Photo credit: Chaidizai

On a rainy day in June –pick one, it rained every day– there came a point when I asked myself how hard it would be to make a spicy margarita at home. I believe that point came when I was going through receipts, balancing my budget, and realizing stock in General Motors was a better investment than where my money had been going.

This summer, I’ve seen spicy margaritas on more than a few cocktail menus in Manhattan, and I’ve had zero self-restraint against them. La Esquina’s spicy marg is spectacular, but its ¿Habla A-list? reservation system is such that I have to start planning on that spicy marg a month in advance.

Fat Hippo’s is my favorite and can be enjoyed for a shocking $8 at the sleek restaurant and bar at Clinton at Rivington in the LES. It packs a lot of heat, so you’re getting more flavor than you’re paying for. Nearby, the Stanton Social sells a little sip-able spice. I wish I remembered more about it, but that’s probably a good indication that it did what it was supposed to.

In the West Village, I love Entwine’s seasonal spicy margarita. It’s not particularly caustic, but I suspect they have to display some sensibility to their wino-skewing crowd. And Entwine’s happy hour discount of 30% of your entire bill means the drink is equally mild on your wallet. In the East Village, The Redhead makes a $10 “jala~pina,” its tequila infused with both pineapple and jalapeños. While it’s more about pineapple than pepper, it’s still muy bueno. (And the staff at The Redhead is about as pleasant as they come, and they sell homemade bacon peanut brittle.)

Even Craft has an excellent concoction, but, like the Redhead’s, the flame is tempered by muddled cucumber. And it’s pricy.

For the price of two spicy margs plus tax and tips, I bought a liter each of Jose Silver ($25), Hiram Walker Triple Sec ($6, on sale), 3 jalapeños ($2), and a few lemons and limes ($2).

I was almost annoyed at how easy it was to do.


What you’ll need

– A liter of tequila. I like silver tequilas, and I won’t go lower than Jose/Sauza in price no matter what I’m doing to make the stuff. But maybe you only drink Patron. Or maybe you have a Brita filter just for cheap vodka and tequila. Good for you.
– A liter of triple sec. I go 1:1 in my ratio. I don’t think brand matters as much with this stuff, so go for what makes you happy.
– Three jalapeño peppers. You don’t have to use jalapeños, but if you don’t, they won’t be jalapeño margaritas. Only you can decide whether you can live with yourself after this decision.
– Lemons and limes and a knife to cut them up with.
– A clean pitcher.
– Salt, if you go for a salt rim. Pshhh.
– Paper towels, because this can get sticky if you’re messy.

What to do

– For REALLY spicy margaritas, you’re going to need to get started at least 48 hours in advance. For more mild margs, a full afternoon to 24 hours will be all you need. And if you’re not really sure this is a good idea, just use one or two jalapeños.

– Cut the stems off the top of the jalapeños and discard, then cut each of the jalapeños into 4-5 thin strips (ignore the stock photo above), thin enough to move through the neck of the tequila bottle easily. Remove ALL seeds, unless you have no taste buds / hate your friends.

– Drop the jalapeño strips in the tequila.

– Let it sit. This is 80 proof alcohol, so you shouldn’t have to worry about bacteria or anything affecting your jalapeños. The only contaminant that could get in there is your grubby self when you can’t wait another minute for a spicy margarita. (But do feel free to taste-test as you infuse it so you can stop it when you think it’s spicy enough.) Don’t worry if your tequila takes on a pretty greenish hue. That means it’s working.

– When you’re ready to take the peppers out and drink it, just pour the tequila in your pitcher. You might have to shake out the jalapeño strips, but they’ll come out as easily as they went in. Pour the tequila back in the bottle.

Drink up

My margarita ratio is one part tequila to one part triple sec, both about 2 ounces but maybe a little more triple sec, with a whole lime or half a lemon of juice. You could also do tequila and triple sec and add some 7-Up and replace the lemon juice with OJ to make it kind of like a spicy Mexican martini, which I used to drink all the time in Austin.

This is a strong recipe, yes, but if that’s not what you’re going for, what the hell are you drinking margaritas for?!