At some point in the last 10 years I’ve developed a tolerance for heat in my food. I’m a sucker for foods that make me cry just a little. Those that I’ll sweat over but clean my plate (hello Thai food!). And the other day I realized maybe a cocktail could be just as satisfying with the right amount of heat. Also, I had picked up a sampler pack of The Bitter End Cocktail Bitters and I have been looking for a cocktail to use them in. I had sampled the Memphis bitters at Bar Keeper here in LA and with just one drop my mouth was on fire. Awesome.
My Tres Palmas cocktail includes some jalapeños, but they sit way in the back and don’t come out to mingle very much. What I really wanted was a cocktail that breathed fire.
This particular cocktail took much more trial and error than I was expecting but I was determined to get the right balance of sweet and heat. The first batch I made with Gin and most of a chili pepper thrown in. It resulted in something akin to drinking MACE. Second round I subbed out the gin with añejo tequila, a much richer flavor, but still almost undrinkable due to the amount of pepper I had opted to keep in. There was also a missing element and I turned to the kumquats dying a slow death on my counter. That bite of citrus and a bit less hot pepper and I’d hit it out of the park.
Be forewarned! As this drink sits it steeps and the heat develops more. So if you want to lessen that, use less jalapeño with no seeds, or just drink it very quickly. Your choice.
1-1/2 oz Don Julio Añejo Tequila
1-1/2 oz Cynar
2 slices of fresh jalapeno
2 whole kumquats sliced in half, seeds removed
1 hefty drop of The Bitter End Thai Cocktail Bitters
Muddle jalapeño and kumquats together in a mixing glass. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill the shaker 2/3 with ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
Sweet heat is a lovely way to describe this cocktail. The nose is all citrus with a touch of bittersweet from the Cynar. That sweetness continues through the first sip where the heat immediately kicks you in the back of the throat but then softens with a rich smokiness from the Añejo. Tequila and Cynar blend well making this cocktail seem less like ‘tequila’ and more towards something brown and bitter, with only subtle tequila hints. Besides heat, the jalapenos also provide a grassiness that makes the whole cocktail more of a bittersweet flavor overall.
Sweet, smoky, fire. What I think a devil’s breath would be like. Enjoy at your own risk!