There’s something a little naughty about the Margarita. Or rather, there’s something a little naughty about most of our intentions when we go out for a round of Margaritas. If Martinis are the cocktail of old school class and Old Fashioneds are just made for some solo brooding, Margaritas are the cocktail of the “Wooooo!” crowd, the drink you get with your best friend after a breakup, the elixir of al fresco warm weather worship, trusted Happy Hour potion, and forever pairing buddy for chips n’ guac. Liquid…rambunctiousness?
And so we face the implicit challenge: how do you out-naughty the naughty? How can we dial up the madness factor of a drink that takes every form from sweet-slushy booze ice to haute tequila tribute? Easy. Heat. A relatively new obsession in beer, heat’s been flirting with Margaritas for years now, so much so that if you go to a bar and they don’t have a spicy Margarita option, you would not be wrong to fill out a comment card with “WTF?” (no comment card, use a bar napkin).
Lest you ever find yourself in that heat-less position—or until all bars allow us to BYOJ (Bring Your Own Jalapeño)—we’re rounding up some of the most enticing spicy Margarita recipes we can find for your devilish drinking pleasure. Most use jalapeño, an introductory kind of heat, and blanco or silver tequila. But as these recipes demonstrate, there’s plenty of room to play around.
One of the easiest ways to get a nice, pervading heat into your Margarita? An infusion. (It can even improve some seriously low shelf stuff, though we recommend you buy a bit higher up.) Chop up a jalapeño and chill while the tequila heats up.
One of the best things about a spicy Marg, it doesn’t take a lot to spicify a regular Margarita. This recipe from Bon Appetit (one of their “Alternaritas”) just incorporates muddled jalapeño—no infusions, no special steps necessary, besides smashing up some pepper.
Another fun thing about a spicy margarita—after you spicify it, it’s not too hard to pile on more flavor. This recipe also calls for some jalapeño, and then incorporates dark juicy blackberries on top of that. And you don’t even have to muddle—just shake vigorously (you’ll look cool, promise) and strain.
No surprise, you’ll see a lot of jalapeño in the spicy margarita recipes (it’s a safer source of heat compared to, say, habanero). But here instead of just playing up the raw green heat, the recipe author accentuates it with the sweet, tropical flavor of guava juice. As pink as can be, with a surprise kick. Like the Nicki Minaj of margaritas.
Not just another (delicious) pepper-meets-blanco tequila recipe. This one goes a bit darker, with reposado tequila to balance out the fruit and a touch of brown sugar syrup—plus chopped Serrano pepper. Mandarin juice subs in for orange liqueur here, resulting in a juicier drink.
Basically the same way fresh fruit or fruit juice can enhance a spicy margarita, cooling cucumber steps in to tame but also tease up the heat factor in this recipe. All you need to do is blend and strain some fresh cucumber and boom—cucumber juice, which should also up the refreshment factor. A little sugar on the rim for some sweet-salty-spicy flavors that remind us why we love Thai food so much.
Most spicy marg recipes tend to feature jalapeño, mostly because it’s a bit safer (especially if you scrape out the seeds), making it easier to serve to a crowd with varying heat tolerances. But there are plenty of recipes with habanero, like this one, which incorporates the spicy little guy by steeping it in simple syrup. Mango helps to balance out the heat without dulling it, and since it’s blended, you can satisfy your heat-freak guests with a second round, adding more or less syrup to taste.
It’s almost watermelon season, and we can’t wait. One of the most refreshing—and cocktail friendly—fruits out there, watermelon’s pink, delicately fruity notes are the perfect foil to the subtler touch of jalapeño in this recipe. You can up the heat by toying with the proportions in the homemade chili salt rim, or add more jalapeño, or keep it light so it’s easier to guzzle.
This is the spicy margarita at the next level (see, there really is nothing a margarita can’t do). Taking a cue from the love story between avocado and Mexican food, this drink is blender-friendly, and rich without being too heavy. Rimming the glasses with tajin, a Mexican chile salt, gives a kick to cut through all that smooth goodness.