On a recent vacation, I sampled the Habanero Margarita at Duffy’s in Esperanza on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Manager, “Fun-J,” admitted to inventing the sweet and spicy concoction.
Like most great bartenders, Fun-J mixes to taste and isn’t a slave to nit-picking measurements. His version consisted of pulverizing in a blender habanero peppers, “some other little red pepper,” sugar, lime juice, recao (Puerto Rico’s indigenous form of cilantro, also known as broad leaf corriander), and cilantro. He then added that to his usual margarita which he serves on the rocks. The heat hits you first, burning your tongue. Then, the sweet settles in. Finally, the herbalicious ending of the tequila’s agave and the cilantro lingers playfully, demanding another gulp — I mean sip.
I created my own version of Fun-J’s masterpiece last night. The verdict from my main squeeze and principal taste tester: “I could have had 50 of those!” Here’s what I did:
Muddle aggressively a good tablespoon of cilantro in a shaker
Add 3 oz. of silver 100% agave tequila
Add 2 oz. triple sec
Add 1 oz. fresh lime juice
Add 3/4 oz. “Aunt Nikki’s Kitchen’s Jalapeno Syrup”*
Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass. Makes either 2 modest servings or 1 honking big serving.
*Aunt Nikki’s Kitchen is a brand for home canned goods available during the holiday season in the Kansas City area at local bazaars. Thirsty Jane actually fought over a can of Aunt Nikki’s pickled beets, and won, of course. I consulted the actual Aunt Nikki who said the Jalapeno Syrup is simply the leftover juices from when she makes candied jalapenos. So, you can use the juice from any candied jalapenos you find at a specialty store or you can try making your own. I would try boiling 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of cider vinegar and about 5 cut up jalapenos. After the syrup thickens, let sit overnight and strain out the jalapenos.