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rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

The Red & The Black


  • 2 oz blanco tequila

  • 1 oz lime juice

  • 1 oz black pepper syrup

  • 1-3 strawberries


Rim a chilled rocks glass with the pepper rim blend.  In a shaker, thoroughly muddle the strawberries until they are a pulp. Add remaining ingredients.  Fill with a medium scoop of ice, about 5-7 cubes (so it doesn't overflow in the glass).  Shake for 6-8 seconds, and pour into the rocks glass. 

If you make a Red & the Black,

let me see!  Please tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.


This is the best Margarita variation I’ve ever had.   It also holds some sentimental value for being one of the drinks I used made at home when I was first getting into cocktails.  This was back in 2008 when my fridge was filled with more homemade syrups, juices and infusions than food.

The Red & The Black was on the menu at my first restaurant job in NYC, a wonderful farm to table spot (before that was a thing) called Savoy in soho.  I worked there as a host, and knew nothing about cocktails. The drink’s creator was the bar manager, Michael Cecconi, who became my first cocktail mentor and is still good friend, (his Back Forty cocktail, aka Maple Whiskey Sour, was another early member of my repertoire).  Check out his website!


This drink is quintessential example of the magic of sweet and savory flavor pairings.  The black pepper syrup takes some advance planning but is well worth the effort and be sure not to skip the pepper rim blend, it’s what send this cocktail into the stratosphere. Also note, as per Cecconi’s instructions, this drink is not strained.  Just dump it out of the shaker right into the glass.  When you're done fish out the muddled strawberries out with your straw - or fingers if you’re amongst friends.  



Savoy, the restaurant where this drink originated, was built around locally sourced ingredients.  In fact the owner, Peter Hoffman, is considered one of the pioneers of the modern locavore movement.  He often would often visit the Union Square Green Market to pick out produce for that evening’s service.  Such is the case, the Red and the Black was conceived with fresh “market strawberries” which are by far the best option for this drink.  If you happen to get strawberries at a local Farmer’s Market and enjoy cocktails, I would consider it travesty if you didn’t make Red & the Backs with them.  Market strawberries tend to be smaller, about the size of a large marble, so you’ll probably want to use 3 per drink. 


Of course, most of us only have access to common supermarket strawberries. But not to worry, they still make perfectly delicious drink.  They are larger, so you’ll probably only need 1 or 2 per drink.


Fresh Ground Pepper

The only somewhat challenging part of this recipe is grinding the pepper for the syrup.  As tempting and convenient as using store-bought ground pepper may be, it just doesn’t give you the aromatics or spicy heat that fresh pepper does. 


Of course, if you have a spice grinder, fresh ground pepper isn’t an issue at all.  But with a common pepper mill it takes a little time and muscle.  In my experience, 1 to 1½ minutes of uninterrupted grinding will get you 1 tablespoon of ground pepper.  Not too bad.  With that you make a half batch of the syrup recipe across the page, which will get you around 6 ounces of syrup, or 6 cocktails.  I like to grind the pepper right into my Oxo angled jigger.  It's wide enough to fit the whole end of the pepper mill and has measurement lines. 

Black Pepper Syrup

As you can see, this is just simple syrup infused with black pepper.  If you already have some simple syrup on hand you can use that.  Heat up 1 1/2 cups - it doesn’t have to be boiling, just hot - and add the pepper.


  • 1 cup hot water

  • 1 cups sugar

  • 2 tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolved.  Let sit for 24 hours.  Strain through fine mesh strainer.  Refrigerate.

Pepper Rim Blend

Learn more about rims and rimming glasses on the Rimming a Glass page.  


  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly-ground black pepper


Combine and stir in small bowl or shake in a tupperware container to thoroughly mix.   

Black Pepper Syrup
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