This spicy skinny margarita is for you if you’re looking for all the flavor and balance of a classic cocktail. You just want it in fewer calories.
This skinny margarita is an adaptation of the Tommy’s margarita made with a chili-infused spicy tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar. Garnish it with a dried orange slice, and you won’t miss anything but the calories.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Let a fan tell you why you’ll love this spicy skinny margarita:
This was delicious and the orange was a great addition.
What is a skinny cocktail?
A skinny cocktail is one that simply has fewer calories than the original. It may or may not have less alcohol.
The margarita is a mixed drink made with tequila, Cointreau or other triple sec liqueur, and lime juice in a sour formula. The starting point for this skinny margarita recipe was my spicy margarita with jalapeño simple syrup, which clocks in at 218 calories.
To make a skinny margarita, recipes often replace the Cointreau with orange juice, which has slightly fewer calories. In recipe development, skinny margaritas I made with fresh orange juice weren’t balanced unless I added more sweetener than I wanted.
Purists might argue that a margarita without Cointreau is not an actual margarita and that this is just a tequila gimlet. But I’m here to point out that this skinny margarita is closer to a margarita than the espresso martini or pornstar martini is to a martini.
The margarita is not a complicated cocktail:
- Tequila – use a silver (blanco) tequila ideally 100% agave and not mixto. We like Milagro Silver for cocktails. See the Tips and Tricks below for making spicy tequila.
- Freshly squeezed lime juice.
- Agave nectar – the perfect sweetener to complement the agave-based tequila in a skinny margarita. If you can, pick an amber agave, which has a darker color and richer taste than light agave, with the same number of calories.
- Spicy salted rim.
- Dried orange slice – adds orange scent and flavor missing without Cointreau.
Variations and substitutions
- Use another mezcal in place of the tequila.
- Leave out the pepper to make a regular skinny margarita, or vary the heat with a different chili pepper. The hotter the pepper, the hotter the tequila.
- Need a margarita right away? Muddle a jalapeño or other chili pepper in a cocktail shaker and garnish with jalapeño. This makes a raw and intensely spicy jalapeño margarita experience with a cocktail that continues to get spicier!
- Don’t have dried orange? No worries! Garnish with a fresh orange wheel.
- Use Tajin on the rim in place of the chipotle salt.
Recipe tips and tricks
Making spicy tequila
The heat in my spicy margarita recipe comes from jalapeño simple sugar syrup. Simple syrups can be made quickly, but, since we’re not using simple syrup, that won’t work.
Of all the ways to make a spicy tequila, the best flavor comes from infusing tequila with chili pepper. Chop jalapeño peppers or pick a different pepper. (You can check out the Scoville heat units of different chili peppers in my spicy margarita recipe.) Use a combination of peppers to get greater depth of flavor.
Leave the chili peppers in your tequila for 24 hours or so. You can infuse a shorter time with hotter peppers or go longer if you want more heat. Store your infused tequila as you would any other spirit.
Spicy margarita salt
The spicy salt rim on this skinny margarita is made with salt and a bit of chipotle powder. Mix them together, and then rim only half the glass so you have the option of sipping with and without salt.
You can serve a margarita neat or on the rocks, so you’ve got a choice of coupe, lowball, or highball glass. Even a mason jar works just fine, if that’s what you have.
How to rim a glass with salt:
- Rub a lime wedge or use a small kitchen paintbrush to create a thin, light line of liquid around the outside rim of your glass. If using a spicy salt rim, consider rimming only half the glass.
- Put your salt on a small plate and rotate the glass into the salt at a 45 degree angle to get salt only on the outside of the rim. Try to avoid getting salt on the inside rim or it can change the flavor of your cocktail.
- Tap off any excess and prepare your cocktail. Cheers!
Making the skinny spicy margarita
Add all of your ingredients and ice into a cocktail shaker and shake for about 10 seconds. Shake a bit longer if you’re serving your margarita neat (without ice).
Tip from the wise quacker: The general teaching is that cocktails with citrus juices should be shaken, but cocktails with only alcohols should be stirred.
Garnish your skinny margarita with your orange slice or lime wheel, and enjoy! I’d really encourage you to make and use dehydrated orange slices for this skinny margarita recipe, because they add a strong perfume of orange that would typically be provided by Cointreau.
Julio Bermejo first served the cocktail at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco in the 1980s. The margarita and the restaurant are named for Julio’s father. You can read more about Julio Bermejo and all about tequila here.
Agave is a genus of succulents native to hot and dry regions of North, Central, and South America. The stalk, leaves, flowers, and sap (agave nectar) are all edible. Tequila is produced by the fermentation and distillation of agave nectar.
Tequila must be made from A. tequiliana or “blue agave”, whereas mezcal can be made from other agave species. Therefore, in the Venn diagram of liquors, tequila is a subset of mezcal, and all tequilas are technically mezcals.
Yes, similar to the labeling of Champagne or Prosecco, bottles labeled mezcal or tequila must come from certain regions of Mexico. However, distilleries in other regions of the world are working hard to create other agave-based spirits.
Once you’ve made and strained your chili pepper-infused tequila, you can store it with your other spirits. That is to say, store your spicy tequila in a cool, dark place.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Spicy Skinny Margarita
- 1 Cocktail shaker
Chili-infused spicy tequila
- 2 ounces silver (blanco) tequila ideally 100% agave and not mixto
- 1 jalapeño or other chili pepper
Spicy margarita salt
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- ⅛ teaspoon chipotle powder
- ½ lime for wetting the outer rim of the glass
Spicy skinny margarita
- 2 ounces spicy tequila
- 1 ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce agave nectar amber agave preferable
- dried orange slice or lime wheel for garnish
Chili-infused spicy tequila
- Slice your chili pepper and put it into a clean glass jar with 2 ounces of tequila per cocktail. Leave the jar in the refrigerator for 24 hours.2 ounces silver (blanco) tequila, 1 jalapeño or other chili pepper
- Strain out the pepper and seeds.
- If not using right away, store the spicy tequila in a cool, dark place.
Spicy margarita salt
- Combine the salt and chipotle powder on a small plate.2 tablespoons coarse salt, ⅛ teaspoon chipotle powder
- Rub the lime wedge around the outside of half of the glass.½ lime
- Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle and rotate the outside edge of the glass into the spicy salt. Tap off any excess.
- Combine the spicy tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar in your cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Shake for 10 seconds if serving your margarita over ice. Shake for 15 seconds if you are serving it neat.2 ounces spicy tequila, 1 ounce lime juice, ½ ounce agave nectar
- Double strain into your prepared glass, garnish with the dehydrated orange slice or lime wheel, and enjoy!dried orange slice or lime wheel
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