Using chilli in your cocktails

There are plenty of clichés that can be spoken when talking about chillies and hot sauce and those people who do like it hot, because let’s face it, some do.

But when it comes to crafting cocktails that can take some heat and still deliver a balanced flavour and an enjoyable, drinkable cocktail it does take some skill. One of the key things to bear in mind is that you should build up the heat in your drinks in the same way you would when you are cooking.

Don’t just steam in with the Carolina Reapers, add the heat slowly, taste as you go, add more if it needs it and remember it is still always about balance.

One brand that offers a great way to add heat and balance into your cocktails is Tabasco. It’s a hot sauce which has its very foundations linked to the liquor industry as it is aged in Bourbon barrels. The recipe for Tabasco sauce and the way it is made have remained virtually unchanged since it was first made 150 years ago. Now the ageing process for the sauce is longer, as it sits for up to three years in white oak barrels and the vinegar used is high-quality distilled vinegar.

In a world of craft and craftsmanship Tabasco remains a family operated business that relies on its authenticity to build its global reputation. The family still strives to simply make food and drinks better for everyone and make the tasting experience more unique.

All of this means that Tabasco is a great way to add some heat and flavour into your cocktails, as Simon Hopkins, Bar Manager at Nola Smokehouse and Bar Barangaroo explains: “Tabasco pepper sauce is peppers (capsicum) vinegar and salt, so really, it’s not that different to a shrub.

“Now with all the different flavours you can pick and choose what you want to add. For example I love the chipotle in a Bloody Mary and the habanero in a Chilli Margarita.”

Hopkins says that when you’re thinking about using Tabasco in a cocktail, to think about which spirits will best stand up to the heat of the pepper sauce. Rum is one spirit that works well and because of the way that Tabasco is made, Bourbon is another that stands up to the heat.

Also using the ‘if it grows together it goes together’ mantra Tequila is another spirit that works really well with Tabasco, with Hopkins saying that one of the most popular variations of a Margarita that he makes is the Chilli Margarita, using Tabasco.

In terms of what flavours help bring out the Tabasco taste and how to use the sauce, Hopkins adds: “Fresh lime and chocolate work really well. I tend to look at how it’s used in cooking and see what similar ingredients are in cocktails.

“The great thing is there are eight different varieties of Tabasco so you can play around with the new flavours that are available. The Habanero is great for heat and the Chipotle is great for a smokey or savoury aspect.

“Having the different levels of heat is awesome, I was lucky enough to get some of their scorpion sauce last yeah which is their hottest sauce, we did a Bloody Mary and hot wing challenge with it.”

Hopkins told Bars and Clubs that it’s important to speak to your customers about how much heat they like.

“I love the little kick it can give a cocktail, the look on a customer’s face when they have that first sip and you can see they are enjoying it,” he said.

“Most customers love it, I usually have a chat with the customer about how much heat they are comfortable with, it also gives me a chance to talk to them about the production process of the sauce so they understand it better.”

To help get some heat into your creative juices Hopkins has come up with two cocktail recipes using Tabasco – the Chilli Chocolate Old Fashioned and a Spicy Margarita with Tabasco.

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