Spice up your life!
It's pepper season here in southwestern Pennsylvania. And, this cocktail is inspired by our friend Jess, who has an abundance of jalapeños that she doesn't know what to do with. So, of course, we say...use them in a spicy drink!
The spicy margarita has been hot, hot, hot (pun fully intended) for the past few summers, but we actually prefer to drink them this time of year. The earthy, vegetal flavors are a welcome addition to the waning summer days and make this cocktail feel like a great transitional drink as we slide into autumn.
There are a couple ways to create your spicy marg, from muddling peppers directly into your drink to infusing them in the tequila. We really like the infusion method, because you have more control over the heat level.
We've been receiving some peppers in our local CSA share lately, especially the super adorable red cherry hots. So, we used the cherry peppers in ours, but feel free to choose your favorite pepper! The infusion time will vary based on the Scoville level of your pepper and also how much spice you want.
Here's how to infuse the tequila:
Grab your favorite blanco tequila and measure out 3 ounces (for one cocktail). You'll only need 2 ounces for the drink, but make a little extra so you can test the infusion along the way.
Slice the pepper into thin rounds. If you like things HOT, leave the ribs and seeds. Otherwise, to not burn your face off, trim the insides and discard. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and don't touch your eyes!
Again, based on your heat tolerance, decide how much pepper to use in your infusion. For reference, we used 1/2 of a round slice. However, if it's a more mild pepper, you can use the whole round, or if it's on the spicier side, use less.
Drop the pepper into the tequila and set a timer for five minutes. This will be your first spiciness check point! Take a small sip and see if the spice level is where you like it. If it's not strong enough yet, let it infuse for another five minutes. Keep doing this until you find a level of spice that's yummy to you. For reference, we found 15 minutes to be the magic infusion time.
Strain out the solids. Voila! Infused tequila, ready for mixing.
Next, make your cocktail. We like the classic Tommy's Margarita recipe, created by the legendary Julio Bermejo, because it really lets the tequila shine through. (Side note: we met Julio at a cocktail conference once, and he was as sweet as pie. He told us he once dated a girl from McDonald, Pennsylvania, which is a small town outside of our hometown of Pittsburgh. We can't stop thinking about that...) Anyway, here's the recipe:
Tommy's Spicy Margarita
2 oz. infused tequila
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. agave nectar
Garnish: salt rim (optional)
Grab a slice of lime and slide it around the rim of your glass, leaving a strip of lime juice all the way around. Pour coarse salt onto a plate and spin the rim of the glass through the salt. Set aside.
Add the tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously until well-chilled. Strain over fresh ice into your salted glass. Sip & enjoy!