Few products have garnered such rapid success as Ancho Reyes, the ancho chile–flavored liqueur that launched in 2013 and quickly became a bartender favorite for its adaptability in both classic and modern recipes.
Based on a 1927 recipe from Puebla, Mexico, the liqueur is produced by macerating ancho chiles in a sugar cane distillate, yielding a more subdued heat in cocktails compared with fresh hot peppers like jalapeño, for instance, a commonly called-upon ingredient. “If you’re using jalapeño, up front, you get that immediate spiciness,” explains New York bartender Simone Goldberg. By contrast, Ancho Reyes “is more of a subtle finish to a drink.”
Describing its flavor as “smoky, spicy, with a hint of sweetness,” Goldberg says that the liqueur is surprisingly easy to incorporate into cocktails; she recommends subbing it in place of sweetener to add depth of flavor to classic formulas. Unsurprisingly, it’s a shoo-in with tequila-based drinks like the Margarita and the Paloma, but performs equally well in their contemporary spins. Ezra Star’s Ancho Problem, for example, builds on equal parts Ancho Reyes and blanco tequila, plus measures of lime and Demerara syrup, while Natasha David calls on the smoky liqueur in her batchable Michelada-like drink, the Get It Done.
Ancho Reyes can also work well alongside already-spicy elements. Consider, for example, the Bling Melon, Ryan Sparks’ piquant take on the Orange Crush that contrasts the liqueur and green chile–infused vodka with refreshing watermelon juice. Equally easy-drinking is Meaghan Dorman’s Jungle Bird riff, the Getaway Car, where Ancho Reyes subs in for Campari in the tropical-leaning recipe.