This well-balanced spicy margarita is the perfect blend of tart, sweet, salty and bitter, with the added kick of a slow-burning heat from muddled jalapeños. For anyone who enjoys a little spice, this fiery drink will soon become your go-to margarita recipe!
This spicy margarita is the perfect refreshing summer drink for all you spice lovers out there! This drink is basically sunshine in a glass, with tons of fresh lime juice, tequila, and a pop of orange flavor from Cointreau.
Plus, this drink has that bright, vegetal flavor of fresh jalapeño that gives that slow burn that definitely creeps up on you! (As you may know from my Jalapeño Popper Potato Salad recipe, I'm a huge jalapeño fan!)
And, for a little something extra, this drink has a touch of smokiness from the chipotle salt rim that really complements the brighter flavors of the lime and jalapeño. Ready to jump into summer with this refreshing and mouthwatering spicy margarita? Let's go!
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- Orange liqueur: I like the flavor of Cointreau in this drink, but you can use any type of orange liqueur that you prefer. Other options include Grand Marnier or Triple Sec.
- Agave syrup: this is optional, to add a little bit of added sweetness. You can leave it out altogether, or substitute with simple syrup if you like.
- Tequila: I like using blanco (aka "silver") unaged tequila. But, you do you and pick the kind of tequila you prefer. I talk more about choosing a tequila in the Recipe FAQs section.
Step by step photos
1. To prepare the chipotle salt rim, mix together the chipotle pepper powder and kosher salt on a small plate.
2. Then, run the cut side of a lime on the edge of a glass. (See the Recipe FAQs section for further discussion of what types of glasses work well!) Make sure to get a lot of juice on there so the salt will stick well.
3. Then, roll or tap the outside edge of the glass in the chipotle salt mixture. (For sparser coverage, roll it in the salt; for greater coverage, tap it, and make sure the salt is in a nice little pile rather than spread apart on the plate.)
I like to apply the salt to the outside of the glass, rather than the top rim. This helps control how much salt ends up in the drink. (This is a tip I learned from this article by Serious Eats.)
If you like, you can tidy up your edge with a paper towel, as long as the lime juice is still wet.
4. Set the glass aside, then grab your cocktail shaker. Add the jalapeño slices to the bottom, and pound the heck out of them with a muddler. The jalapeños should be broken apart, and you should see some juices collecting.
This step is very important, because the more you muddle the jalapeños, the more flavor and heat will end up in the drink.
5. Top the cocktail shaker up with ice, then add the remaining ingredients.
6. Seal the cocktail shaker with the top, and shake it like you mean it! Vigorous shaking for about 30 seconds should do the trick.
A good indicator that you've shaken enough is when a thick layer of condensation appears on the outside of the shaker.
7. Then, fill your prepared glass up with ice and strain the spicy margarita into it.
8. All you have left to do now is to garnish the drink with more jalapeños and/or limes, and enjoy!
Tips and tricks
Options for salting the rim
I used ground chipotle pepper mixed with kosher salt for the rim, which I enjoyed for the extra smoky flavor and moderate heat level. But, there are lots of different ways you can customize the rim for this spicy margarita. Here are some more ideas:
- a dash of cayenne mixed with kosher salt for a spicier kick
- Tajín seasoning, either on its own (since it already contains salt), or mixed with kosher salt, for an extra bit of tart flavor mixed with heat.
- plain kosher salt if you want to go simple
Other tips and tricks
- If you have sensitive skin or are working with very hot peppers (or, just want to be extra cautious), wear disposable gloves when handling the peppers. And, if you choose not to wear gloves, be sure to carefully wash your hands immediately after handling the pepper. This way, you can avoid getting the pepper in your eye or any other sensitive area!
- And, please don't look down into the glass while muddling the peppers! It's possible some drops of pepper juice may splash upwards if you're really going at it. No one wants pepper juice in the eye!
- If you don't have a muddler, try using the handle of a wooden spoon.
- Also, if you don't have a cocktail shaker, you can try using a large jar (like a one quart mason jar) that has a tight-fitting lid!
