Spicy Fifty Cocktail Recipe

By Timo Torner / Last updated on August 1, 2023

The Spicy Fifty is a true Masterpiece. It combines the heat of freshly sliced chili with the soothing mix of vanilla and honey.
Spicy Fifty cocktail with Cayenne Pepper garnish

Salvatore Calabrese, one of the best bartenders of our age, created the Spicy Fifty Cocktail. When you look at the list of ingredients, you can already tell you've got a unique mix of flavors in front of you. 

The Spicy Fifty's base is a vanilla-flavored vodka. It may sound like an unusual base for a classic cocktail now, but it was pretty fashionable in the 2000s.

Quick Facts Spicy Fifty Cocktail

  • Method: shaken
  • Flavor profile: spicy, sweet, slightly sour
  • How to serve it: over ice
  • Best glassware: coupe glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 18%, 14.5 grams of alcohol per serving

So now, let's look at the recipe chili-spiced cocktail and how Calabrese came up with the idea for the drink.

Spicy Fifty cocktail with Cayenne Pepper garnish

Spicy Fifty Recipe

A sweet and spicy cocktail created by Salvatore Calabrese
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: chili, honey syrup, vanilla, vodka
Servings: 1
Calories: 173kcal
Cost: $1.60


  • 1.5 oz Stoli Vanil Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Elderflower cordial
  • 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 0.25 oz Honey syrup (2:1 ratio)
  • 2 Thin slices of red chili
  • 1 pinch Black pepper


  • Add all ingredients into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
    1.5 oz Stoli Vanil Vodka, 0.5 oz Elderflower cordial, 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice, 0.25 oz Honey syrup (2:1 ratio), 2 Thin slices of red chili, 1 pinch Black pepper
  • Shake until the drink is well-chilled and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with a small red chili on the rim of the glass.


Serving: 3.1ozCalories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 11.5gSodium: 2.5mgPotassium: 31mgSugar: 10.1gVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 0.05mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ingredients of the Spicy Fifty

The Spicy Fifty Cocktail is not your standard drink. Thus, you need some non-standard ingredients for it - and that's what makes it so exciting:

  • Vodka: The original recipe asks for a particular brand - Stolichnaya Vanil vodka, a vanilla-flavored spirit made by a famous Russian producer. When you want to use a bottle of regular vodka from your home bar, consider adding a drop of vanilla extract.
  • Elderflower cordial: The floral sweetener brings an elegant note to your cocktail.
  • Honey syrup: for another layer of sweetness. Honey syrup is easy to make at home. Usually, a ratio of 1 part honey to 1 part water is suitable. However, for the Spicy Fifty, we recommend a ratio of 2:1. That pronounces the honey flavor and creates a richer, more silky texture.
  • Lime Juice: A good splash of fresh lime juice balances the mix.
  • The Spice: The spice in the cocktail comes from sliced red chili and a pinch of pepper. Stick to a red jalapeño if you want your drink to be only mildly spicy or cayenne pepper if you want to pack more of a punch.

The taste of the Spicy Fifty

The drink is composed in a way that it gradually changes its flavor and perception:

At first, the sweet notes from elderflower, vanilla, and honey dominate the taste. They slowly change into zesty, citrusy notes that overlay the sweetness and bring sourness to the drink. 

Finally, an intensely spicy and peppery taste takes over, nicely complementing the previous two flavor stages.

Spicy chili slices are the key to the Spicy Fifty cocktail. Salvatore describes their role as "… a highlight so that it gives an unforgettable taste and is very difficult to hide." 

Origin of this spicy cocktail

Salvatore Calabrese developed the recipe for his London bar called Salvatore at Fifty. The concoction was the signature drink of their first menu when the bar opened in early 2005.

"It's one of my best-selling cocktails, one of my most famous drinks, and a modern classic in its own right."  

Salvatore Calabrese, in his book "Classic Cocktails."

It's no secret that Salvatore Salva Calabrese was influenced by another bartender when he came up with the recipe for the Spicy Fifty Cocktail:

In June 2004, mixologist Myles Cunliffe won third place in the UKBG (United Kingdom Bartender Guild) Cocktail Challenge. His creation from the competition goes by MyZo and has undeniable similarities. 

Both cocktails use Stoli Vanilla Vodka, elderflower cordial, citrus, and chili. Plus, we know for a fact that Calabrese was aware of this cocktail: He was in the photo with Myles, handing him the £1000 cheque for winning third place.

Another source of inspiration for Salvatore Calabrese was Jean-George Vongerichten. The French Michelin star chef worked in the former restaurant Rama, located in the same building as Salvatores bar used to be, near Buckingham Palace. It was for the Asian restaurant that Salvatore created the chili-inspired menu leading to the Spicy Fifty Cocktail.

Related Cocktail Recipes

You like your drinks spicy? Then how about one of those concoctions:

You like your drink sweet and look for a drink to make use of your honey syrup, try these:

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