Eric Prum and Josh Williams have strong opinions on the subject of summer drinking. The former college roommates, who popularized the mason jar shaker and have just released their first cocktail recipe book, believe seasonal mixed drinks belong outside, passed back and forth between friends. They also believe that summer cocktails should be proactively refreshing rather than merely cold and wet.
“When you’re drinking outside it’s nice to go real spicy with it because you’ll start sweating and that’ll cool you down,” says Williams. “It’s a different approach than sipping a gin and tonic.”
Williams explains that there are actually three types of cocktail spice. Traditional chili spice is the variety that immediately comes to mind. It’s easy enough to inject a bit of capsaicin into a drink by rimming the glass or muddling - “be careful because a lot of peppers will blow your ass away.” The second type is ginger spice, the sort of tang you get from a properly poured Dark and Stormy. Muddling works here – as does a spicier ginger beer. The third variety is the least expected and Williams’ favorite to experiment with (“It sounds crazy, but delivers an awesome kick”): mustard spice.
Mustard spice requires a bit of subtlety because the delivery mechanism is generally powder and a slip of the hand will destroy your drink. Unlike pepper and ginger, mustard also needs to be balanced by strongly flavored liquor. Where some chili salt will mix beautifully with a tequila blanco, mustard powder is at its best paired with a more muscular mezcal.
For the most part, Williams recommends keeping spicy drinks a bit lighter. Whiskey brought its own flavor so there’s no benefit to dropping in a chili or savory root. Vodkas work pretty much across the board and less botanical gins can support a stronger flavor. The key, if you’re trying to create something original, is to consider whether or not your fiery element is shouting down the rest of your ingredients. It’s a delicate balance so if you’re making a drink for a lady and don’t want to take a risk, it’s best to go the rim route, which allows drinkers to moderate how spicy they want their drink to be. If you decide to really go for it, just be sure to warn whoever you’re warming up.
“The most important thing, from a bartending perspective, is to let people make their own decision about how spicy they want it,” says Prum. “Don’t surprise anyone.”
Here are three recipes from Prum and Williams showcasing exactly how to perk up a drink. Time to get your sweat on.
The Spicy Mezcalita
Ingredients (makes two drinks):
2 shots tequila
1 shot mezcal
1 & 1/2 shots Cointreau
1 & 1/2 shots fresh lime juice
2 slices of fresh jalapeño (plus 2 slices to garnish)
2 slices of fresh lime (to garnish)
Combine the tequila, mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice, and 2 slices of jalapeño in the shaker. Add ice to above the level of the liquid and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
Strain the mixture into chilled rocks glasses containing large cubes of ice and garnish with remaining lime and jalapeño slices.
The Flat Ditch
4 Shots Dark Rum
1 Shot Fresh Lime Juice
6 Slices of Peeled Fresh Ginger (plus 2 to garnish)
2 Slices of Fresh Lime (to garnish)
Add the Lime Juice and Ginger Slices to the Shaker. Muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the Shaker until fragrant. Add the Dark Rum and shake for 10 seconds. Strain the mixture into Tumblers containing large cubes of ice. Tope with Ginger Beer and remaining Ginger and Lime slices.
Ingredients (Makes two drinks):
3 Shots Mezcal
1 Shot Fresh Lime Juice
2 Shots Apple Cider
2 Teaspoons Mustard Powder
3/4 Shot Honey
2 Slices of lime
Add all ingredients except the lime slice in your shaker. Stir the mixture until the honey and mustard dissolve then add ice to that liquid and shake for 15 seconds. Strain the drink over a few ice cubes and garnish with the limes.