Sweetness is contrasted with an unexpected kick in this fresh take on a strawberry-infused margarita from Lady Jaye in West Seattle. 

Somewhere on the spectrum between a spicy margarita and a sour, co-founder and bar manager Sara Rosales created the Straw-Barry Manilow with classic cocktails in mind. Strawberry syrup aside, Rosales says the drink’s elevation comes from the little bit of salt and spice from the chiltepin peppers used in the syrup. These tiny peppers pack in a lot of heat, clocking in around 100,000 Scoville Heat Units — for reference, the jalapeño is only about 10,000 — so she uses them sparingly in this recipe.

The chiltepin pepper’s role in the cocktail is to tone down sweetness and, in return, the spice is slightly muted by the strawberries and its heat is better expressed in each sip — without burning one’s taste buds.

If you can’t find chiltepin peppers, Rosales says just about any pepper with heat will work. “Habaneros are a great substitute, I use chiltepin because it’s the pepper I grew up with,” Rosales adds. “I  pull a lot of inspiration from my Sonoran Mexican roots, and from growing up in Arizona.”

For pairing, the Straw-Barry Manilow will go with just about anything you can cook up on a grill — or from Lady Jaye’s smoky barbecue menu. The spice kicks in and breaks some of the heaviness of the meat. “It’s very light and refreshing so it’s going to go with everything you could possibly imagine that you could be having on a warm day,” Rosales says.

The smokehouse and cocktail bar is located in West Seattle’s Junction — the area’s downtown shopping district — with boutiques, restaurants and bars lining the east and west sides of California Avenue, as well as a weekly farmers market.

It’s that weekly market where Rosales picks up all the fresh ingredients she uses for the across the board cocktails offered at Lady Jaye. “We have a great relationship with the farmers at the market,” she says. “I get new ideas from just walking around and seeing what we can use that’s in season.” 

Once this smoke subsides, you can enjoy one of the cocktails and daily house-made entrees, like Friday’s Smoked Prime Rib, on the newly transformed patio. Inside, the team has revamped its dine-in area into a general store where customers can buy entrees and cocktails to-go — including the Straw-Barry Manilow — which are chilled, diluted and ready to serve. 

Straw-Barry Manilow

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces tequila blanco
¾ ounce fresh lime
¾ ounce spicy strawberry syrup*
½ ounce Lustau vermut rosé
¼ ounce Lustau fino sherry
Pinch of salt
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Garnish: dehydrated lime wheel

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with dehydrated lime wheel.

*To make the spicy strawberry syrup, bring a cup of frozen strawberries and a few spicy peppers of your choice (Rosales uses chiltepin) to a boil with 2 cups of sugar and 1 ½ cups of water. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Chill for 2 to 24 hours and fine strain.