This skinny spicy jalapeño margarita is perfect for sipping on a warm, sunny day. Made on the rocks with freshly squeezed lime juice, orange juice, jalapeño simple syrup, and ripe jalapeño peppers, this "healthy" light margarita is super refreshing and will be your go-to cocktail all summer long.
There's nothing better than sitting on the patio, eating chips and guacamole, and sipping on a margarita. It's one of the greatest joys in life. This skinny jalapeño margarita in particular is hard to beat during happy hour! It's tart, a little sweet, and slightly spicy. The flavors balance each other out perfectly. I've included my best tips for making margaritas, getting a beautifully salted rim, and a few variations so you can customize this recipe too.
Before we get into the recipe, I want to acknowledge the importance of tequila in Mexican culture. It is made from agave plants grown in Jalisco, Mexico and can't be made in any other country. Because of this, tequila production greatly impacts the local economy and is a symbol of national pride.
If you want to learn more about the history and cultural impact of tequila, check out this article. Here are some of my favorite Mexican food bloggers: Isabel Eats, Mexico in My Kitchen, Dora's Table.
Why This Recipe Works
- Jalapeño infused simple syrup- This gives this classic cocktail its kick and sweetness.
- Tajin seasoned rim- Not only does this look gorgeous, but it adds a salty and sweet flavor.
- Fresh orange juice and lime juice- No margarita mix required here! Fresh citrus juice tastes way better anyways.
Here are some notes about a few of the ingredients used. For the full ingredient list, check out the recipe card below.
- Tequila- Silver (or blanco) tequila works best in this skinny spicy margarita recipe. I've written more about how to choose the best tequila below.
- Jalapeño simple syrup- You can make this at home (instructions in the "Notes" section of the recipe card) or buy it. To make it, combine 1 cup cane sugar (or coconut sugar for a deeper taste) and 1 cup water. Add one sliced jalapeño pepper and let the liquid sit in an airtight container overnight to infuse, stirring or shaking the container occasionally.
- Orange juice- Fresh squeezed orange juice is ideal, but it is ok if you have to use bottled orange juice. I used tangerine juice while testing this recipe and it worked great.
- Lime juice- Freshly squeezed lime juice tastes the best. Use a citrus juicer or squeezer to get the most juice from your limes.
- Tajin seasoning- Tajin is a seasoning made with chili peppers, lime, and sea salt. This is used with sugar to garnish the rim of your cocktail glass.
How to Choose the Best Tequila
Silver (or blanco) tequila is my favorite to use in this recipe. Silver tequila has a sharper flavor that pairs well with lime in margaritas. Gold (or joven) tequila has a smoother flavor that makes it better for shots or sipping neat. Flavors and colors can also be added to gold tequila, making it not 100% blue agave.
Añejo tequila and reposado tequila are aged and taste better sipped alone than in a margarita.
Here are some tequila brands I recommend: Patrón, Milagro, Fortaleza. If you're on a budget, Sauza or Jose Cuervo work just fine.
Tequila vs Mezcal
Tequila is a type of mezcal, like how bourbon and scotch are types of whiskey. The main difference is in order to be labelled as tequila, the liquor has to come from the blue agave plant specifically. Mezcal can be made from any agave plant. Mezcal is typically 55% ABV (alcohol by volume), whereas tequila is typically 40% ABV.
One of my top margarita tips is to use mezcal instead of tequila in this recipe! Mezcal has a smoky, deep characteristic that you don't find in tequila. It's an interesting flavor you can add without having to do much.
I recommend picking up a bottle of mezcal from your local liquor store and trying it out!
Bar Tools Needed
- Jigger- This is a double-sided tool to measure your ingredients. If you don't have a jigger, you can use small measuring cups.
- Cocktail shaker- This is used to get your margarita fully combined and chilled.
- Optional lime squeezer or reamer- Use a citrus squeezer or reamer to get the most juice out of your citrus!
Step by Step Instructions
Here are the steps to make the recipe.
STEP 1: Prepare the salted rim. Do this step first so that the rim has time to dry while you are making the cocktail. On a shallow, small plate, mix together 1 teaspoon cane sugar with ¼ teaspoon Tajin. Then, run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass. Do this upside down so that the lime juice doesn't run down the glass. Then, place the glass upside down into the Tajin and sugar mixture to coat the rim. You may need to tilt the glass a little so that the seasoning sticks to all parts of the rim. Set aside while you make the rest of the skinny spicy margarita recipe.
STEP 2: Add lime juice, orange juice, jalapeño syrup, tequila, and ½ cup ice to the cocktail shaker. Add the ingredients using your jigger or small measuring cups. Make sure to add the ice last.
STEP 3: Shake. Make sure the cocktail shaker is fully closed and tightly sealed. Then, shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. When your hands feel super cold that's when you know the drink is cold enough!
STEP 4: Pour. You can either fill your glass with ice and strain the margarita in or dirty dump it in (pour the ice and all from the shaker into the glass). If you add ice to your glass, I recommend using small ice cubes. If you have giant ice cubes, you can put them in a plastic bag and bag it against the counter a few times to break them up. It's best to spoon the ice in until the glass is full so you don't knock the garnish off the rim of the glass.
