Who says a margarita can't be Italian?

The Margherita

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling Lucy Simon

Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
1 1

At Michelin-starred Don Angie in New York, Italian-American chefs Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli infuse Italian flavors into their cocktails, which is how the aptly named Margherita was born. Dreamt up by Bryan Schneider, creative director for Quality Branded, who at the time of the restaurant’s opening in 2017 oversaw beverage programming across the Quality Branded portfolio, the cocktail is inspired by Finocchietto fennel liqueur from Don Ciccio & Figli, a small distillery in Washington, DC specializing in Italian-inspired spirits. Thinking the subtle anise flavor would pair nicely with a reposado tequila, Schneider added the fennel liqueur to the recipe and swapped out orange liqueur for Calabrian chili-infused honey syrup. “Fennel and blood oranges are both common ingredients in southern Italian and Sicilian cuisine, and since Angie has Sicilian roots, I knew it would be a great fit for the restaurant,” he says.

Schneider recommends orange blossom honey for the syrup, since it nods to the orange liqueur in the traditional margarita recipe and pairs nicely with the blood orange juice in this version. If you can’t find Calabrian chilies, any dried chili with a medium to medium-hot spice level will do, but avoid anything smoked, like a dried chipotle, or something smoldering like habanero. “We do an infusion to save time behind the bar, but you can add things à la minute by throwing dried chilies or even a slice of jalapeño in a shaker while making the cocktail,” he says.

The honey and Finocchietto add a nice silkiness to the drink, and the shaking adds a bit of effervescence. Chill the glass before shaking and pouring the cocktail, and add the blood orange juice at the end so it sinks down and creates a Tequila Sunrise effect in the glass. “The subtlety of the ingredients is important,” he says. “This is why you don’t want an overwhelming spice from the chilies — you want to showcase the tequila and Finocchietto.”


Calabrian Chili Honey Syrup

  • 4-5 dried Calabrian chilies

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 1 cup honey


  • 2 ounces reposado tequila

  • 3/4 ounce Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto (or other fennel liqueur)

  • ¼ ounce Calabrian chili-infused honey syrup

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon blood orange juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar (for garnish)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (for garnish)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (for garnish)

  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid(for garnish)


Make Calabrian Chili-Infused Honey Syrup

  1. Add four or five dried Calabrian chilies into a half cup of boiling water. Stir in one cup of honey before straining out the chilies. Allow to cool.

Make Margherita

  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine reposado tequila, fennel liqueuer, Calabrian chili-infused syrup, lime juice, and blood orange juice. Shake until combined, between 15 to 20 seconds.

  2. Using a lime wedge, coat the outer edges of a coupe glass. Dip coated glass into a small, flat dish filled with salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, and citric acid for rim garnish.

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