How do you like your cocktail? Straight-up, salty, sweet? How about mouth-burning, butt-kicking spicy? If it's heat you crave, L.A.'s latest cocktail craze – all things jalapeño – is for you. Mixologists from Santa Monica to downtown to the Valley are turning to the Mexican-grown chili to add a kick to classic cocktails, spice up fruity libations and, with 2,500-8,000 Scoville heat units per pepper, even make their customers cry. Still interested? Here's where you can get some of L.A.'s hottest cocktails; just don't say we didn't warn you.
If you're a jalapeño newbie (or just want to retain sensation in your mouth come the end of the night), try The Bazaar by Jose Andres' jalé berry cocktail, made from fresh blackberries, gin, Cointreau and a slice of jalapeño. In the mood for a twist on a classic margarita? Go for Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills' speckled jalapeño margarita, served at the hotel's Roof Garden. Made from Patron, Grand Marnier, fresh citrus juice and thin slices of jalapeño, it's a classic margarita kicked up (barely) one notch. Once you're ready to move up from a slice of jalapeño to the juiced-version, head to Loteria Grill. The restaurant's bartenders hand-squeeze jalapeño peppers every morning, adding the juice to tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and rimming the glass with pico de gallo powder. Downtown's Casa Cucino & Cantina ups the jalapeño ante in its Spicy Cadillac, mixed with house-made jalapeño puree.
Need some fruit flavor to balance the heat? Border Grill and Akasha provide (some) relief with a cucumber jalapeño margarita and Indian Summer heat cocktail, respectively. Katsuya's Burning Mandarin goes the citrus route; Absolut Mandarin is mixed with hand-crushed serrano chiles (a hotter cousin of the jalapeño) and lemon, orange and cranberry juices, while Manhattan Beach's Sashi Sushi + Sake Lounge's Wildfire cocktail opts for Grey Goose L'Orange, blood orange juice and sliced jalapeño. Rush Street's El Diablo balances the jalapeño heat with watermelon syrup, Yxta Cocina Mexican's Real Piña muddles pineapple and cilantro in the mix, and Rivera's Barbacoa adds a bite with chipotle and ginger.
If these aren't hot enough for you or you're a glutton for punishment, we're bringing out the big guns. Mission Cantina's Jalapeño Martini, made with vodka, olive juice, simple syrup and muddled with jalapeño peppers, just might make you cry. El Carmen's self-proclaimed “one of a kind” Spicy Margarita packs crushed jalapeños into a fired-up version of the classic drink. And finally, La Velvet Margarita Cantina's Mexican Margarita might be the hottest we've found, with loads of chopped jalapeños just waiting to set your entire body ablaze. While you're at it, you might as well try their habanero version. Just make sure you have a gallon of milk – or a fire extinguisher – nearby.
And if you want to make your own at home, turn the page for Sashi's Wildfire cocktail recipe.
From: Sashi Sushi + Sake Lounge
Makes: one cocktail
2 slices of jalapeño
2 oz. Grey Goose L'Orange
1 ½ oz. blood orange juice
½ oz. triple sec
1. Muddle one slice of jalapeño in a mixing glass.
2. Add Grey Goose L'Orange, Blood Orange Juice and Triple Sec. Add ice.
3. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Float one large (or three small) jalapeño slices in the center of the cocktail for garnish.
Christie Bishop also blogs at PardonMyCrumbs.com.