Hot toddies, buttered rum and eggnog are all very well and good for a snowy evening by a roaring fire, but let’s face it — they can sometimes feel like overkill in sunny L.A. If you’re looking for a less conventional, but still seasonal, signature drink to add a fresh twist to your family holiday celebration, the experts at Verse in Studio City recommend the Ring of Fire, which beverage director and assistant general manager Vincenzo Latiano describes as “a well-balanced cocktail perfect for a winter day in California.”
What makes this drink so special? “The smokiness of the mezcal is perfectly balanced with the orange sweetness of Aperol liqueur, honey simple syrup, fresh lime and house-made spicy bitters,” Latiano explains. “It’s finished with ancho pepper powder and lime zest.”
You can enjoy this complex cocktail prepared by the pros at Verse, but as a bonus for amateur mixologists looking for a fun kitchen project (and with plenty of time to spend at home, why not?), Latiano walked us through the recipe. It may sound complicated, but the DIY components will make enough for multiple drinks — and even some potential creative gift-giving for the foodies on your list who might like to find a bottle of homemade spicy bitters in their stocking!
The Ring of Fire
For the cocktail:
1 ounce mezcal (Latiano recommends Verde Momento)
¾ ounce Aperol
¾ ounce lime juice
½ ounce honey simple syrup (see recipe below)
4 dashes spicy bitters (see recipe below)
Smoky powder for garnish (see recipe below)
Lime zest for garnish
For the honey simple syrup:
1 cup honey
1 cup hot water
For the spicy bitters:
750 milliliters Everclear
3 tablespoons whole espresso beans
3 cinnamon sticks
0.42 ounces 99% cacao unsweetened chocolate (Latiano uses 3 TCHO Pro dark chocolate disks)
6 dried guajillo peppers
2 dried rattlesnake peppers
2 dried ancho peppers
For the smoky powder:
4 dried ancho peppers, stems removed
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
0.14 ounce 99% cacao unsweetened chocolate (Latiano uses 1 TCHO Pro dark chocolate disk)
1½ teaspoons ground espresso beans
- Simple syrup: Combine water and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until honey dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Spicy bitters (make one week ahead): Combine all the ingredients in a jar and infuse for one week. Strain liquid into a new jar.
- Smoky powder: Grind the ancho peppers in a spice grinder. Grate the chocolate. Mix all the ingredients together.
- Cocktail: Combine the mezcal, Aperol, lime juice, simple syrup and spicy bitters in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a short rocks glass and garnish with lime zest and spicy powder.