Turn Up The Heat With Tinctures To Craft The Perfect Spicy Cocktail

If you consider yourself a serious mixologist (either recreational or professional) and you're not using tinctures in your cocktails, you're leaving one of the most useful tools available simply sitting on the shelf. A great way to put tinctures to use is to add heat. The classic trifecta of flavors in bartender theory are sweet, sour, and bitter but those aren't the only options. Adding a little kick can take a subpar sipper and turn it into an eyes-wide winner.

Let's take a step back, though. Tinctures are similar to bitters but they aren't the same thing. Tinctures are highly concentrated infusions of a neutral spirit and whatever flavor the tincture is meant to convey. For spicy tinctures, that might be dried chiles or fresh jalapeño. Other tinctures will use various fruits, herbs, or vegetables to create their flavor profiles. Tinctures differ from bitters in that they are often a singular note, highly concentrated, intended to get a very specific flavor into the drink.

If you're feeling crafty, you can make tinctures yourself at home much easier than you can make bitters. All you need is a strong neutral spirit such as high-proof vodka or Everclear and something spicy. Soak your pepper of choice in alcohol and seal it in a mason jar. Shake the jar every day and strain it when it's finished. The longer you soak it, the stronger the flavor will be.

Where there's smoke

Tastes may vary, but the best spicy cocktails pair heat with citrus. Turn your classic margarita into a spicy jalapeño margarita with just a few drops. Orange and grapefruit juice also make great compatriots with heat and having a base of mezcal gives it a smoky twist that we can't recommend enough. Of course, a spicy bloody mary is a staple and a tincture is an easy way to elevate your liquid brunch.

Depending on how strong the tincture is, a drop or two should usually do for a single drink. One nice thing about buying tinctures from the store is that you don't have variation in the strength. Companies take consistency very seriously and when it comes to mixing drinks, knowing what you're working with every time makes a huge difference. The last thing you need is for a particularly strong batch of jalapeños to surprise you, leaving you feeling like the fires of Pompeii have unleashed themselves onto your innocent taste buds.

Since it doesn't take much to introduce heat to your drink, your bottle of tincture will last a long time. Just because we like spicy orange mezcal cocktails doesn't mean there's not some new genre of spicy cocktails hiding just around the corner. Get creative and don't be afraid to mess up a few times before you get it right. The joys of bartending are the joys of discovery.