Homemade Spice-A-Rita

August 20, 2013


If you visit Cville, you must make time to eat at Mono Loco. It’s not your typical Latin restaurant. Instead it’s like California fish taco meets Southern fusion. Say what? They have everything from burritos with cod and yucca fries to my favorite – The Gibson – with fried oysters inside.

But setting the food aside, the most important thing you must order is the Spice-a-rita!  Matt and I are not generally huge margarita fans (yay beer and bourbon!) but this jalapeno-infused margarita twist is just amazing. It’s quite spicy and lime-tart without being too sweet. We’ve been wanting to replicate it at home for a while, and since the garden has a bounty of jalapenos, we figured it was time.


Matt asked the bartenders for some pointers on how to make these at home and they were pretty upfront about how simple it is. They grill their own jalapenos and infuse spice into a house-made margarita mix.  The other ingredients are white tequila, triple sec, ice, and a salt-rimmed glass.

With this in mind, we picked all the ripe jalapenos we had. They’re a little smaller than what you get at the store, but this is typical for home-grown peppers (or at least this has been the case for us).


That’s 20 peppers in all, and after sampling them we felt they were average spiciness. Keep in mind, though, that spice level can have wide variation (sometimes you can get a real kicker without realizing it!)  They went directly onto the grill for a few minutes on all sides until well cooked.


We sliced off the stems and discarded, and then cut the rest into slices… seeds and all!  It yielded just over a cup.


Next up is the arduous task of making the lime mix. We washed 16 limes and got the prep area ready.


Rolling the limes apparently makes juicing a bit easier, but you’re gonna be hurting no matter what after juicing all these guys. {Says Matt who took over the juicing task!}


We cut the limes into quarters and squeezed over a mesh strainer


And what do you know, 16 limes yields 16 ounces of juice!


We gave M his first taste of lime thinking he’d make some funny face, but he didn’t seem to notice at all.


We set the lime juice aside and then made a syrup on the stove top. At first we started with a simple syrup – 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  After trying various dilutions with the lime juice, we ended up making the syrup half as sweet.  So the final concoction was:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups lime juice

Bring the sugar and water to a boil to dissolve the sugar, and then combine with lime juice. This will yield slightly more than 4 cups.

Matt evenly split the sliced jalapenos into a quart and pint mason jar so that we could see the difference in spiciness. {I was worried he’d make it too spicy for me to drink.}


And then filled with the lime mix.


We thought that we might have to wait 24 hours for the flavors to steep but after about 10 minutes we were already excited to get mixing. The mix was already impressively spicy, and big surprise that the small jar was about doubly so.

The bartenders at Mono Loco seem to eyeball the drinks when they make them, but we wanted to come up with some exact measurements for those of you who like to be more precise. We played around with a lot of ratios making tiny drinks in shot glasses, but they all didn’t seem quite right. Everything tasted too strong – like a dorm room margarita gone bad. We were getting discouraged that we weren’t going to be able to get it right, and then we realized that we were essentially forgetting one of the key ingredients: ice!

We also decided to try the same pouring technique that the bartender used to try to mimic the proportions.

First, dip the rim in some lime juice and salt if you’re a salt-lover. {We didn’t have fancy margarita salt so we just used Kosher.}


Fill with ice.


Pour white tequila until the liquid level is 2/3 full.


Pour triple sec until the liquid level is 80% full.


Top off with lime mix.


Garnish with sliced jalapenos!


After a stir, we had perfection! The same great taste we love at Mono Loco.


Here’s Matt with some math talk:

We were very surprised this worked, especially because it seems like so much alcohol and hardly any mix. But in measuring everything as it went in, you’ll see that it’s not what you expect. First off, the amount of ice displaces a significant volume. But there’s also something tricky about this mix method in relation to the shape of the glass.

At Mono Loco they serve this drink in a conical pint glass (the basic beer glass you see everywhere). The glass we used is an 8oz version with the same shape. Because there is so much more volume at the top, it shouldn’t be surprising that the amount of lime mix added is actually a lot more than the amount of triple sec.

