The Best Type Of Tequila For Spicy Margaritas

No cocktail is ordered with more frequency in the U.S. than the margarita, and the popularity of this tequila-based sipper has been unrivaled for years now. The allure of this cocktail — as popular with home bartenders as with professionals — isn't just its classic mix of tequila, orange-flavored liqueur, and lime juice. It's also the diverse array of variations that has broadened the cocktail's appeal. The frozen margarita took the U.S. by storm in the mid-1970s, while more recently the spicy margarita has given the iconic cocktail an entirely new flavor aspect and has inspired a new generation of margarita drinkers.

What are the tips and tricks for making the best version of the spicy margarita? According to Lex Madden, bar manager at Point Easy in Denver, Colorado, it all starts with choosing the right tequila. "I like using blanco or silver tequila for spicy margs," she notes. "The more peppery notes of these tequilas go especially well with jalapeños and other chilies. My current favorite tequila to use, which we're featuring at the bar in a Hatch chili and celery root marg, is Cimmarón blanco — it's affordable, smooth, and slightly peppery."

The perfect ingredients for a spicy margarita

Cimmarón blanco tequila, Madden's choice, isn't noted for its spiciness or heat. Instead, it's distilled to be slightly less sweet, which makes it a versatile and balanced cocktail base that's more amenable to pairing with spicy ingredients. Featuring agave grown at more than 4,000 feet of elevation in Jalisco, tequila's ancestral homeland, Cimmarón is a great start to making the perfect spicy margarita.

It's important to buy the blanco version for margaritas, however. Blanco tequila is instantly recognizable by its lack of color, indicating that it hasn't aged in oak barrels. It is vibrantly fresh and peppery, and traditionally considered better for mixed drinks. Blanco is also the most affordable category of tequila, observes Madden. That's no mean consideration when stocking one's home bar.

Madden's favored chile is the Hatch, an American species native to New Mexico's Hatch Valley. Jalapeño peppers are a good alternative for those who may not have access to the Hatch, she affirms. One of the most famous early variations of the spicy margarita — bartender David Nepove's 2005 Sweet Heat – achieved renown thanks to the addition of Spanish Licor 43 and the muddling of two ingredients: jalapeño and lime.