Hot As Helm

Hot As Helm is a whiskey-based drink in a lowball glass, garnished with a hot pepper.

Folks, the Pandemic Pub is fulfilling requests! This request was very specific, and asked for vodka—which we don’t do here at the Pandemic Pub because, well, rules

I have to admit that the cucumber vodka does sound refreshing, and I might have made an exception for Kris, except that one of our other rules is that we can’t buy new, special ingredients in order to execute a specific cocktail. Her request also included habañero, and a liqueur that I don’t know about! It sounds sophisticated and amazing, but as delicious as it sounds (she even named it, and it’s cool!), I have to leave it to other cocktail artisans, or maybe for another time, post-pandemic.

But the seed was planted and I knew it would have to be hot, hot, hot! 


Since she requested a vodka, I considered other clear liquors. The only other clear liquor that I have right now is gin, but I didn’t feel like gin (though it’s my fave) would do the trick here. Although they’re both a long way off from cucumber vodka, I thought I might mix either a bourbon, whiskey, or tequila with some jalapeño that I had…this is a risk, of course…for a few reasons. Would a vodka aficionado be into these darker liquors? I admit, even I still haven’t acquired a taste for whiskey or bourbon, even after some years of on-and-off experimentation).

But of course, we’re in a pandemic, so Kris wouldn’t be tasting this drink tonight, so I have a little leeway here. 🙂

So I focused on the heat that was an integral part of Kris’ suggestion. Jalapeño is one of the few sources of heat I have in the house at this moment. With that in mind, I did an elaborate sniff test of the three liquors (tequila añejo – a porch tequila, bourbon, and a Japanese whiskey) to see which one might work best. (Bonus: I proved again to myself that I can smell, so I probably don’t have COVID).

Even though tequila seems to have a more natural association with spice and heat (especially jalapeño), I went down another path, folks. I strongly felt that the bourbon, being the smokiest and most caramel-esque, would work best with my plan. The Japanese whiskey misses the smoke, and is much lighter, so I like it for other things, especially when a light touch is required.

Additional ingredients

That smokiness in the bourbon seemed like a good match for the spice and heat of the jalapeño. The jalapeño brine I used, by the way, was of the Hot & Sweet variety (from Trader Joe’s) so that combo already was doing something a little unconventional, yet complementary. I thought this cocktail could lean into that idea of slightly unusual pairings.

I figured that the bourbon could work well with the hint of sweetness from the Hot & Sweet Jalapeños, because of how well a sugar cube works in a Manhattan, for example.

It felt risky, folks!!! But you know that I love a risky cocktail (our list of FAILS certainly testifies to that lol).

Hot, hot, hot

To further heighten the spice, I added some barbecue-sriracha sauce, another gamble! Would it complement or fight the jalapeño? I thought it would work with the smoky bourbon, and I was right about that. What a pleasant surprise that it all came together in the cocktail.

It was very spicy, particularly on the back of the tongue. That may have something to do with the fact that I burned the front part of my tongue very badly this evening while testing a soup I was making…am I a reliable bartender in this case? Can I even evaluate my own creation? Alas, I’m alone tonight in Tacoma, so no one else can weight in. But I felt good about it.

The cocktail doesn’t *look* like much, which is one of my standard complaints about whiskey drinks. I guess because they’re brown, and served in lowball glasses…for me, they miss the elegance of a stemmed glass, or the icy beauty of a clear liquor. But I must admit, this drink tastes great! I often struggle to enjoy whiskey, especially without the aforementioned sugar cubes, but this was a delight!

Strong, interesting, smoky, intriguing.


Some people will cringe at this for sure, but I ended up adding some Japanese whiskey to the bourbon because I didn’t have enough bourbon…I don’t think it was perfect here, and if I could have stuck to the darker bourbon, I would have done that. But, folks, I’m happy to report that I finished a bottle, and that’s an important raison-d’être for Pandemic Pub!

So, it’s been a good night, after a long, somewhat difficult day (with one thing and another…) but I’m happy to think of my Provincetown friend, and imagine a time when we might get together again.



  • 3 oz Bourbon

  • 1.5 oz Japanese Whiskey

  • 1.5 oz jalapeño brine (Hot & Sweet Jalapeños)

  • 1 tsp Barbecue-Sriracha sauce

  • Garnish: long, hot pepper from jar of jalapeños


  • Put all liquids in a shaker with ice. Pour over ice in a lowball glass.
  • Garnish, toast friends, and enjoy the heat!
Enjoyed on January 29, 2021


  1. Kris02/01/2021 | Reply

    Spicy cucumber Tequila really works... perhaps some fresh cucumber, lime, and those spicy habanero or .. infuse a spicy pepper in the tequila. Chareau is simply aloe liquer that you could make from making a simple syrup and...... aloe juice maybe .... so delish!

    • admin02/01/2021 | Reply

      I love this, Kris - thanks! I totally got into simple syrups these last few months, plus the spicy cucumber tequila might be in our future!!! We have tequila, and cucumbers and limes are usually on the grocery list - thanks for the idea!

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