Infused heat

Tequila and heat are a match made in heaven. The spicy margarita is the most common way we see the flavors of tequila and spice married. It works quite well. Refreshing and tart, the sharp bite of tequila matches the kick of pepper heat.

But there is more to ‘hot cocktails’ than just a spicy margarita. A great way to get spice into your cocktails is to infuse your liquor. Infusing sounds difficult but is actually just steeping flavors into liquor.

Infusing tequila is easy, it just requires a day or so to steep then you’ll be ready to mix some heat soaked drinks.

You can infuse a bottle of tequila with your choice of peppers. Feeling brave? Go with the heat master, jalapeño. Feeling meek? Serrano peppers will give you a slight warmth but no burn.

To infuse a 750 ml bottle of tequila, simply take two jalapeño peppers and slice them in half. You can leave the seeds in for an extra kick or scrape them out to reduce the heat factor slightly.

Add the halved peppers and bottle of blanco tequila to a large mouth glass jar. Seal the lid and give the mixture a couple of shakes. Let the peppers infuse in the tequila for 24-48 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth back into the tequila bottle. Be sure to label the bottle as ‘pepper infused tequila’ so you don’t mix it up with your low test tequila.

This pepper infused tequila can be used to make a delicious spicy margarita. You can also use the pepper infused tequila in a Bloody Mary instead of vodka.

Another awesome recipe is using carrot juice and pepper infused tequila in a cocktail. The carrot juice works well to absorb the spiciness of the jalapeño.

The result is a spicy, sweet, beautifully colored drink perfect to serve with Sunday brunch.

Jackrabbit Quick, left. Not Just Another Tequila Sunrise, right.

Jackrabbit Quick
2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1 1/2 oz. carrot juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass. Add ice to fill. Garnish with grape tomatoes and cilantro.

A spicy margarita tempered with a bit of sweetness makes a great cocktail to pair with tacos. Its simple to make with the pepper infused tequila and a sweeter liqueur instead of the standard triple sec. This combination produces a spicy but mellow flavor.

I like to sprinkle a ground sea salt on top of the cocktail instead of salting the rim. It’s a neater presentation and balances the cocktail better than huge chunks of salt that may or may not get into your drink.

Spicy Margarita Especial
2 1/2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1/2 oz. agave
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Elderflower liqueur

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garish with two slices of jalapeño and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Another creative use of tequila and spice is a take on the old favorite, the Tequila Sunrise. Popular in the 1970s, this cocktail gets a bad rap. It was made badly with low quality ingredients by many bartenders.

But I have elevated the drink and revived it with fresh flavors and changed the base juice to create a spicy sweet sipper that stuns in the glass.

Not Just Another Tequila Sunrise
2 1/2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1/2 oz. hibiscus syrup
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 oz. cold pressed pineapple juice

Add the tequila, hibiscus syrup and lime juice into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into a tall ice filled glass. Top by pouring the cold pressed pineapple juice very slowly into the glass. Garnish with a whole pepper.

If you can’t find hibiscus syrup in your local grocery or speciality market, it is very simple to make your own.

Simple boil one cup of sugar with one cup of water in a pot. Remove from heat. Add one cup of dried hibiscus and let steep for thirty minutes. Strain into a glass bottle. Add an ounce of vodka to prolong the shelf life. The syrup will keep in the fridge for up to one month.