Looking for the spiciest cocktail in Boston, we stopped in at Privus, the chic Japanese restaurant in Allston, for a Dirty Wasabi-tini (Ciroc vodka, olive juice, wasabi-stuffed olive, $10). It was a letdown at first. The process of cooking the olive, which was coated with tempura batter and deep-fried, dampened the spice of the wasabi. But after experimenting, bartender Nikki McKinney found the right balance, loading up on the green stuff and losing the "dirt." Finally, that rush of lightning to the sinuses hit us. "I think this one's much better," she said. And she didn't even offer a consulting fee.
The South End Southwestern restaurant Masa brought the heat with the Habanero Watermelon Margarita (Sauza Gold infused with habanero, watermelon puree, lime juice, triple sec, syrup, $9). It was disarmingly sweet up front, but with a burnt pepper smoke that expands in the back of your throat. The straight tequila, however, was like drinking liquid acid.
Fortitude rather than taste became the central issue at East Coast Grill in Inman Square. The menu description of the Martini From Hell (Scotch bonnet-peppered Absolut, $7.50) reads "2HOT4U!" One taste on the lips and we had the type of warm, glowing cheeks it usually takes an entire night of drinking to establish. But that paled in comparison to the tequila infused with West African fatali peppers ($6). Last time we tried it, three servers came rushing out with glasses of milk, so on this night we proceeded with caution. But it didn't help. "That just broke my tongue," a friend said.
Masochism in cocktails? Not entirely. Unlike most alcohol that dulls your senses, these have the opposite effect. It's like drinking a magic potion that reminds you that you're still alive. In pain, perhaps, but alive all the same.
Privus, 165 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617-787-7483. privuslounge.com. Masa, 439 Tremont St., Boston. 617-338-8884. masarestaurant.com. East Coast Grill, 1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-491-6568. eastcoastgrill.net