Cool Cocktails for Hot Chicken

Trummer's

Image Source: JailBird Hot Chicken

A Virginia restaurant pop-up’s cocktails offset the menu’s four levels of piquant poultry.

Nashville’s native dish, hot chicken, is made by marinating pieces in buttermilk, then breading, frying, and finally dipping them in a paste made with lard and cayenne pepper. It’s definitely not for the spice-averse, but for everyone else, it can be utterly addictive.

But what should you drink with it?

A few months ago, Stefan and Victoria Trummer, owners of Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, Virginia, traveled to Nashville along with executive chef Austin Fausett. The trio sampled the city’s iconic food at its most well-known spots, from Hattie B’s to Prince’s. They returned and opened JailBird on Trummer’s third floor, a collaborative pop-up with Tennessee chef Daniel Gorman that serves up hot chicken($11-$34) along with other Southern specialties, such as pickled deviled eggs with smoked trout ($7), quail biscuit sliders ($14), and pimento mac and cheese ($9).

The traditional white bread and pickles that accompany the red and white checkerboard paper lined-baskets are designed to sop up some of the kick. But Stefan, who also serves as the restaurant’s beverage director, noticed that the hot chicken restaurants in Nashville serve lemonade and sweet tea, and he wanted to incorporate them into Jailbird’s tongue-taming cocktail program.

“My goal was to have drinks that not only go well with the food, but also offer some sort of relief from the spice,” he explains. “Also, I wanted to incorporate bourbon from Nashville and moonshine: ingredients that scream South.”

He decided to offer libations that pair with each of the chicken’s four heat levels, from a vodka and passionfruit lemonade for the Southern/Not Spicy version, to a milk punch for East Nasty, the hottest level. (JailBird’s chicken also comes in Mild and Hot levels, and all except the Southern can be beyond lip-tingling, depending on your tolerance for heat.)

The Moonshine Mule ($12) mixes Old Smoky Peach Moonshine with lime juice, simple syrup and ginger beer over mouth-cooling crushed ice; Tennessee Tea ($13) has Belle Meade Bourbon, sweet tea, mint and lemon; and Painkiller Milk Punch ($11) combines Belle Meade Bourbon, vanilla-infused Cognac and milk.

“I really love the Tennessee Tea because the sweetness goes so well with the lightly spiced chicken and the Milk Punch is such a great pain reliever if you eat the East Nasty,” says Trummer.

He believes sugar and dairy are the best pain relievers for really spicy food, so the sweeter tea and lemonade drinks and the creamy ones on the menu are up to the task. “Anything fresh, bright and sweet would [work],” he notes. “The only thing I would stay away from are ingredients that are really spicy or too acidic.” Having said that, he does have the East Nasty Bloody Mary ($10) on the menu for the truly masochistic, which contains the same seasoning used on the five-alarm version of the chicken.

If you still need to fan the flames after noshing on a few pepper-coated wings and thighs, there is always the Apple Pie Shooter ($6), with Warm Apple Pie Moonshine and vanilla whipped cream. Throwing back one of those should make you stop feeling the burn.

Moonshine Mule cocktail recipe - Trummer's on Main

Moonshine Mule (Recipe courtesy of Stefan Trummer, Trummer’s on Main, Clifton, Virginia)

  • 2 ½ oz. Old Smoky Peach Moonshine
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • Chilled ginger beer

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until chilled. Add crushed ice to a mule cup, strain mixture over, top with ginger beer and stir lightly.

Tennessee Tea (Recipe courtesy of Stefan Trummer, Trummer’s on Main, Clifton, Virginia)

  • 2 ½ oz. Belle Meade Bourbon
  • 2 oz. sweet tea (see Note)
  • 6-7 mint leaves
  • Splash of fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until chilled and frothy. Serve it over ice in a glass or mason jar.

For the sweet tea:
Brew strong black tea and add simple syrup until the desired sweetness is reached.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,www.kellymagyarics.com, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.