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Three Ways: Spicy Margarita

Admit it: You love a spicy Margarita. We all do. A perfect blend of sweet and sour with a kick of heat, the cocktail could be the official drink of summer (if we didn’t already crave them year-round). But from base spirit to modifiers to the heat quotient, there are countless permutations for this otherwise simple concept. Here are three versions that offer creative ways to bring the heat.

Flaming Heart

At Chicago’s James Beard Award–winning The Violet Hour, partner and head mixologist Toby Maloney takes a clever approach to adding the perfect amount of heat to his Flaming Heart cocktail. “Getting ‘spicy’ into cocktails can be an elusive pursuit. Using fresh jalapeños or even dried peppers always yields a slightly different level of heat due to the variance in the peppers themselves. Enter green Tabasco,” says Maloney. “I’ve always loved the green pepper flavor and how it can pull out similar notes in tequila, but also it’s easy to measure and provides are liable amount of spiciness to the drink. In Flaming Heart, those green vegetal notes play nicely with Licor 43’s vanilla, and the sweet pineapple really benefits from a lick of heat.”

2 oz. blanco tequila (Maloney uses Lunazul)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Licor 43
1/2 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
9 drops aromatic bitters
9 drops green Tabasco sauce

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: double Old Fashioned
Garnish: lime wheel

To make the drink, in a shaker with ice add all the ingredients. Shake and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass and garnish.

Toby Maloney, The Violet Hour, Chicago

Smoke Show

At Hearth and Hill in Park City, Utah, bar manager Kira Collings leans into the inherent flavors of mezcal, adding elements of smoke and spice to her Margarita riff Smoke Show. “Mezcal is one of the few spirits that can express terroir. With that in mind, I wanted to create something that also showcased the land agave comes from,” says Collings. “Jalapeños and Tajín originated in Mexico, making them the perfect choice to add some spice. The overall flavor profile of the drink is smoky and spicy, with balanced acidity.”

1 1/2 oz. mezcal (Collings uses Wahaka Espadín)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. jalapeño simple syrup

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: Tajín rim

To mix the cocktail, add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass rimmed with Tajín.
Jalapeño Simple SyrupCombine 1 cup of water, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of chopped jalapeños in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes, remove from heat, and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and bottle for use within 2 weeks.

Kira Collings, Hearth and Hill, Park City, Utah

Spicy Margarita

Befitting its straightforward moniker, the Real Spicy Margarita from Joseph Kler, bar lead at Tope in The Hoxton Hotel in Portland, Oregon, gets clever with an extra-spicy infusion that also lends complexity. Swapping out a Margarita’s typical orange curaçao, Tope instead adds the complementary flavors of Ancho Reyes Verde poblano chile liqueur. To up the spice factor, the liqueur is infused with spicy peppers. “We take a handful of arbol chilies and let them infuse with high-proof liquor, then we add that mixture to Ancho Reyes Verde to make the already-spiced liqueur even spicier!” says Kler.

2 oz. blanco tequila
1 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. agave syrup
1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes infusion

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: double rocks
Garnish: chili salt rim, lime wedge

To mix the drink, combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a double rocks glass rimmed with chili salt (a mixture of 2 Tbsp. coarse salt and 1 Tbsp. freshly ground chili powder), and garnish.
Ancho Reyes InfusionTo make the infusion, combine 4 arbol chilis with 250 ml high-proof neutral spirits and let infuse for 72 hours; strain off the chilis, and combine the infusion with 500 ml of Ancho Reyes Verde liqueur in a sealed container; use within 8 weeks.

Joseph Kler, The Hoxton Hotel, Portland, Oregon

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