Recipe courtesy of Dana Beninati for Food Network Kitchen

Spicy Italian Margarita

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I love a margarita, especially a spicy one! But I am not a fan of all of the fake stuff in margarita mix. Homemade limoncello to the rescue! Here, I use it in two ways: to give the margarita a refreshing pop of real citrus flavor and to rim the glass for a salty edge! Of course, the chile paste is totally optional, but gives this drink a lovely warmth with every sip.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 15 min (plus 2 weeks infusing, if making your own limoncello)
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 1 serving
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Homemade Limoncello:


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the limoncello, tequila and chile paste, if using. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  2. Dip the rim of a rocks glass in a small splash of limoncello on a plate. Coat the rim with salt. Fill the glass with ice. Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass. Top with the seltzer and serve.  

Homemade Limoncello:

  1. Zest just the yellow portion of the lemon peels with a rasp grater, avoiding any of the bitter white pith. You should have about 1/4 cup zest. Transfer the zest to a jar or other airtight container. Add the vodka, seal and shake to combine. Set aside in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.
  2. Strain the infused vodka through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. You may need to line the sieve with a coffee filter to catch all of the zest. Discard the zest (or dehydrate it and add to the salt for rimming the Spicy Italian Margarita). 
  3. If making your own simple syrup, combine the sugar with 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.  
  4. Combine 3/4 cup of the simple syrup (or more, if desired) with the infused vodka. Store in an airtight bottle in the freezer for up to 6 months. Makes about 3 cups. 

Cook’s Note

If organic lemons are not available for the Homemade Limoncello, scrub the lemons in warm water to remove any wax. Meyer lemons are also an excellent option, when in season.

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