The final mixture is 10:3:6 tequila, triple sec, lime mix.  In our 8oz glass, this came to 1.6oz tequila, .5oz triple sec, and 1oz lime mix.  That’s a pretty reasonable amount of alcohol for a mixed drink, though it does make me wonder about how strong those pint glasses at the restaurant are!


Basic Recipe

Makes 4 pint glass margaritas

-Grilled jalapenos (about 4-5), chopped

-Limes (about 4) to yield 1/2 cup lime juice

-1/2 cup water

-1/4 cup white sugar

-12 ounces white tequila

-4 ounces triple sec

Make your syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water. Stir in lime juice. Add chopped jalapenos to lime mix. Fill pint glasses full with ice. Pour in tequila 2/3 of the way up. Top with triple sec to the 80% mark. Finish to the top with lime mix. Garnish with jalapenos.


The real question is how strong is that jalapeno mix going to get as it continues to steep in our fridge!?


Cheers to my parents on their 36th wedding anniversary!

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ali @ Peaches and Football August 20, 2013 at 8:05 am

happy anniversary to your folks!

Wow – making your own margaritas completely from scratch. It seems so ambitious and yet easy when you break the steps down. I can attest to Matt saying that juicing the limes is hard work. I have made gf key lime cheesecake before and my hands were screaming by the time I was done juicing all those little guys!

You’ll have to let us know how much the flavor changes after it seeps. How wild!


2 Jackie August 20, 2013 at 8:13 am

Looks yummy but definitely spicy!


3 Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac August 20, 2013 at 8:25 am

I can’t wait to make these! They serve spice-a-ritas at Matchbox up here and I am obsessed!

Thanks for coming up with a recipe!!!


4 Tonya August 20, 2013 at 9:01 am

Then I shall have to visit Matchbox! So many DC area readers on this blog. I get so many local finds from the comments section.


5 Leslie August 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

Looks great! I have had only had these before at a restaurant on the Oregon Cosst called Tidal Raves. They are so tasty but always make me sneeze!


6 Becky August 20, 2013 at 8:33 am

As a (former) bartender and huge margarita fan, I can assure you that kosher salt IS that fancy ‘rita salt. I have a fantastic citrus press that I use to hand juice my limes – I think it’s a pampered chef one (similar to their amazing garlic press), although you can find similar ones out there. I highly recommend it, as it makes the job of hand squeezing limes a breeze!

I have question about the peppers though – normally you scrap the outer skin off after roasting, but it looks like you didn’t do that here. Or did you and I just can’t tell from the photos?


7 KathEats August 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

Oh good! It tasted the same to me. I think Matt left the skin on. ..he’ll probably chime in


8 Matt August 21, 2013 at 8:41 am

Yep, I left ’em on because that’s what it seems like the restaurant does. Adds a nice roasty flavor as well.


9 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh August 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

You’ve got me intrigued. I don’t drink but I love spicy anything and this looks like it could be pretty darn good!

Happy Anniversary to your parents!


10 Mom August 21, 2013 at 4:22 am



11 Katie August 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

Could you put the jalopeno in a tea strainer so you can easily take it out when you don’t want to add spice any more?


12 Lauren @ The Highlands Life August 20, 2013 at 8:51 am

So glad you posted these! You are always raving about them so now we get a taste ourselves. Yummy!!


13 Tonya August 20, 2013 at 8:59 am

–Loved the “say what” in the opening. I read it as “say whaaaaat?” a la that old 80’s song “Square Biz”. LOL

–Look at Maze getting a sophisticated palette. Not afraid of complex flavor profiles. :-)

–Love the contrast of your writing style and Matt’s instructional style. He is such a “man”. LOL


14 Kathryn @ Mamacado August 20, 2013 at 9:21 am

Beautiful pics as usual! And I can just TASTE that wonderful spice-a-rita. The SALT is what draws me to them! Mmm.


15 Kel August 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

I am on vacation next week and am SO excited to make these!

Thanks for experimenting and sharing!


16 [email protected] August 20, 2013 at 9:31 am

Oh gosh I LOVE spicy ritas. My favorite is cucmber jalapeno…you guys should recreate that one! I also tried an amazing mango habanero marg 2 weeks ago that was delicious.


