“Spicy” can mean different things to a bartender: Is the adjective referring to the heat of chili peppers or the warming herbal notes of ginger? In this case, the answer is both. Nicholas Bennett, the bar director at Porchlight in New York City, calls on ginger to add additional spice to his Spicy Margarita riff, the Jalapeño Diablo.
Bennett’s creation doesn’t look much like a Margarita. For one, it’s served long, in a highball glass. But key to his variation is a jalapeño-infused tequila, which Bennett allows to infuse for about 10 minutes. You can opt to increase or decrease the infusing time depending on your preferred level of heat. In fact, the Porchlight team will taste every two minutes until the spirit reaches the exact level of heat they desire, according to Bennett.
Like the classic, the Jalapeño Diablo also employs freshly squeezed lime juice, but the similarities end there. Bennett’s rich ginger syrup gets swapped in for the standard triple sec, sweetening the cocktail and adding warming notes that play off the jalapeño’s heat. “Ginger is such a great ingredient for adding layers of spice to the drink while balancing out the flavours,” he says.
A float of crème de cassis, a French black currant liqueur and the star of a Kir Royale, helps tone down the spiciness while adding tart, fruity flavour and giving the cocktail its gorgeous two-toned appearance. And a splash of club soda lends the drink a refreshing effervescence.
The result of Bennett’s efforts is double the spice, and tenfold the flavour.