PHOTO BY LUCY HEWETT
Bartender Jorge Centeno was looking to brighten up the drink menu at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois, when a lightbulb went off. “I wanted to do something that would really stimulate the senses,” he says—so he reached for the electric daisy. Also known as the Szechuan button, buzz button, or toothache plant, this Brazilian flower has long been used as a numbing agent, but its tongue-tingling properties have only recently made it behind the bar. “Adding these to a drink doesn’t just bring about a new flavor—it brings about a new feeling,” says Centeno, who combines the flowers with chartreuse, lemon juice, and gin in his Lumière cocktail (pictured, served in a lightbulb).
That buzz is more than just a party trick; it enhances other ingredients, especially in drinks with citrus and herbal notes. For example, Magnolia Kitchen & Bar in Washington, D.C., uses the electric daisy in its Scarlet Buzz, a cocktail that also contains sparkling rosé and grapefruit juice and liqueur, while Florida’s Beach House Pompano features the flower in a Patrón-based martini.
Eric Hobbie, a mixologist at Las Vegas’s Camden Cocktail Lounge, describes the sensation as a “tickling, pins-and-needles feeling.” He tops his Takin’ Care of Buzz cocktail (which also includes Ciroc Red Berry vodka, prosecco, and limoncello) with two sensation-packed flowers: “one for the drinker,” he says, “and one to share with the person you’re with, who’s definitely going to be curious about what it is you’re experiencing.”