I think this depends on your budget and your own personal tastes! Blanco, aka "silver" (unaged) tequila is commonly used for margaritas, but that's not to say you can't use an aged tequila (reposado) if that's more your style. Either way, I always look for one that is 100% agave for the best flavor.
For my spicy margaritas, I use Espolòn Tequila Blanco. I found this article testing a variety of different silver tequilas helpful, so if you are in the market for a new tequila for margaritas, check it out!
Here is another area where you have a lot of options - there's always the classic margarita glass, with a wide, double bowl and stem (you know the one!). Or, you can also go with an old fashioned (rocks) glass or regular coupe or cocktail glass.
Here I used these fun stemless margarita glasses (affiliate link). I like these glasses because they are sort of a combo of a rocks glass and a margarita glass (and they feel much more stable in my hand than a traditional margarita glass!).
The heat level of these margaritas will depend a lot on how hot your particular jalapeños are, which can vary a lot in their spice level. So, if you like, you could taste a tiny piece of the raw jalapeño before making the drink, and decide how much to add depending on the heat level of that particular pepper.
To scale down the heat from what is written in the recipe, use one slice of jalapeño rather than two. You could also remove the ribs and seeds before muddling the pepper.
To scale up the heat, use three or even four slices of jalapeño. For major heat lovers out there, you could even try adding a small piece of a pepper that is slightly hotter, such as a serrano. (If you are sensitive to heat however, please be careful because the serrano is 3 - 9 times hotter than a jalapeño! Here is a good article that describes the heat of a serrano vs. jalapeño.)
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A tart yet well-balanced margarita with an added spicy kick from muddled jalapeño peppers! This spicy drink has a slow-building heat that will have you feeling the burn (in a good way!).
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 2 - 3 quarter-inch slices of jalapeño, plus more for garnish
- 1 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice (from about 1 - 1 ½ limes), plus extra limes for garnish
- 2 ounces blanco (silver) tequila
- 1 ounce Cointreau (or other orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)
- ¼ ounce (1 ½ teaspoons) agave syrup, or to taste (optional)
- Mix together the kosher salt and chipotle chili powder in a small plate. Rub the juicy part of a cut lime along the edge of your glass of choice, making sure there is ample moisture on the rim so the salt mixture adheres well. Then, roll the wet outside edge of the glass in the chipotle salt mixture. For a thicker layer, gently tap the glass into the mixture rather than rolling. Set the glass aside. (See notes 1 - 2.)
- Add the jalapeño pepper slices to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the pepper slices very well; making sure they are very broken down and that juice has began to come out of the peppers. (This step is very important to do thoroughly, this is what gives the drink its heat!)
- Leaving the jalapeño peppers in the bottom, fill the cocktail shaker up with ice. Pour in the lime juice, tequila, Cointreau (or other orange liqueur), and optional agave syrup. Seal the cocktail shaker with the lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, or until an even layer of condensation appears on the outside of the shaker.
- Add fresh ice to the prepared glass. Then, strain the margarita into the glass and garnish with additional jalapeño slices and lime wedges. Serve immediately.
- You can use any type of glass you have on hand; good options are a margarita glass (of course!), an old fashioned glass (aka "rocks" glass), coupe glass, or cocktail glass.
- When salting the rim, I like to use this tip I learned from Serious Eats, to salt only the outside top edge of the glass, rather than the top rim itself. This helps keep excess salt from entering the drink. Also, there will be some salt mixture left over, since it's hard to get a good adhesion of salt with a very tiny amount. You can use the leftovers to make another drink!
- If you don't have agave syrup, you can substitute simple syrup.
- You can customize the heat level of the drink by adding more or less jalapeño. To really reduce the heat level, you can even remove the seeds and ribs of the jalapeño. To amp up the spice level, you could even try adding a small slice of serrano pepper, which is 3 - 9 times hotter than jalapeño!
Hot pepper safety tips:
If you have sensitive skin or are working with very hot peppers (or, just want to be cautious), wear disposable gloves when handling the peppers.
If you choose not to wear gloves, wash your hands well immediately after handling the peppers (no one wants hot pepper in their eyes!).
Don't look down into the glass while muddling the peppers! You don't want to get splashed in the eye with a drop of pepper juice.
Keywords: margarita, spicy margarita, jalapeño margarita