good spirits


Give cocktails a kick with popular peppery counterparts.


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Spiced sugar cubes used in the Curry and Coconut-Washed Monkey Shoulder cocktail at 1864 Tavern in Reno

Some like it hot … their cocktails, that is. Armed with seemingly endless fiery mixers, booze, and garnishes, local bartenders are hot for the spicy beverage trend. With a little care and proper pairing, at-home mixologists can have delicious fun creating drinks with bite.

Whether you’re using liquor or beer as your base, consider offsetting the heat with a sweet component, suggests Erika Sander, bartender at Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar in Reno.

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Erika Sander, bartender at Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar in Reno, presents a Mango Michelada

“Spicy cocktails or micheladas work best if you also include an opposite flavor profile, like grapefruit juice,” Sander says. “You want the acidity and sweetness to cut the heat.”

While raw peppers and hot sauce may seem like the obvious choices for adding heat, using Indian and Asian spices is a nice alternative.

“I try to use more refined spices because there’s still heat there, but you’re getting a lot more than just that pure heat flavor,” says Dylan Evans, co-owner of 1864 Tavern in Midtown Reno. “I love curry in food, and it’s fun to incorporate it into drinks. Just remember that curry, or any spice, should be a subnote and not the main flavor.”

1864 spicycocktails 6Dylan Evans makes a Curry and Coconut-Washed Monkey Shoulder cocktail

Go ahead, be daring, and add a little kick to that tasty drink.

HOT TIP NO. 1 Sander recommends using cayenne simple syrup for an easy way to infuse a greyhound or Paloma. In a saucepan, heat equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Add cayenne pepper to achieve desired level of heat. Store in the refrigerator and sprinkle into traditional cocktails.

HOT TIP NO. 2 When muddling raw peppers, be sure to remove seeds, Evans warns, and always be overly careful with the level of heat in a drink.

Freelance writer Heidi Bethel is a big fan of all things spicy and loves to try new flavor combinations for a refreshing yet zingy libation.


Curry and Coconut-Washed Monkey Shoulder

(courtesy of Dylan Evans, co-owner, 1864 Tavern in Midtown Reno. Serves 1)

2 ounces coconut-washed Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky mixture (recipe to follow)

4 dashes Angostura bitters

Curry sugar cube (recipe to follow)

Splash of water

2 walnuts, crushed

Place curry sugar cube in glass with bitters and muddle. Add splash of water to help break down mixture. Add coconut-washed Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky mixture and 1 large ice cube. Garnish with crushed walnuts.

For coconut-washed Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky mixture:

3 cups Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky

⅓ cup coconut oil

Pour both ingredients into Mason jar, cover, and refrigerate 2 hours. Once oil has separated, gently crack hardened oil and double strain to remove all hardened pieces.

For curry sugar cubes:

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon water

Pour sugar and curry powder into large bowl. Add water, mixing sugar with fork. Initially, it will appear lumpy, but continue to stir until mixture becomes crumbly with fairly even texture (similar to brown sugar). If it seems too wet, it probably is; add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Spoon sugar into molds, packing firmly. Let set in refrigerator until hard, then pop out of mold.

Mango Michelada

(courtesy of Erika Sander, bartender, Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar in Reno. Serves 1)

12 ounces Great Basin Brewing Co. Cerveza Chilebeso (or another spicy beer)
Juice of ½ lime
¾ cup mango purée or mango juice
Few drops of Mexican hot sauce for additional heat (optional)

Chile salt (recipe to follow)

Rim pint glass with chile salt and fill ¾ full with ice. Combine mango purée or juice with lime juice and hot sauce and pour into glass. Top with spicy beer.

For chile salt

Combine equal parts ancho chile powder and kosher salt.

Mexican Firing Squad

(courtesy of Dylan Evans, co-owner, 1864 Tavern in Midtown Reno. Serves 1)

1½ ounces mezcal

½ ounce Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur

1 ounce honey chile syrup (recipe to follow)

Juice of ½ lime

Juice of ¼ grapefruit

Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in shaker filled with ice. Shake. Double strain over crushed ice.

For honey chile syrup:

1 cup honey

1 cup water

½ teaspoon dried chile

Combine ingredients in small saucepan, and bring to boil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain syrup into jar and refrigerate up to 1 month. 




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