Sometimes the ones you come up with on the fly and with a minimum of conscious thought work out perfectly, and sometimes you even make a breakthrough to a new combination you'd never considered. When I was given a strict 24 hour deadline to come up with all the recipes for 3 upcoming parties at The New Traditionalists I had to pull a few out of thin air, from the dimly-lit back reaches of my cocktail consciousness. At one point I'd thought of doing a Rat Pack-themed party and banged out some aptly-named cocktail ideas--the Ring-A-Ding Zombie being my favorite. This was going to be an afternoon event and when I tried to imagine what Dino or Frank might debut their days' drinkng with I thought of rye, orange juice, and something with a kick, like a bullshot, but spicy--and that led to the Palm Springs Eye-Opener.
Originally chile-infused rye, orange juice and simple syrup, it evolved quickly into chile-infused bourbon, fresh orange juice and a strong simple syrup (1.25 sugar: 1 water) lightly infused with some chiles too, just to get that heat into another layer of the drink, add some complexity. If follow a very basic 2:1:1/2 ratio:
PALM SPRINGS EYE-OPENER
2 parts chile-infused bourbon
1 part fresh orange juice
As far as how hot to take it--again, all to taste, and it's always tricky to quantify heat. For me this should have a significant kick but no burn. Interpret as you will. I took a serrano pepper purchased in New York in early November with a sort of medium heat, sliced it open and dropped it into a bottle of Old Michter's Bourbon and let it sit for about 1 1/2 hours. Worked for me. With the simple I simply dropped in a few slices of serrano just as the demarara sugar and water mixture began to get near boiling, let it go for a couple moments, then scooped 'em out and used as garnishes for the final drink.
Bourbon and chiles. Fusing the smooth-but-firey spirit with actual vegetal heat--just fantastic. They must have been combined before, but I've never come across it, and no one I've turned onto the almost-too-obvious combination seems to have, either. And I've been to Kentucky recently, where I mixed some up for the crew at Garage Bar. If anyone know of other chile & bourbon numbers I'd love to hear about it in the comments. J.R.