I’m precariously perched atop an unwelcoming bar stool, waiting out steel blue thunderheads, and drinking a jalapeño martini as Tom Waits growls, “I like my town with a little drop of poison” into my frontal lobe. Not that Press Café was playing Tom Waits –– that would probably give the midday chardonnay-drinking ladies in the dining room the vapors. But it reminds me that when it comes to places, people, food, or cocktails, I like things that are just a tiny bit malevolent.
Piquant libations are not a recent invention, but they have left the exclusive dominion of Sunday morning Bloody Marys and micheladas. Selfishly, I’m always chasing my first spicy drink obsession. Many years back, Bill Ritzi (now behind the bar at Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge) prepared a flawless cocktail at the dearly departed Blade’s Prime Chophouse. The Ex-Wife started off sweet and ended fiery, like a once-promising love affair that terminates in a bonfire of melting Callaway golf clubs on the front lawn.
Perhaps as a metaphor for the complicated nature of life, many imbibers seek out a little pain with their fermented grain. Luckily, an increasing number of drink menus include a touch of wickedness. At Oni Ramen (2801 W 7th St, 817-882-6554), Chef Jesús García’s food embraces vibrant flavors, and he has a documented affection for the Scoville-scale smashing Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Carolina Reaper peppers. Oni’s Old Fashioned is a mix of 1835 Texas bourbon whiskey and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur. The heat and flavor pack an equal punch here, yielding a stunning cocktail with a sweet taste at first but that turns rowdy and risqué on you in the finish.
Fort Worth is a really margarita-obsessed town, though, and this Chicago ex-pat is not complaining when temperatures are especially high. There are numerous jalapeño-margaritas around town that veer away from saccharine, and a stand-out comes from Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen (5724 Locke Av, 817-570-9555). You can see seeds and slices of pepper floating in the tall glass, but the fresh juice makes the lime flavor the focal point. Mariposa’s rims the glass edge with Tajín Clasico seasoning, a sinfully addictive combination of chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice for one last dash of heat in every drink.
Perhaps you require a lustier libation while setting forth a plot for vengeance? The sting in the Jimador’s Revenge at The Usual (1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114) comes from cayenne chile mixed with tequila, fresh lemon juice, and agave nectar. Couple this with a dark corner booth seat and dog-eared copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, and you are well on your way to vanquishing your sworn enemy.
However, bad blood was not on the tip of my pen at Press Café (4801 Edwards Ranch Rd, Ste 105, 817-570-6002). The beautiful leather bar seats are square torture devices after a few minutes of sitting. The wood that holds the suspended leather bucket seat together clutched my posterior in a vice grip between four pieces of sharp-edged hardwood. Being struck with pins and needles only mildly distracted me from the mix of ice-cold Zodiac potato vodka and juiced hot pepper served in a coupe I was sipping. The Jalapeño Martini would have been a near perfect balance of kick and saltiness if not for the staid olive garnish. A jalapeño-stuffed olive would have provided the perfect little drop of much-beloved poison to complement the rain delay and an emerging vendetta against bar stool cruelty. –– Susie Geissler
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