We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...

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Strawberry-Chile Chinese Cocktail Recipe

Garnishing the glass with a red chili looks really cool. Just make sure to warn your guests to not eat the chile (unless you don't like them)!

Spicy, spicy, spicy! These Strawberry-Chile Cocktails are hands-down my favorite drink to fix for people during the winter when it's FREEZING outside. I love the way they look with the fresh red chile perched on the rim and they taste so delicous. Sweet fresh strawberries are pureed with a spicy red chile and mixed with vodka to create a cocktail with a serious kick. Their spiciness is sure to kick off any party. For a more summery flavor, try rum!

Nate and I have experimented with adding different amounts of red chile to the mix. When we tried blending one whole red chile in the cocktail, our faces were on fire. We couldn't even finish our drinks . . . and that's saying something because we're no softies when it comes to hot stuff. I like using a half of a red chile but only because I don't mind feeling like my mouth is engulfed in flames. A safe bet is using a fourth of a red chile (that's all Nate can handle). Don't worry, it's still hot! Whenever we make these for guests, we tell them NOT to eat the chile on the rim. Still, someone always does try to eat one!

At certain times of the year when they are out of season, small fresh red chilies can be hard to find at grocery stores in the states but don't be tempted to substitue a large pepper--it won't have the same kick.  Most specialty grocery stores will have them year-round. Look for "thai chilies" or "birds eye chilies".

When it comes to chilies, it's important to note just how different the level of heat can be from one chile to another. We talk about this and the Scoville scale more in our book in the chapter on Sichuan province.

Cocktails aren't really a Chinese thing though foreigners have popularized them in the cities. Traveling around China, we've found beer and bai jiu to be the drink of choice and bars that make cocktails are catering to foreigners and that's real hit or (mostly) miss. This drink of ours is inspired by the spiciest province we encountered in China—It’s Sichuan Province in a martini glass.


Just-picked red chilies for sale on the sidewalk in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province

This a giant mound of red chilies at a produce market in Chengdu. These are a little too large to use for this cocktail (use thai chilies or birds eye chilies). Strawberry-Chile Chinese Cocktail


1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries, tops removed
1/4 fresh small red chile (thai chile or birds eye chile), seeded
Ice cubes
1/2 cup premium vodka or rum
1 1/2 teaspoons grenadine
2 whole small fresh chiles (thai chilies or birds eye chilies), for garnish

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. In a blender, combine the strawberries, seeded chile, and the sugar syrup and process until well blended and smooth, about 40 seconds.

3. Fill a cocktail shaker with the ice cubes, and add the strawberry puree, vodka, and grenadine. Give the cocktail shaker a few good shakes, and then strain evenly into 2 martini glasses.

4. Make a small cut in the side of the 2 whole chiles and perch one on the rim of each glass as a garnish. Serve immediately.

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Reader Comments (1)

I remember seeing red chili peppers all over Sichuan when I visited there. I wish they were easier to find near me in Illinois but next time I see them I'm going to make these martinies--they look delicious!

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaula T

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