Today’s recipe is inspired by a margarita Dan and I had once at a tequileria called the Mala Suerte (“bad luck”). It was made with spicy habanero infused tequila, grapefruit juice, and lime juice, and came with a sugar rim. Since I generally hate peppers and they hate me, I thought for sure that the drink would be disgusting, but damned if it wasn’t the most delicious margarita I’ve ever had.
The spicy-sweet combo was incredibly addicting, and the fact that the icy cold liquid simultaneously set my mouth on fire and cooled my burning tongue made the drink go down really quickly. As far as cocktails go, the Mala Suerte was legitimately “dangerously drinkable”.
I, of course, immediately went home and tried to replicate the recipe. Dan had a nice crop of habaneros from his balcony garden that summer, and we always had tequila in the house, so it seemed totally doable. It’s a shame that we didn’t have a well thought out plan. Or common sense.
Instead of researching how to go about infusing liquors with spicy peppers, I just threw every single habanero we had into a large mason jar, poured tequila on top, and then let the whole thing sit…for a month.
‘Cuz, you know, that’s how long you have to let vanilla beans sit in vodka before it becomes extract, and how different could extract be from habanero-infused tequila?
In case you’re wondering, the two things are very different, and the amount of time you’re supposed to let peppers sit around in the booze is significantly shorter than vanilla beans. Most other recipes I’ve seen recommend anywhere from a few hours to one or two days (tops).
Definitely not 30 days.
When we finally opened our jar of habanero tequila, we almost passed out from the fumes. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it made all of the air in our kitchen spicy. Our eyes immediately started burning, and we both started coughing uncontrollably.
After that, neither of us wanted to taste what was clearly The Worst Stuff On Earth, but we decided to tough it out and make margaritas. They were not drinkable. Even with just the barest splash of tequila (I’m talking like 1 tsp at most), the drinks were so spicy that they made my tongue swell on contact.
I had two tiny sips, then the rest of my margarita went down the sink. The Tequila of Death was shoved into the back of our fridge and forgotten until recently, when Dan’s poker buddies came over and decided it would be fun to take shots. Boys are stupid.
FYI – the shots turned out to not be super fun, and they didn’t enjoy it (shocker). The rest of the Liquid Fire went down the drain.
And, I forgot all about spicy pepper-infused cocktails…until a few weeks ago, when I got an email asking me if I wanted to participate in a Maker’s Mark Julep-off. Derby Day is just around the corner (May 2), which means that an obscene amount of mint juleps will be consumed shortly by Southerners in fancy hats. In honor of this occasion, Maker’s Mark asked the blogging community to come up with radical riffs on this classic Derby cocktail.
To sweeten the pot, all contestants would be getting a free bottle of whiskey, a replica julep cup, and other Marker’s Mark/mint julep-inspired goodies. Was I in? Of course I was.
And, I just happened to have pineapples, mint, and jalapenos in the fridge, so my “radical riff” was clear – spicy pineapple mint juleps. This time, instead of trying mess around with liquor infusion, I decided to go with an infused simple syrup. I made a batch of plain simple syrup, then let raw sliced jalapenos steep in the mixture for 20-30 minutes. This method was faster, more immediately effective, and let me control the intensity of the spice/heat a little better.
The resulting cocktail was a lot like what I remembered the Mala Suerte to be – the perfect balance of spicy/sweet, a non-lethal level of heat, tongue-tinglingly delicious (literally), and so so easy to drink. You guys will definitely want to give this one a try.
(Psst – if you like the looks of the recipe, how about going to the #JulepOff Pinterest board and re-pinning my pin??? Recipe with the most re-pins wins!)
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- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1-1/2 oz whiskey (I used Maker's Mark)
- 2 oz water
- 1-1/2 tbsp jalapeno-infused simple syrup
- 3 to 4 mint leaves
- Powdered sugar
- Crushed ice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 large jalapeno, cut into slices (don't worry about removing seeds)
- Combine water and granulated sugar in a pot on medium heat.
- Heat mixture until little bubbles form along the sides of the pot, swirling your pot occasionally.
- Once the sugar is completely dissolved and your mixture becomes clear, remove the pot from heat. (This is plain simple syrup).
- Place sliced jalapeno into the pot, and let it steep in your simple syrup for 20-30 minutes. (FYI - how long you leave the peppers in there depends on how spicy you want your syrup to be. 30 minutes was fine for me!)
- Strain syrup into a bottle or jar, seal it, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large cocktail shaker, combine pineapple chunks, mint leaves, whiskey, and water.
- Using a muddler (or a large spoon), smoosh/muddle everything - you basically want to bruise your mint and squeeze as much juice out of the pineapple chunks as possible.
- Add jalapeno-infused simple syrup to the shaker.
- Put the cap/cover on your shaker and shake vigorously for a few seconds.
- Fill a drinking glass with crushed ice.
- Strain the liquid from your shaker into the glass on top of the ice.
- Sprinkle the top of the ice with powdered sugar.
- Serve immediately.
** This post was sponsored, and I was provided with a few freebies; however, no other compensation was received, and all opinions in this post are my own.