good spirits


Chile cocktails to ease the winter chill.


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Ben Dewey, bartender at Highwater in Sacramento, mixes up a spicy Lahey's Ghost cocktail

Sure, ’tis the season for a hot cocoa or hot toddy, but why not spice up your winter routine with another kind of hot drink? Spicy cocktails long have been a staple at most bars, but creating true craft cocktails requires more than just a few dabs of Tabasco in your Bloody Mary. The right amount of chile can transform an everyday cocktail into a tongue-tingling experience, but it’s also good for your gut. Chock full of vitamin C and antioxidants, chile, when consumed, also will raise your body temperature, and, through a process called thermogenesis, force fat cells to be used as energy. How’s that for natural heat? So do yourself a favor and check out three of these Sacramento-area cocktails that are sure to warm up your winter.

Lahey’s Ghost

(courtesy of Ben Dewey, bartender, Highwater in Sacramento. Serves 1)

Bartender Ben Dewey was just “messing around, wanting to do something with jalapeño,” he says.

But when actor John Dunsworth (who played Jim Lahey on the comedy series Trailer Park Boys) passed away in mid-October, Dewey decided to create a cocktail in memoriam. With the addition of Preservation & Co.’s Ghost Pepper Salt, Dewey created Lahey’s Ghost, a cocktail and homage to the show’s character. The maple syrup softens the jalapeño’s edge, though the fresh pepper offers a bold aroma, and the dissolving salt slowly transforms the flavor of the drink.

1½ ounce Four Roses Bourbon

½ ounce lemon juice

½ ounce Tippleman’s Barrel Smoked Maple Syrup

Peychaud’s Bitters

1 fresh jalapeño, sliced

Preservation & Co.’s Ghost Pepper Salt (for garnish)

Add bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup, two dashes Peychaud’s Bitters, and some freshly sliced jalapeño to cocktail shaker. Shake, strain, then serve in lowball glass on the rocks. Garnish with jalapeño slices and ghost pepper salt.

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Lahey's Ghost



1910 Q St., Sacramento • 916-706-2465 •

Open 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. Mon. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 2 a.m. Sun.

El Beso Ardiente (The Spicy Kiss)

(courtesy of Mayahuel in Sacramento. Serves 1. Pictured)

Have you ever had salsa so spicy that you were afraid to stop eating it for fear your mouth would catch fire? Well, El Beso Ardiente keeps you sipping for the same reason. This margarita-based cocktail is balanced by the sweet of the Tajín seasoning, but they don’t call it The Spicy Kiss without reason: Your lips will feel the drink as much as your tongue, so gracias a Dios for the chips and salsa.

2 ounces Tequila Silver

1 ounce agave nectar

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 jalapeño, sliced

Tajín seasoning

In cocktail mixer, muddle slices of red bell pepper and jalapeño. Add tequila, agave nectar, and lime juice. Shake, double strain, then serve on the rocks in lowball glass rimmed with Tajín seasoning. Garnish with sliced jalapeño and red bell pepper.


1200 K St., Sacramento • 916-441-7200 •

Open 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Mon. – Wed., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thurs., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Fri. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Sun.

The Mirkwood

(courtesy of Alexa Hazelton and Nick Dedier, co-owners, Milestone Restaurant in El Dorado Hills. Serves 1)

Sure, The Mirkwood has bite, but mellowed by autumn spices it makes for a perfect holiday cocktail.

“The rosemary really has nothing to do with the flavor, but the aroma smells like Christmas,” admits Alexa Hazelton, who co-owns Milestone with fiancé Nick Dedier. The couple created The Mirkwood, but their staff members, who clearly include ardent fans of The Lord of the Rings, voted on the name.

½ ounce rye whiskey

¾ ounce applejack brandy

¾ ounce St. George Spirits Spiced Pear Liqueur

½ ounce homemade syrup with sugar, cayenne pepper, chile powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon (recipe to follow)

½ ounce lemon juice

Rosemary sprig, toasted (for garnish)

For syrup

Boil 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water with cayenne pepper, chile powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon (to taste) until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Let cool completely.

For cocktail

Add to cocktail mixer rye whiskey, applejack brandy, spiced pear liqueur, spiced syrup, and lemon juice. Shake, strain, and serve in cocktail glass. Garnish with toasted rosemary sprig.

Milestone Restaurant

4359 Town Center Blvd., Ste. 116, El Dorado Hills • 916-934-0790 •

Open 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Fri., 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun.