When the gusty winter air starts penetrating the layers of wool, fleece, and tweed protecting you, New Yorkers seek any chance to warm from the inside out. A hot bowl of soup or cup of tea go a long a way, but culinary fire comes in many forms, including the small but potent chili pepper. Top bartenders and mixologists make them go down easiest in cocktails that simmer long after drinking. Chili-out with these 8 spicy cocktails at New York bars.
De Le Calle at Toloache
251 W 50th St., 212-581-1818
A signature drink of the restaurant and chef Julian Medina, the De Le Calle (in the Street) blends Milagro Silver tequila—made in small batches from blue agave in Jalisco, Mexico, and slow-roasted in traditional clay ovens—with jalapeno, lime, and a few slices of cooling cucumber perched on the glass to balance the taste. Tajin rims the glass, adding another dusting of pep.
Paper Tiger at Death & Co.
433 E 6th St., 212-0388-0882
Death & Co. is easy to miss on the street with no windows and nothing but a tiny sign and doormat with the name. Once inside the coffin-esque space, life bursts from the masterful cocktails, for many, the best in the city. Paper Tiger, served in a wide-mouth coupe glass, is the choice for anyone who find jalapeños too tame. Using the longer, thinner Serrano pepper, the drink throws a second punch with Perry’s Tot “navy strength” gin, before tempering with sherry, grapefruit, and lime.
Paid Vacation at Apotheke
9 Doyers St #1, 212-406-0400
Be careful after downing this mix of Vida mezcal, Altos tequila, smoked pineapple, muddled cucumber, and habañero bitters, it’s listed as an aphrodisiac by the chemist-bartenders of Apotheke, and they know what they’re talking about. The curvature of the Austrian crystal glass adds yet more sensuality, while the dried pineapple leaf floating on top reminds you of the vacation.
Highroller at The Dead Rabbit
30 Water St., 646-422-7906
New York’s most infamous 19th century street gang gets the tribute at this “grocery and grog” shop. Downstairs, the tap room dispenses craft beer and whiskey, while the second floor parlor focuses on cocktails—72, in fact, dating to the nineteenth century. For that extra spice, order the Highroller, with Altos Reposado tequila, Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth di Torino, Aperol, hopped grapefruit bitters, and Ancho chili.
Hot Like a Firefighter at Nitecap
120 Rivington St., 212-466-3361
Raise a glass to the NYFD with this wonderfully named highballer and riff on the classic Mexican Firing Squad. Taking fiery Morita pepper (smoked, red-ripe jalapeno)-infused Cabeza tequila, bartenders at this woody brick underground lounge in the Lower East Side and mix it with Angostura amaro, house-made grenadine, lime juice, and seltzer, for a lightly spicy, slightly smoky, refresher.
Satan’s Circus at NoMad
1170 Broadway, 212-796-1500
It’s good to be bad at the bar of the ultra-lux NoMad Hotel. If you can’t find inspiration under the covers of the books inside the library bar, or on the bar stools of the Elephant bar, look to this titillating cocktail that combines two ounces of rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce Heering Cherry Liqueur, and 3/4 ounce Aperol that is macerated in Thai bird’s eye chili for 5–10 minutes, depending on how spicy you want it.
Shaolin Monk at Clover Club
210 Smith St, Brooklyn, 718-855-7939
GQ magazine called the Clover Club one of America’s 25 best cocktail bars, and it’s easy to see why. The exposed brick walls, 19th-century mahogany bar, tin-paneled ceiling, and vintage sofas and armchairs make an ideal complement to cocktail recipes, which although firmly rooted in history, nonetheless look forward. Drawing from Asian traditions, the Shaolin Monk takes Old Tom gin, green Chartreuse, and St. Germain, and stirs in Szechuan peppercorn-infused Baijiu (Chinese sorghum wine), lemon, and jalapeño. The tall ceramic tiki glass helps lighten the intense taste with a bit of fun.
Bond Girl at Campbell Apartment
15 Vanderbilt Ave., 212-953-0409
It’s posh and retro enough at this former office and entertainment space for railroad tycoon John W. Campbell that you might see an actual Bond girl. Nearly 60 years after his death, and a meticulous $1.5-million restoration in 1999, the grandeur remains fully on display—from the decorative beamed ceiling, and stone fireplace to the massive leaded glass window. If you need help getting into the mood, the Bond Girl cocktail mixes habañero syrup with Belvedere vodka, pineapple juice, and lime.