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Spicy Cocktails Are Hot, Hot, Hot

Pepino cocktail at chef-owner Richard Sandoval's Tequileria Maya in New York City.

The Pepino cocktail at Richard Sandoval's Tequileria Maya in New York.

The United States might be known for its love of sweet drinks like Coca-Cola and Gatorade, but there are plenty of palates that prefer the savory side, especially when it comes to cocktails.

Restaurants and bars across the country are finding new ways beyond the traditional Bloody Mary to pack a liquid punch. They’ve spiced up cool summertime drinks with jalapeños, cayenne pepper and Thai chilies. Like the fiery cuisines of tropical countries, these spicy cocktails hit the spot in hot weather.

At Tequileria Maya in New York City, chef-owner Richard Sandoval offers more than 100 agave-based spirits and 30 house-infused tequilas, and such edgy cocktails as The Pepino. It starts with house-infused jalapeño tequila, which is shaken with a fresh cucumber purée and a dash of citrus to make a shamelessly spicy quaff that could go head to head with the restaurants housemade salsas.

Over in California wine country, the Holla-Yo-Peño at Jackson’s Bar and Oven in Santa Rosa  comes with a “caution: spicy” warning. The drink starts with jalapeño- and lemon-infused Charbay vodka, blended with Neige apple ice wine from Quebec, brown sugar and lemon, and is served with a sugar rim.

Nearby in St. Helena, the Goose & Gander boasts the Mellivora capensis. That’s the scientific name for the honey badger (of YouTube fame), or a delightful drink crafted by Scott Beattie that’s sure to wake up all the senses. Its ingredients consist of Eagle Rare 10-year-old bourbon, peat, honey, lemon, pineapple, black cardamom, chili and coconut foam.

The Pepino

Serves 1

This recipe comes from Richard Sandoval at Tequileria Maya in New York.


For the jalapeño-infused tequila:

2 medium-sized jalapeño peppers, sliced in half lengthwise

1 liter tequila blanco

For the pepino:

1.5 ounces jalapeño-infused tequila

2 ounces organic cucumber puree (fresh organic cucumbers pureed with skin on)

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar

Tajin seasoning (a blend of chile powder, lime and salt), for garnish

Slice of cucumber, for garnish


1. Macerate the two jalapeños in the tequila at room temperature for 10-15 days. Shake the spirit three times per day to distribute the flavor.

2. Strain, bottle and store at room temperature.

3. Combine infused tequila and remaining ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, shake 30 times.

4. Moisten the rim of a glass and dip it into the Tajin seasoning.

5. Add ice to the glass and strain the cocktail into it.

6. Garnish with the cucumber slice.

Photo: The Pepino cocktail. Credit: Tequileria Maya

Zester Daily contributor Virginie Boone is a Sonoma Valley-based wine writer. She has reported on the Northern California wine scene for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate food and wine magazine, Savor, and is a contributing reviewer of California wines for Wine Enthusiast.

  • Kathy solomon 7·4·13

    Can’t wait to try this. Thanks for sharing