As Italian liqueurs go, amaretto might be the most misunderstood. When joined with commercial sour mix, it becomes the backbone to a two-ingredient sugar bomb with a hangover to match. While the original recipe was flavored with bitter almonds, they were abandoned when producers realized they were potentially chock-full of deadly cyanide. Modern versions instead use regular almonds or apricot or peach stones to capture that distinctive flavor.
But how can we flip amaretto’s stereotype as cloyingly sweet? And what else can we do with that bottle in the far reaches of our liquor collection? The Spiced Margarita from Joan Villanueva, the beverage curator at BO-beau kitchen + caché in San Diego, is one such answer. In this Margarita variation, amaretto stands in for the sweetness normally provided by orange liqueur or simple syrup, and muddled jalapeño slices lend a touch of lip-tingling heat. “Spicy and bold flavors work really well with amaretto,” Villanueva says. “I sometimes hear how people drank too much amaretto a long time ago, so I like to offer the option to reconnect with an old friend.”
Though the recipe calls for a blanco tequila as its base, Vllanueva says that mezcal drinks with a chile-heat component are her go-to inspirations for incorporating amaretto. Substituting the tequila with mezcal is a popular approach to making Margaritas in general, and it definitely works here as well, with the smoky, earthy spirit blending with the rich sweetness of amaretto and fiery kick of peppers.
If you’re opting for the original recipe with blanco tequila, though, you’ve got many, many options. It’s best to find a tequila that fits your budget and tastes and keep it on hand for Margaritas like this one, so you’ll never have to debate what to use.
- 1 wedge lime
- 3 wheels jalapeño
- 2 ounces blanco tequila
- 3/4 ounce amaretto
- 1 ounce lime juice
- Garnish: salt rim
- Garnish: lime wheel
Rub half of the outside of a rocks glass with a lime wedge, dip the edge in salt to coat and set aside.
Add the jalapeño wheels into a shaker and gently muddle.
Add the tequila, amaretto, lime juice and ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into the prepared rocks or highball glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with a lime wheel.