The Chile Cocktail
Illustration credit: Jennifer Fox
Cinco de Mayo is less than a month away, but we have a suggestion for the drink you might want then—the Chile Lime, a sweet-hot cocktail involving half a fiery serrano chili, seeds and all, sitting happily right in the glass. Heat-seekers, prepare to be stoked.
What’s notable about the drink, which we found at Brooklyn’s Quarter Bar, is the strength of the pepper itself—and the fact that half of it is served in your drinking vessel. Bloody Marys garnished with jalapeños are common enough, but serranos are hotter than jalapeños, and most of the capsaicin, the oil that makes a chile hot, is released when you split a chile open, so garnishing with a pepper isn’t quite the same.
Quarter Bar owner David Moo says the drink was the brainchild of his friend Rahul Chakravartty, who was traveling in India with his family during monsoon season and got “caught in a hotel during some kind of massive weather event.” They couldn’t leave the premises for three to four days, “and being stuck in this hotel they were, of course, bored,” says Moo. Chakravartty & Co. asked for access to the lobby bar, the hotel manager told them to go to town, and they began to experiment. The result was a drink made from chile, hot sauce, vodka, fizzy water and soda. Given its origin story, the cousins called it the “Tsunami Mommy” until a giant tsunami ravaged Asia in 2004, at which point they rechristened it the “Chile Lime.”
The Chile Lime has been tweaked somewhat from its first incarnation: Moo eliminated the salt rim Chakravartty originally used and swapped out the Tabasco for a few drops of the not-kidding-around Scotch bonnet–based Matouk’s Flambeau Hot Sauce, which is actually hotter than the serrano chile itself. As Moo says, “Matouk’s is pretty serious. It makes my toes tingle!”
Moo mixes the two types of chiles with almost a full ounce of fresh lime juice, vodka—because the drink is so potent, “it kind of doesn’t matter what [kind of vodka] you use”—Sprite, and soda water.
The result is a drink that’s spicy and sour at once, and contains the flavors of classic Mexican and Indian food in one glass—primarily, lime and chile. Moo loves to drink it in his bar’s garden in the summer: “When you’re outside sweating, this is gonna bring your sweat on and cool you down.”
From David Moo, Quarter Bar
One serrano chile
Hot sauce, such as Matouk’s Flambeau Sauce
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
1 3/4 ounce vodka
1. Cut off top of chile (near root). Discard. Split chile down middle, lengthwise. Reserve half of chile for later use. Set aside.
2. Add a nickel’s worth (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon) of hot sauce to a pint or water glass. Add lime juice. Add chile half. Swirl in glass for several seconds, until lime juice dissolves hot sauce.
3. Add vodka. Add ice. Stir for several seconds, using spoon or straw.
4. In volume of glass that remains, add two parts Sprite to one part seltzer.
5. Stir briefly. Serve.