Spicy Margarita

How do you make a great classic cocktail even better? Add a jalapeño pepper.

Spicy Margarita

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Lucy Simon

The classic Margarita is endlessly flexible, shapeshifting for any season and occasion. Hosting a pool party? Just grab a blender. Need a batch-friendly Marg for a crowd? This punch packs a pleasant kick of spice, and is enough for a thirsty crowd of ten. Looking to incorporate seasonal fruit like mangoes or blueberries? The Margarita is happy to oblige. The same principle extends into choosing glassware; You can serve a Margarita in a rocks glass, a chilled coupe, a purpose-built Margarita glass, or even in a stout wine glass, like the one pictured above from Haand. Given this cocktail’s versatility, it should come as no surprise that there’s also a twist that speaks to spice- and heat-seekers. When it comes to making a perfect spicy Margarita, just add a jalepeño pepper to the mix, which serves double-duty as an ingredient and garnish. 

Cocktail historian and master mixologist Dale DeGroff traces the Margarita’s humble origins back to Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack, where a cocktail known as the Tequila Daisy was served as early as the 1920s. The racetrack’s take called for tequila, lemon juice, and a sweet ingredient, making it the perfect precursor to the modern day Margarita. And while it’s hard to pinpoint why the spicy Margarita is such a popular riff on the classic, there’s no denying that people really love hot sauce.

Nowadays, bartenders are continuing to test the Margarita's potential by getting creative with rims, using everything from hatch green chili salt to black lime and chili flakes, both of which add striking color and complexity to the final product. For a Spicy Margarita in particular, we prefer to use the classic Mexican seasoning salt, Taijin, which is made with a blend of dried, ground chile peppers, lime, and salt. The brilliant red color teases the flavor profile of the drink, and the chile notes it adds to the rim complement the jalapeño flavor perfectly.

Although the spicy Margarita calls for an additional step — muddling jalepeño coins inside of the shaker — relative to the classic recipe, it’s still important not to cut corners by using pre-made Margarita mix, which often contain high fructose corn syrup as well as artificial coloring and flavoring agents. Tempting as it may be, it’s also worth using freshly juiced, real lime juice, not the bottled stuff you can find at the grocery store, which typically involves more lime oil.


  • 1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila (such as Mijenta Tequila)

  • 1 ounce cointreau

  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1 jalepeno pepper, sliced into coins


  1. To rim your glass, rub a lime wedge around the opening and dip into into taijin.

  2. Add two or three jalepeño coins to a cocktail shaker and muddle.

  3. Add tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and ice to shaker and shake well.

  4. Strain drink into glass and top with two jalepeño coins for garnish.

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