Stacy's Libations
Stacey Nagy

Stacey Nagy

Stace's Libations

Cocktails in Havana Stace’s Libations

The sunset of summer approaches in my city. We’ve had four long months of glorious summer weather but like all good things, it’s coming to an end. Soon the brisk breezes of fall will be upon us. The days are getting shorter and in late September we’ll be needing our car heaters in the mornings and evenings. I love the fall so I’m looking forward to it. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who can’t wait for summer to be over! In the meantime, I do try to enjoy those last few weeks of the season. I’ve taken to celebrating the summer by hosting an annual cocktail party in August, and I’m going to share with you a couple of the drinks that made the menu. 

I’ve written a previous article about hosting these types of parties, How to Host a Badass Cocktail party. They do take quite a bit of planning and some work but they really are the best time. If you stick to the formula I’ve laid out, you can really create something special for your guests. This year’s theme was Havana Nights. A sultry, sexy latin theme to end the summer on a high note. The weather certainly cooperated, as we had highs of +30C the week leading up to and on the actual day of the party. My house does not have air conditioning and so it made it extra warm. Thankfully, an evening storm blew in, so we were able to open the windows to let the cool breezes do their magic. Our outdoor patio was also a godsend as most people were able to mingle out there for the early part of the evening. We added some special touches this year like a cigar bar and a photo booth in front of my antique bar upstairs. Everything came together to make it a night to remember.

I didn’t have a lot of time to plan this party, even though I had set the date months prior. I had just started a new job in July which was demanding a lot of my time and energy.

I found I struggled most on finalising my menu. I wanted the drinks to match the theme but when I tried some of the more traditional Cuban cocktails, they were, how shall I say, gross? I won’t insult them by listing them out here, but they were altogether too boozy to serve to party guests. I needed to widen my search.

Earlier in the summer, I had been inspired by a local Latin restaurant to recreate one of their cocktails that absolutely blew me away. The Strawberry Chili Margarita. The restaurant made it with mezcal, and although I enjoy mezcal, I knew it didn’t have broad enough appeal for a party. I decided to make my version with tequila. The next thing was figuring out how to make their in-house strawberry chili syrup which gave the cocktail its amazing flavor with just the right amount of heat. I experimented with a recipe I found online, and after a couple iterations of the syrup and the drink, I had a winner. The trick was to make the syrup quite spicy so you don’t have to add too much of it for that heat at the end of the sip. I wanted it spicy without adding too much sweetness. This drink was a huge hit at the party, I made quite a few of these as people kept coming back for more. 

Strawberry Chili Syrup

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup fresh sliced
strawberries 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chili seasoning paste

Bring sugar, water, strawberries, red pepper flakes and chili seasoning paste to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Boil for 2 minutes (do not stir while boiling). Remove from heat. Press through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl, using a spoon to squeeze out liquid; discard solids. Cool completely (about 30 minutes) and transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

You are now ready to make this delicious cocktail!

Strawberry Chili Margarita

2 oz tequila
3⁄4 oz strawberry chili syrup
3⁄4 oz apple juice
3⁄4 oz lime juice
1⁄2 oz St. Germain

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a strawberry and a dehydrated lime wheel. Enjoy!

I had nailed this recipe down in early July and had one more cocktail that I knew I wanted to serve for the party. This left space for at least 3 more cocktails for my menu with the party only a few weeks away. Let the frantic cocktail trialling begin! Over the next few weeks, I tried a least a dozen cocktails and there were very few winners in the bunch. I was starting to get worried. The last weekend before the party, I finally settled on a traditional daiquiri but with a grapefruit twist, a fresh and crowd pleasing watermelon gin cocktail and my own twist on the pina colada which I ended up calling the Pina Havana. It all came together at the end, and everyone enjoyed the menu I put together. Trialling cocktails isn’t exactly a chore, but it was nice to know the extra effort was worth it.

Pina Havana

1 oz golden rum
1 oz coconut rum
1 oz coconut milk
1 oz pineapple juice 1⁄2 oz lime juice
1⁄2 oz simple syrup

Garnish a rocks glass with sweetened coconut flakes. Shake all ingredients with square ice cubes and dump contents, including ice, into a rocks glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lime or pineapple slice. This one will have you dancing the mambo in no time!

I hope you enjoyed this article and had an amazing summer. You’ll see me next in the fall!

Cheers, Stace