Sip on a Hot Bourbon drink at Tapas Adela.

Sip on a Hot Bourbon drink at Tapas Adela. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / September 20, 2011)

I've got to admit, I was a little nervous watching Neil Dundee, manager/resident cocktail connoisseur at Tapas Adela, assertively select, then chop, a full jalapeno — seeds and all — to make the restaurant's signature Hot Bourbon.

Then, he threw them in the glass and crushed them — "to get the jalapeno juices out" he reassured me. "You need those juices and the seeds to bring out the sweetness of the bourbon." Maybe it was his confident smile, maybe it was the lush bar décor, maybe it was the sultry Spanish music wafting through this Fells Point tapas spot, but something made me believe him, even for a non-bourbon drinker like me.

Adela's Hot Bourbon is one smooth customer. To the freshly muddled jalapenos, Dundee added even more spice: a jalapeno infused simple syrup — yep, he's serious. A mix of Bulleit Bourbon, Tamarind juice, and club soda round out the cocktail. The tamarind — think sweet and sour plum — cut the kick of the jalapeno, which in turn balanced the boldness of the bourbon. The taste rolled from spicy to sweet, from sweet to spicy. Layered, complex and just plain fun to try to figure out: this drink is the perfect sip.

Most impressive? Dundee and bartender Jay Calvert came up with it on a whim. He confesses they were just bored one evening. "We took as many fresh ingredients, lined them up across the bar and after five hours we came up with this. We wanted to make a Manhattan that … wasn't a Manhattan."

No offense New York, but on the bar scene, hot Baltimore bourbon owns.

How to Make a Hot Bourbon

1 jalapeno (4 slices)

Jalapeno simple syrup

11/2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon

1 oz. Tamarind juice

1/2 oz. club soda

Muddle jalapeno and simple syrup together in a glass; add ice. Pour Bulleit Bourbon and Tamarind juice together, stir; top with club soda.

Where to Get a Hot Bourbon

Tapas Adela

814 S. Broadway, Fells Point

410.534.6262

tapasadela.com

$9