The artisanal cocktail trend has landed in Charlotte, but this time it’s all about keeping it spicy. Some of the city’s top restaurants (including one — Nan and Byron’s — slated to open next month) serve beverages infused or muddled with jalapeños, serranos, and habaneros. Here are the top four places to imbibe the spicy — and often sweet and refreshing — drinks this summer.
There’s no shortage of spicy cocktails at restaurateur Frank Scibelli’s SouthPark spot. The Tex-Mex eatery features not one but three jalapeño-inspired cocktails on its bar menu (not to mention seasonal infusions such as the blackberry jalapeño). The hottest is unsurprisingly named the Firestarter, a fiery mix of a three pepper-infused el Jimador tequila (jalapeño, habanero, and serrano peppers soak in the tequila for three days), fresh lime juice, and a splash of ginger beer. For a cool, summer day, the Kickin’ Cucumber hits the mark as muddled cucumbers, housemade sour mix, freshly-squeezed lime juice and triple sec cut the edge off the spiciness of muddled jalapeños. But for dessert, opt for the Skinny Watermelon Mama, a sweet and subtle tangy cocktail featuring 1800 Silver tequila, fresh watermelon purée, limeade, and, of course, a slice of jalapeño.
The dishes here are chock-full of flavors not the least of which is spice. So it makes sense that one of the sleek uptown eatery’s most popular cocktails is the Grass Hopper. Mixologist and bar manager Miki Nikolic crafted the drink — a sweet and pungent concoction of Hendrick’s gin, wheatgrass, jalapeño simple syrup, lime juice and cucumber water. The result: with a hint of spice followed by the coolness of the cucumber water, this is the go-to cocktail for the summer.
The swanky uptown bar at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte draws an upscale crowd looking to cut the edge off a long workweek. One of the lounge’s standout concoctions is The Triple B. This slightly sweet mix of jalapeño-Infused Don Eduardo tequila, Cointreau, freshly-squeezed lime juice, and simple syrup packs some heat. Served in a salt-rimmed rocks glass and garnished with a cucumber and a slice of jalapeño, the bracing cocktail works well as a pre- or after-dinner libation.
From the masterminds behind 5Church — one of the Queen City’s most popular restaurants — comes South End-based Nan and Byron’s, which opens next month. 5Church mixologist Mark Childers also designed the bar menu at N&B’s, which features a jalapeño margarita. In lieu of a liquor infusion, Childers instead muddles slices of jalapeño (sans seeds makes for a less spicy finish) with simple syrup then adds in Patrón tequila, Cointreau, and freshly-squeezed citrus juices for a sweet and spicy cocktail poured into a tall 16-ounce glass on the rocks. The capstone to the libation, though, is the addition of Cadillac foam and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a drink with a kick.
Photos courtesy of Nanand Byrons and e2 emerils eatery and Emeril Lagasse