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Take a look at classic cocktails, and you’ll see a trend toward a predictable flavor profile—a shot of hooch balanced with a wee bit of sugar and a few drops of aromatic bitters to wake up the nose and palate. Maybe a hit of citrus to brighten things up. Think of the Manhattan, the negroni, the Hemingway daiquiri and the gimlet.
The modern-day Bloody Mary, of course, breaks with tradition with a spicy kick of horseradish, hot sauce, and pickled vegetables to make the morning after a little more appealing—in a culinary sense. It was only a matter of time before enterprising barkeeps started exploring the spicier side of the spectrum, building libations featuring heat and tongue-tingling sensations.
Here are a few concoctions that will deliver unexpected spice combinations to your pre-dinner cocktail hour.
Bee Sting (tequila + jalapeño)
With their obvious Mexican connection, tequila drinks seem to be the natural starting point for spicy spiritual exploration. This riff on the gin-based “Bee’s Knees” cocktail hails from Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas, where bartenders muddle slices of plump jalapeño to pepper up lightly-aged tequila, adding a wee bit of honey for sweetness.
Cape Samurai (vodka + ginger + wasabi)
This complex palate-pleaser comes not from Asia—although most of its flavors do— but from London, the mixology world’s perennial hotbed. At the Mango Tree, the most neutral of spirits (vodka) mingles with lime, fragrant rose syrup, and a double-barrel blast of spicy ginger and sinus-clearing wasabi.
99 Problems But a Peach Ain’t One (bourbon + sriracha)
Oh, sriracha… how we love you. You’ve got heat AND garlic AND just enough tanginess to make you irresistible. And addictive. It’ll make us do things like add you to the sweeter things in life— say, sugary summer peaches and Kentucky’s finest brown liquor, with just enough basil syrup to add an herbal note or two. What, indeed, is not to love?