn’t be a strange or off-putting element in a cocktail, so long as it’s balanced with acid and sweetness to mellow what could easily be too much heat,” says Percival. As long as the golden rule of balance is headed, a few chili peppers can go a long way into adding a pretty cool and different dimension to existing standards.