Sponsored by Cholula Foodservice
Heat on the palate — ranging from a hint to a blaze — is the popular theme of many a signature drink these days.
Chalk it up to the effect of capsaicin. This spicy compound in the seeds and membranes of chile peppers stimulates nerve endings in the mouth and creates a flavor excitement that many consumers find so wonderfully addicting. In addition to enlivening nearly all of today’s trending cuisines, it adds an unexpected, yet welcome appeal at the bar as well. In fact, spicy cocktails ranked in the top 20 beverage trends in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast. Thirty-nine percent of the professional chefs who took part in the survey judged spicy cocktails to be a hot trend offering a broad range of creative opportunity.
“Anytime that we incorporate spice in a drink, it is a crowd pleaser,” says Courtenay Greenleaf, corporate beverage director of Rosa Mexicano, a 13-unit chain based in New York known for specialty margaritas, tequila and mezcal. “A nice, refreshing margarita that is sweet and tart with a little heat on the finish makes you want to take another sip.”
The Spicy Cucumber is a Rosa Mexicano signature. The drink gets its kick from blanco tequila infused with serrano and jalapeño chiles. It is mixed with fresh cucumber juice, basil, lemon and agave, and served in a glass rimmed with salt and chiles.
“The refreshing cucumber balances out the citrus and the heat of the infused tequila,” says Greenleaf. “Everyone loves that little extra heat from the salt and the refreshing, herbal aromatics of the basil.”
Another way many operators are making their signature drink concepts exciting is to use hot sauce. But not just any hot sauce will do. The hot sauce used must also uniquely contribute to the flavor enjoyment of the final beverage. It has to do more than just add heat.
At Rosa Mexicano, they have found that Cholula Hot Sauce has that distinctive, delicious flavor that complements the other flavors at work in the recipe as it turns up the warmth in its famous Michelada, a mixture of Mexican beer, lime and Worcestershire sauce served in a chile-and-salt-rimmed glass. Cholula also can add zest to sangrita, a mixture of citrus and tomato juice, salt and powdered chiles, often served as a zesty accompaniment to sipping tequilas.
Cholula is also one of two contrasting sources of heat that distinguishes The Horny Toad, a popular specialty drink at Heist Brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lead bartender Kelli Brennan shakes together tequila, elderflower liqueur, jalapeño-agave syrup and fresh sour mix. She then garnishes the drink with a lime wheel enhanced with a generous shake of Cholula. “It adds another level of flavor, not just spice,” says Brennan.
“The Cholula mixes into the drink and creates an interesting visual effect,” notes Heist General Manager Spencer Farrell.
A green sangrita made with Cholula Chili Lime Hot Sauce is the brainchild of Brian Van Flandern, president and master mixologist of Creative Cocktail Consultants in New York. It also contains fresh cucumber juice, orange juice, lemon juice, dill-infused simple syrup, fresh muddled basil and fresh jalapeños. “It goes very well with blanco tequila,” says Van Flandern.
Although spicy flavors are in vogue, a certain finesse is essential for making cocktails that are lively but not overwhelming. “When you are mixing a cocktail with anything hot, remember that ethanol is a solvent,” says Van Flandern. “It quickly strips away the oils in whatever source of heat you are using. As the ethanol dissolves the oils and incorporates them throughout the drink, it becomes hotter over time.”
He advises mixologists to err on the side of moderation with spice when pre-batching cocktails “because what might taste balanced at the beginning might end up tasting unbearably hot at the end.”
Mango Picante is a Van Flandern creation that integrates heat in a balanced way. It is made with cognac, fresh mango puree, fresh lime, simple syrup and fresh muddled cilantro, with a chipotle chile powder-sugar rim.
Although tequila and mezcal are often associated with spicy libations, other spirits may work as well. “Gin has a lot of botanical flavors, so it goes great with spice,” says Van Flandern. He suggests serving a gin Bloody Mary with a rim coated with Cholula and salt and using Cholula in the tomato juice mix.
Another pleasing pairing that Van Flandern suggests is a medley of spicy and sweet flavors, such as strawberries, basil and chiles. “Add fresh lime, sugar and the spirit of your choice — gin, vodka, tequila or rum — and you’ve got a great combination,” he says.
With the consumer fascination with spicy sensations going strong, there is great incentive to create distinctive, tongue-tingling drinks. A proven way is to add one-of-a-kind flavor as well as heat to cocktails with Cholula Original Hot Sauce and the additional varieties in the Cholula line — Chili Lime, Chili Garlic, Chipotle and Green Pepper. Click the link to download spicy, flavorful signature drink recipes : https://www.cholulafoodservice.com/recipe-concepts/signature-drinks/