While visiting my parents in the midwest earlier this month, I learned three things:
- The town where I grew up built a new police station directly across the street from my old house. Seriously. Right. Across. The. Street. (Good thing that didn’t happen while I was in high school — just sayin’!)
- I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have long-time, dear friends in my life, some of whom also happen to share my love of tequila. (Coincidence? I think not!)
- Spicy cucumber margaritas are delicious and need to be in my cocktail-making repertoire.
During what’s becoming an annual celebration of belated birthdays, catching up, and plain-ole’ day drinking, one of my dearest friends and I enjoyed a couple of rounds of said margaritas on the 4th of July. They’re refreshing and go down a little too easily, but are perfect for a hot summer day — especially if you’re hanging out with good friends.
As it’s National Tequila Day, I’ve come up with my own version of this sweet-spicy, herbal-fresh margarita. Make up a batch and share them with your nearest and dearest! There are three parts to this recipe, which requires just a bit of advance planning:
- Spicing up your tequila.
- Making the cucumber simple syrup.
- Putting it all together and making the cocktail.
I’ve put the cocktail recipe first, just in case you already have your spicy tequila and simple syrup ready to go. If not, you can find these recipes at the end of the post.
Recipe: Spicy Cucumber Margarita
Yield: 1 cocktail
You’ll need a double old-fashioned or highball glass, cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.
2 ounces pepper-infused reposado tequila (recipe below)
½ ounce Cointreau
¾ – 1 ounce cucumber simple syrup (recipe below)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
For the glass:
1 tablespoon Kosher or freshly ground sea salt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1 lime wedge
Thin slices of cucumber
Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, ½ oz = 1 tablespoon
- Combine salt and chili powder in a small bowl, then pour on to a saucer. Run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the spicy salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with four or five cubes of fresh ice.
When I make this cocktail, I use ¾ ounce of the cucumber simple syrup. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, by all means, increase the amount to your taste.
- Shake 4 – 5 times (not vigorously) to combine and pour into a prepared glass.
- Fill glass with ice and garnish with thin slices of cucumber and a lime wedge.
Recipe: Pepper-Infused Tequila
There’s not much work involved here: pierce or cut a spicy pepper and pop it into a bottle of your favorite tequila for the infusion. Ideally, start this project when you have a designated driver handy or are hanging out at home for a while, as you’ll need to taste the tequila periodically to test for spiciness.
Important: I strongly recommend wearing gloves while handling spicy peppers. Afterwards, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands, cutting board, knife, and any utensils you used. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or other, er, sensitive parts immediately after handling spicy peppers — wash your hands first!
1 – 2 jalapeño peppers, depending on your tolerance for hot peppers
1 bottle reposado tequila (my favorite is Tres Agaves, but choose whatever you like)
- Wash and dry the pepper(s).
I used mature Purple Jalapeños from my garden. Want to know more about these peppers? Check out this post about my garden.
- Take a look at the opening of your tequila bottle.
a. If you can fit the whole pepper through the opening, then pierce several holes in the pepper using a skewer or sharp paring knife. Push the pepper through the opening and recap the bottle.
b. If the whole pepper will not fit through the opening, slice the pepper in half vertically. Press the pepper pieces into the bottle and recap it. Some seeds might come away from the pepper. Don’t worry, you can always strain them out later.
- Make sure that the bottle is capped tightly. Holding the bottle upright, give it a quick turn upside down. The pepper (or pieces) should float to the bottom and settle down.
Depending on how spicy/mature your pepper is, the infusion process can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.
- Grab a shot glass and taste-test the tequila at regular intervals.
I did my first taste test after two hours of infusion, then two hours later. After eight hours I still wasn’t tasting the level of spice I wanted. Turns out my peppers were really mature, and not as hot as I’d anticipated, so I ended up just leaving them in the bottle.
- When your tequila has reached the desired (tolerable?) level of spiciness, remove the pepper and any seeds that might have settled in the bottom of the bottle.
You can strain the tequila into another bottle for storage, or simply fish out the pepper from the original bottle, whatever works best for you. Make sure that you clearly label the bottle containing the spicy tequila. I also put the date of infusion on the label as well.
Recipe: Cucumber Simple Syrup
Yield: About 8 ounces syrup
Refreshing and tasty, you can also use this simple syrup to make an easy summer spritzer.
What you need:
Small container or bowl to hold the strainer
Glass or plastic container with lid for storing the syrup
4 ounces sugar (½ cup)
4 ounces water (½ cup)
½ cup peeled, grated cucumber
- Peel the cucumber and grate it using the large holes on a box grater or food processor attachment.
- Combine the cucumber, sugar, and water in a saucepan and place on the stove top.
- Give the ingredients a stir and heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Give the syrup another stir to make sure that all of the sugar has dissolved.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the cucumber to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.