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Photograph: Maurene Cooper

Warm up this winter with Chicago's spiciest cocktails

Thaw your frosty bones with these tasty chili-laced sippers

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

Move over, hot toddy and Irish coffee. There’s a new way to stay toasty while you imbibe this winter: Chicago bartenders crank up the heat with a heap of spicy cocktails. These taste-bud-tingling concoctions are packed with balanced chili flavors that will have you saying “Hot damn!” with each sip. Plus, we teamed with Chicago nail artist Nailicious by Yara to capture these cocktails in all their glory. Take a look at what makes each drink register on our Scoville scale.

RECOMMENDED: Make these top cocktail bars your winter hideaway

  • Restaurants
  • Argentinian
  • Loop

Spice factor: Aji-amarillo–mint syrup

Just like the Run the Jewels track it’s named for, this twist on a classic Whiskey Smash is distinctive. The key ingredient is syrup infused with mint and aji amarillo, a lesser-known yellow or orange chili pepper that’s prevalent in Peruvian food. Bourbon and fresh lemon juice mellow things out, but the finished product delivers a sneaky, gradual heat that stays with you. $13.

  • Bars
  • Gastropubs
  • Lower West Side
  • price 2 of 4

Spice factor: Tequila infused with chocolate, dried chili peppers, allspice and star anise

Have your mole and drink it too with this complex stunner that combines tangy guava puree and lime with hot, chocolaty tequila. Add baking spices and a chili-dusted cucumber, and you have a new winter cuddle buddy. $10.

  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • West Loop

Spice factor: Jalapeño-spiked chimichurri

This vacation in a glass starts with a bright, tropical mix of rum, pineapple rum, Boomsma Cloosterbitter (a mild ginger-lime liqueur), mango and lime. House chimichurri greens—cilantro, oregano, parsley and jalapeño—kick things up a notch on the Scoville scale. The cocktail is garnished with jalapeños for good measure. $13.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Loop

Spice factor: Tequila infused with Fresno chilies and grapefruit

Banish winter chills with this rendition of a Paloma, a mixture of spicy tequila, cooling grapefruit liqueur, Himalayan pink sea salt and dry lime soda. Each gulp is simultaneously fiery and refreshing, making it a worthy match for the menu’s indulgent Japanese dishes. $15.

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