Spice Up Your Cocktails With A Dollop Of Hot Pepper Jelly

Swicy (aka sweet-spicy) is having a moment, and your cocktails belong at the party. For an instant swicy upgrade, stir in a dollop of hot pepper jelly.

In the mixology world, incorporating hot pepper jelly is similar to how you might use a shrub to build a cocktail. A shrub is a combination of produce, sugar, and vinegar, which get macerated together in the bottom of a cocktail glass to add acidity, flavor, and sweetness to a cocktail. Shrubs are one-way tickets to sophisticated, complex drinks, and you can use hot pepper jelly in much the same way. This is a killer opportunity to whip up a quick batch of homemade jelly with poblano peppers, jalapeños, and red bell peppers suspended in apple cider vinegar and sweetened with sugar. But store-bought is totally fine, too, and these days, hot pepper jelly can be found in many grocery stores.

Just because a sipper is adventurous doesn't mean they aren't discerning. The amount of jelly you'll use depends on how hot you want it, but one generous spoonful per drink is a solid jumping-off point. To paraphrase the Beastie Boys, slow and low is the way to go here. The key to building any successful cocktail is balance, and when creating spicy drinks, overdoing it on the spice can ruin the entire profile. The presence of alcohol actually amplifies the peppers' spiciness — so avoid scrapping batches and incorporate your hot pepper jelly little by little.

Don't be jelly, use it!

As your bevy brainstorm starts churning, just keep in mind that hot pepper jelly typically contains seeds. After mixing or shaking, you'll need to give your drink a thorough strain to ensure a smooth mouthfeel. From there, the spicy-sipping world is your proverbial cocktail oyster.

You could whip up a quick "Spicy Icy" by adding hot pepper jelly to a mezcal paloma. Or use a spoonful of pepper jelly to elevate your next El Diablo cocktail, which combines reposado tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and ginger beer. Making a batch of frozen drinks? Dump an entire jar of hot pepper jelly into those frozen mango habanero margaritas or a batch of watermelon daiquiris. (Don't forget the salt rim.)

Hot pepper jelly is the single-ingredient facelift to make spicy spiked lemonade Tom Collins-style or a tequila-forward bloody maria with major heat. (Garnish with pickled jalapeno slices for bonus points.) Use sweet-spicy pepper jam in place of the sugar cube for a hot Old Fashioned cocktail, or stir it into a vegetal avant-garde cucumber martini. Pepper jelly would also make a natural fit in a Firecracker cocktail alongside pisco, mezcal, pineapple juice, lime juice, and allspice liqueur.

Has all that spiciness got your metabolism kicking? For an easy complementary cocktail hour snack, just put out a brick of cream cheese, a jar of hot pepper jelly, and some crackers.