STEP 5: Garnish. This is optional but oh so fun. Garnish the cocktail with a few jalapeño slices, lime slices, and some fresh cilantro. Not only does the garnish look pretty, but you get the extra aroma of fresh, plump jalapeños when you drink the cocktail, which adds a little extra kick!
How to Salt the Rim
Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure your rim is salted perfectly!
- Use a lime wedge- Instead of dipping your glass in simple syrup or something else sticky, you can just run a lime wedge around the rim. This gives the salt something to stick to.
- Keep the glass upside down- When running the lime around the rim, keep the glass upside down to prevent lime juice from running down the sides of the glass. Keep it upside down while you dip it in the salt too.
- Sugar or spice it- Salt is what is traditionally used, but you can also add sugar on your rim! Coconut sugar combined with Tajin or chili flakes is delicious.
- Carefully add ice- Use a spoon and tilt the glass towards you while gently adding the ice to your glass after the rim is salted. This is so you don't knock any of the seasoning off.
- Salt one side- If you don't want your entire glass salted, you can rub the lime wedge on just one side of the rim. You can also rub the side of the glass to make an interesting design.
- Use high quality tequila- Look for 100% blue agave tequila. This will greatly impact the taste of your cocktail!
- Use real lime juice- I know we sometimes don't have time to squeeze whole limes. If you're buying lime juice from the store, make sure it is 100% lime juice and doesn't contain any additional flavors, oils, or sweeteners. Santa Cruz is the brand of lime juice I keep in my refrigerator for recipe testing.
- Don't use crushed ice- Crushed ice will melt faster than ice cubes and dilute your drink.
- Shake the heck out of it- Your hand might feel like it's about to fall off from the cold, but your cocktail will taste fantastic!
- Mezcal can be used instead of blanco tequila for a smoky flavor note.
- Don't have Tajin on hand? You can use sea salt or plain sugar to salt your rim instead. You can add a little chili powder to the salt or sugar mixture for some heat.
- Sparkling- To make a milder, sparkling margarita, add about 2 ounces of sparkling or seltzer water on top.
- Blended or frozen- To make a blended or frozen margarita, follow the directions below and add an extra ½ ounce of lime juice per drink. Instead of shaking with ice, pour the liquid into a blender with ½ cup of ice and blend until well mixed and smooth.
- Blood orange- Use blood orange juice instead of orange juice for a fun color change.
- Habanero- Instead of jalapeño simple syrup, make or buy habanero simple syrup! This will make a hotter margarita depending on the type of habanero you use. Habanero peppers have a floral, citrusy flavor unlike the grassy, green flavor of jalapeños.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main difference between this skinny margarita and the traditional margarita is the absence of triple sec. Triple sec is an orange liqueur that is super sweet with about 11 grams of sugar per ounce. In this recipe, orange juice is used instead of triple sec to make the drink less sugary sweet and have slightly less calories.
Blanco or silver tequila is best to use in this recipe.
Yes, you can! This recipe makes one margarita, but you can quadruple it to make it for a party of four. If you're making this recipe in a pitcher, I recommend stirring everything together in the pitcher instead of shaking. Salt the rim of each glass individually before serving.
Yes! To do this, prepare the recipe as directed below without ice. Then, pour the cocktail into an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but it will be best after 1 day. When you're ready to drink it, salt the rim of your glass, add the ice, and then pour in the cocktail.
Pour your leftover skinny margaritas in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They will taste the best after 1 day.
More Drinks to Try
Skinny Spicy Jalapeño Margarita
Tajin Seasoned Rim
- 1 teaspoon cane sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Tajin
Skinny Spicy Jalapeño Margarita
- 2 ounces tequila silver or blanco
- 2 ounces orange juice fresh squeezed
- 1 ounce lime juice fresh squeezed
- 1 ounce jalapeño simple syrup homemade or store-bought
- ½ cup ice
For Salting the Rim
- Mix the sugar and Tajin together in a small, shallow plate or dish. Run a lime wedge around the rim of a cocktail glass. Do this upside down so that lime juice doesn't run down the sides of the glass. Dip the glass into the seasoning upside down to coat the rim. Tilt the glass to make sure the rim is completely coated. Set the glass aside.1 teaspoon cane sugar, ¼ teaspoon Tajin
For the Margaritas
- Add the tequila, orange juice, lime juice, and jalapeño simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ½ cup ice.2 ounces tequila, 2 ounces orange juice, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce jalapeño simple syrup, ½ cup ice
- Close the cocktail shaker and make sure it is sealed. Vigorously shake for about 30 seconds until the shaker is very cold to the touch.
- Fill your cocktail glass with ice. Do this by gently spooning the ice into the glass, letting it slide to the bottom. This will help keep the seasoning on the rim from getting knocked off.
- Pour the cocktail mixture through a stainer into the glasses.
- Garnish with lime wedges, jalapeño slices, and cilantro. Enjoy!