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Kara Newman finds the balance in creating a spicy cocktail

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Cocktail enthusiasts and chileheads everywhere will love Spice & Ice-60 Tongue Tingling Cocktails, written by food, wine and spirits writer, Kara Newman. The recipes in Spice & Ice are divided into the four seasons and feature spicy drink recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients. In the process of all of her research, Newman learned two valuable lessons while writing her book: (1) Heat alone does not make a great drink and (2) A turbo-charged cocktail can be a very painful mistake. Her number one cardinal rule for creating a spicy drink is to find the right balance of heat.

I got a chance to put the “heat” on the New York City-based writer and ask what was her inspiration to write a book on spicy cocktails, where the recipes in the book came from and what her favorite cocktail recipes are:

What inspired you to write a book about spicy cocktails?

I write the "High Spirits" column for Chile Pepper magazine, a publication devoted to fiery foods enthusiasts. In the process of researching the column, I realized there were so many wonderful spicy cocktail recipes - far more than I could ever fit into a column. It seemed like every time I opened a cocktail menu, there was another fabulous cocktail that included chile peppers, wasabi, or other fabulous, fiery ingredients. I still find new ones almost every week.

Where did the recipes in the book come from? What was your inspiration?

About half of the recipes were contributed by bartenders. The other half I developed myself. Probably the biggest inspiration for the latter group was the raw ingredients, and how they would meld with seasonal flavors, since the book is divided by season. For example - for the summer chapter, what would highlight fresh watermelon, or ripe blackberries? That's how I got to recipes like the Watermelon Hot and the Blackberry-Poblano Margarita.

Have you personally sampled all of the cocktails featured in your book?

Oh, yes. Some multiple times! Every recipe was tested by a small group of friends and they carefully documented their opinions about flavor, heat levels and appearance. Some we tweaked and then tested again. I tossed out a lot of "almost there" drinks so we only had the best ones in the book.

Out of all of the recipes, which is your favorite and why?

The Aperol Spice. It's a gin drink with a glorious orange-pink color from the Aperol liqueur, and it has a great mix of heat from serrano chile peppers and gentle "spiced" notes from warming clove and cinnamon.

What is your favorite cocktail of all time and why?

I'm a sucker for a well-made Corpse Reviver #2. It's just a beautiful, bracing cocktail. I love gin-based drinks.

Spice & Ice - 60 Tongue-Tingling Cocktails, by Kara Newman, is now available for purchase from Chronicle Books, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders and IndieBound.

Visit Kara Newman’s website for more information on her life as an author, writer, educator, recipe developer, cocktail consultant and career coach.

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