I’ve been celebrating Cinco de Mayo since college, and trust me—there are awkward photos floating around the Midwest to prove it. No, I was not honoring the date’s actual significance, Mexico’s 1862 victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla. Like most coeds, I was embracing an opportunity to have a party (“bring chips!”) and make blender drinks with frozen limeade. But what these festive gatherings lacked in historic context, they made up for in enthusiasm and my adoration for all things Mexico.Blame it on nostalgia or my abiding love for a mariachi music, but I still find myself yearning for an agave elixir in early May. But aside from a few trusted exceptions, it’s hard to find margaritas done right (most are made with premade mixers and heavy-handed with simple syrup), so I prefer to make them at home where I can geek out on ingredients (a favorite new mezcal or great-looking satsumas) and change up the cocktail recipe to suit my whims (watermelon? spicy salt rim? a splash of Ancho Reyes?).When I want to add a whiff of smoke and flavors as sultry as the Frida soundtrack, I make margaritas with grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines that have been charred on the grill. The intense heat of the grates caramelizes the fruits’ natural sugars and creates complex, bittersweet notes—and a more intriguing cocktail. The smallest pinch of fine sea salt perks up the flavor of the charred fruit, and freshly squeezed lime juice adds essential brightness. I adore the steely flavor of blanco tequila, but grilled juices can hold their own with the rounder flavors of reposado tequila or smoky mezcal. I’m happy to say I’ve left frozen limeade in the rearview mirror—along with other questionable habits from my early twenties.


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

15 mins
45 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking, and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a layer of fine gray ash, carefully wipe preheated grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again. 

  • Grill citrus, cut side down, until nicely charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a spatula and a decisive thrust, transfer the citrus halves to a baking sheet, and set aside to cool, about 20 minutes. Juice fruits, reserving a few whole orange slices for garnish. Combine charred citrus juices in a measuring cup (you should have about 3 cups). Add a pinch of sea salt, and stir to combine.

  • To make 1 drink, fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add 1/4 cup tequila, 2 tablespoons Cointreau, 2 tablespoons charred citrus juice, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Shake vigorously to combine. Dip the rim of a rocks glass in lime juice, and dip into chili-lime salt. Strain cocktail into prepared rocks glass filled with fresh ice, and garnish with a slice of grilled orange.