Many professionals and home cooks alike swear chiles are essential to Southwest-style cooking. Relleno, enchilada and pork dishes cry for chiles, either as a main ingredient or incorporated into sauces and salsas.
But not all chilies are created equal. Hatch chiles are considered the gold standard and for good reason.
What Are Hatch Chiles?
Once a Rio Grande floodplain, New Mexico’s Hatch Valley provides nutrient-rich soil and fluctuating temperatures considered optimum to grow the perfect pepper. Technically a fruit, Hatch chiles are long and green in appearance, and their level of heat ranges from mild to medium. Once they turn red on the vine, the heat intensifies.
But it’s not all about the spice. It’s the green and vegetal flavors that captivate many of its devotees. Adding Hatch chiles can add personality and vibrancy to an otherwise ordinary meal. They can even transform traditional burgers into an exceptional dish.
But that’s not all they can do. Hatch chiles are making the leap from the culinary world to cocktail culture. Wine, vodka and bespoke liquors now celebrate their spicy bite. From beers to bitters, roasted green chiles provides a pleasurable kick. They add smoke, spice, and yes, even sweetness, to traditional drinks. Mixologists and their bar carts are embracing the zippy options.
What To Do With Hatch Chiles
It’s all about proportions. Lawrence Batterton founder of King Floyd’s Bar Provisions, says their Green Chile Bitters “wouldn’t be the same without Hatch.” Hatch chiles bring a green flavor to the mix, aided by jalapeños, that provide heat and poblanos, that add sweetness. Proclaimed as “fire juice,” by the brand, it uses seasonal chiles in proportions that change by the year, based on the current crop and heat factor. The chiles are chopped, macerated in high proof alcohol and blended together. A shot of cayenne extract gives it a final zing.
Crater Lake Spirits offers Hatch Green Chile vodka. It packs “bright green pepper taste on the tip of the tongue and a lingering fire-roasted pepper heat finish,” says Hannah Monchamp, marketing director for Crater Lake.
Pallets of Hatch chiles are roasted on site and soaked for 30 days in vodka that’s been filtered 10 times, she says. After the vodka is strained, the chiles are re-introduced to sit overnight – the most flavorful and spiciest part of the entire process. After sampling, the distillers filter the chiles again and bottle.
The taste? In one word, “fiery,” says Monchamp.
Jasper Riddle, owner of Noisy Water Winery, believes that the wine production in New Mexico is unfairly stigmatized. So he made it his mission to convince a skeptic to say, “I’ll try that!”
It was worth it. The nose on the Besito Caliente Green Chili Wine’s nose jumps out of the glass, which contrasts its sophisticated and restrained chile flavor. The wine is Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc (all local grapes), that are combined with macerated chiles in stainless steel.
Riddle says Noisy Water uses from 500 to 1000 pounds of hatch chiles a year. The result is an off-dry wine with sweet undertones and a snappy finish. He recommends to pair with Southwest flavors or spicy Thai.