17 Racheal @ Running with Racheal August 20, 2013 at 9:34 am

Oh my goodness. My friend just had her baby, and I think this will be the perfect “welcome to not carrying a baby in your stomach anymore” present.

Making it this weekend! Thanks!


18 Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties August 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

i’m a huge wimp with spicy things… but these sound delish! awesome instructions :)


19 Amelia August 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

YUMMM!!! Trying this asap.


20 Shannon ~ My Place In The Race August 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

Oh wow that sounds good! 😛


21 Christine@ Apple of My Eye August 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

Ohh I love the lime-tart combo! So good!


22 Steph M. August 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

I can’t wait to try these! We have a lot of jalapenos right now. Thanks!!


23 Bridget August 20, 2013 at 11:05 am

As a frequent bartender and party host, I can say that my favorite way to squeeze lemons and limes is this guy from Oxo. After that, you pour the juice into a sieve just as you two did, but it is a lot easier on your hands.


24 Stephanie @cookinfanatic August 20, 2013 at 11:05 am

I adore Mono Loco – I have only visited once but loved everything I had! Next time I go I’m definitely ordering this spicy concoction, it sounds so good. And great job replicating at home, these look fantastic! :)


25 Melissa August 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

I am not into spicy things at all (especially not while pregnant – heartburn city!) but I do LOVE how precise you tried to get it for your readers! That’s why your blog is one of the few I check every day!


26 Christina @ The Beautiful Balance August 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

YUM! I absolutely love this and it gives me so many ideas for jalapeno infused drinks!


27 Katherine August 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

looks so beautiful!

congratulations to your parents!!!



28 Mom August 21, 2013 at 4:24 am



29 Deb @ Dietitian Debbie Dishes August 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Oooh! These look so delicious! I have never had a spicy-rita but I am excited to try it! Sometimes margaritas can get a little so sweet for me, but these sound perfect. :-)


30 Eileen August 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

This may have to happen with some of our backyard garden jalapenos! Ours are pretty standard store size and quite spicy–the benefits of living in California? Now to find some tequila… :)


31 cathy August 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I don’t really like margaritas, but I’m intrigued to try this one. I’m finding I like spicy things more and more these days. Thanks!


32 Kim August 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Yum! I actually had a jalapeno margarita for the first time this past Friday… if you are ever out it Dallas, it was at Taco Diner… it was very interesting! A few people at the table took a sip and didn’t care too much for it, but I enjoyed it. It was pretty spicy and I definitely needed to eat some chips and queso with it to cut the heat! This particular version had a little dollop of honey at the bottom for an interesting sweet-spicy combination.


33 Joni August 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

This was the last liquor drink I had before I found out I was pregnant! We were visiting Cville that weekend and stopped by Mono Loco on your recommendation, and you’re right, it was fabulous :) Love the recipe and can’t wait to try it in a few more weeks!!


34 KathEats August 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

:) I drank their virgin ones throughout my pregnancy and they were a perfect substitution


35 RunEatRepeat August 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I NEED it.


36 Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite August 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I live for spicy and a strong cocktail so I love all of these things together!!


37 Alex @ Kenzie Life August 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I prefer sweeter drinks myself but I’d definitely try this one (if it wasn’t too spicy that is :)) There’s a place here in Denver that serves pickle shots (pickle juice infused vodka I believe) that are supposed to be amazing and taste just like pickles! I wonder if a pickle margarita would be a terrible idea? Probably.


38 Anna @ Fitness à la Anna August 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I’m a big wimp when it comes to spice – I would only need a drop of the lime juice for sure. But I love the mixture of spicy and sweet, my boyf would love this!!


39 robin August 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Now I really really want one of those!


40 Erika @ fortheloveofpeanutbutter August 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Yum! I had to roll out and squeeze 7 lemons the other day when I was making blackberry basil lemonade…so I feel Matt’s pain 😉


41 seana August 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I juice limes and lemons with a thing you just slice them in half and squeeze. So much easier than doing it yourself. Marshalls has them for around 8$. It does’t kill your wrist, These look delish! Thanks for the recipe.


42 Jess August 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I can’t say this sounds delicious to me….I had a spicy pineapple margarita this summer and I think it ruined me for life when it comes to spicy drinks. It tasted like the juice from a jar of pickled jalapeños and every sip made my stomach turn. Couldn’t even finish it. However, thanks for the Mono Loco recommendation! I checked out the menu and everything sounds good!

