A week or two ago, I stayed with a good friend of mine so we could carpool to E3 the next day (nerds you see). He asked me, over some serious gaming action, to come up with a cocktail for his upcoming birthday party. “No problem,” I told him, “what’ll it go with?” He said, “We’re having BBQ catered.” There was my task: a cocktail to go with BBQ. Light, summery, goes well with ‘que and bourbon based (his request). The final question? “What should I call it?” Him, “I dunno, something like the Peño Blast.” With a name like that, I couldn’t not.

chop jalapeños for cocktail
add watermelon juice to the cocktail

A few years before, when he and I worked together, I noticed that his middle name started with a J — naturally, I assumed it stood for jalapeño. That’s how nicknames are born.

As I’m never one to let a good friendship stand in the way of a nickname, it’s stuck around for me. Hence why I knew for the Peño Blast, we’d need some jalapeño simple syrup. It’s an easy procedure, take your 50/50 sugar to water ratio as per usual, only add some sliced jalapeños to it and boil. Then strain out the peppers and you have yourself some spicy simple syrup.

ProTip: save those now slightly candied jalapeños for a garnish. Since Martha recently sold her company, someone needs to step into that void. We’ll be there for cocktails.

bulleit bourbon
fresh mint leaves

Now that the drink had earned its spicy name, it was time to work back into what goes with spice, barbecue and bourbon. Oh, and fits in with a warm, sunny California afternoon for lounging at the pool. (Fun fact: turns out that “warm, sunny” afternoon? Yeah, it rained. Literal drops of water. In California. Where there’s a severe drought. I kid you not.)

The answer came to me: watermelon juice, with its good friend lemon juice. Then, for good measure, mint wanted to come to the party too, so who were we to say no?

Fiddling with the proportions, bingo bango, the Peño Blast!

Think of it as a spicy watermelon cooler with a hint of lemonade and mint. Can you leave out the jalapeños? I mean, you can, sure, but I’d encourage you to try it the original style first. If not for me, at least for Eric, I mean, it was his birthday after all.

And now, let’s get some spicy action with the Peño Blast!

garnish with candied jalapeño
peno blast cocktail


Recipe type: Drinks

Prep time:  10 mins Cook time:  2 mins Total time:  12 mins

Serves: 1


  • MINT


  1. Make your jalapeño simple syrup (50/50 sugar to water with sliced up peños).
  2. If you like it spicy, add a lot of peppers, if you don’t, add less.
  3. Strain.
  4. Cool.
  5. Save jalapeño slices as they’re now candied.
  6. Eat some.
  7. See? Sweet and spicy.
  8. Add watermelon, lemon, jalapeño syrup, a few mint leaves and bourbon to your shaker with ice.
  9. Shake.
  10. Pour into your old-fashioned glass.
  11. Garnish with candied jalapeños.
  12. Drink and enjoy with barbecue.
  13. Toast to Eric.
  14. The original Jalapeño.


Feel free to upsize this bad boy to jug size. We did. Worked great. Small note, remember to leave the ice outside the drink and add when you pour the cocktail. Oh, and as you’re serving it, make sure to stir it up some, just to make sure you have fully combined flavors — don’t want any super spicy, non-boozy cocktails.

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