I’ve actually been meaning to post and thank you for all the Cville info on your blog. I’ve been reading a lot of old posts. My husband and I are going to be there this Thursday-Saturday to check out the town. We’ve never been there and don’t know anyone but he accepted a new position with his current company and we are moving there next month! We might be crazy. Anyway, thank you for making Cville sound like a place I want to live!


43 KathEats August 21, 2013 at 7:09 am

Fun!!! It is a great place to live : )


44 Valerie August 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Um, spice, beer and bourbon are my faves. Love this take on a marg!


45 Sammie August 21, 2013 at 4:45 am

Looks fantastic, really want to try it but I’m not very good with spices lol.


46 Sara @ sarasmiles August 21, 2013 at 6:57 am

That’s. Awesome. Love Mono Loco…one of my favorites in Cville


47 Sherri Mc August 21, 2013 at 7:04 am

Back in the college days (I’m 57, so do the math), we put jalapenos IN our bottles of tequila to steep, then mixed a ratio of 3:1:2 booze, lime, triple sec. You kids are making this too hard. 😉


48 Mollie August 21, 2013 at 8:09 am

Yum!! May I also recommend this tool from Martha – has changed my life and others’ around me. After anyone uses it at my house they immediately go out and get one. Ha.


49 Steve @ OldDominionWildlife August 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

Looks like a great drink. Re: Mazen and limes, our daughter actually likes lemons which surprised us. We sometimes give her the lemons from our iced teas to help keep her entertained while we’re waiting for food.


50 Kierstan @ Life in Iowa August 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

My husband and I went to a class at a local restaurant all about mixing drinks and my favorite of the night was a spicy drink similar to this. Which, thanks for the reminder – I need to make! This one looks super good too!


51 Alex @ Delicious Knowledge August 21, 2013 at 1:08 pm

You guys are so cute! I’ve had a spice-a-rita and you are totally right- incredible! Never thought to make it at home, no matter how hard I try my cocktails never taste like the ones in restaurants. Love the step by step instructions- will have to try this soon! Our garden is overflowing with jalapenos and a rita sounds like the perfect excuse to use them.



52 char eats greens August 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Holy…that sounds amazing!!!! Can I please come over and try one!!! haha

I’d be in charge of the lime squeezing for sure; I would just hope that I have no cuts on my hands to burn it up! haha


53 Peter August 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thought I’d let you know that I made this last night. Awesome. Lots of lime. Once you get the hang of it, easy! Great drink.


54 Faith August 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the little sample jar of jalapeno syrup the other night! You know me though, of course I couldn’t follow a recipe. :) It was really delicious with gold taquila and homemade grape kombucha.


55 KathEats August 23, 2013 at 11:52 am

Haha that is quite the variation!


56 Ali September 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I had a horrible day at work. My boyfriend and I just made of batch of these, and my day has instantly brightened. They do taste just like the ones at Mono Loco. Thanks, Kath & Matt :)


57 KathEats September 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm

: ) Glad to brighten your day!


58 Lyn - A foodie who learns about healthy living every day October 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’m not a big drinker myself and don’t often try a lot of new drinks but I was intrigued by this one because it’s supposed to be spicy. I do like to try spicy foods and so I had to check out the recipe on this one. I love the step-by-step pictures because sometimes it’s just so difficult to know if you’re doing the right things even if you feel like you’re following the recipe. I’ll have to give this a try.


59 Mollie August 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm

came back to this from today’s post and perfect timing because I planned on making spicy margs at the beach next week! question: do you recall how long the syrup lasted? both before “spoiling” and/or getting uncomfortably spicy? i’d prefer to make the syrup before we left – but obviously not if it’s going to go bad. thanks!


60 KathEats August 20, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I’m not sure – let me rope in Matt


61 Melissa Moore Johnson August 30, 2014 at 1:22 am

I made a batch of this for my girlfriends and they went crazy for it!!! So refreshing, and will surely keep us “regular.” Kath, you are a mixologist’s best friend.


62 KathEats August 30, 2014 at 10:34 am



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