A Publication of WTVP

Two for One: Spicy Margarita, Paloma

by Hugh Higgins |

Back in the day, tequila was slugged back as a shot after a beer. Once you grew up a bit, that shot ended up in a margarita. For decades, it has been the #1 call drink in America.

The Eagles helped popularize the official spirit of Mexico in their ‘70s anthem Tequila Sunrise, and the song still wafts across the airwaves on soft-music stations. Later, Steely Dan would espouse the tranquil effects of Cuervo Gold, which along with a “fine Columbian” helped “make tonight a wonderful thing” in their 1980 hit Hey Nineteen.

But it’s a new century, and professional actors and musicians have become the new social influencers, particularly in the world of tequila. Sammy Hagar is the first one I remember with Cabo Wabo back in the ‘90s. Since then, there has been an unending list of celebrities surfing the wave of agave juice, including George Clooney, Michael Jordan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Nick Jonas, Eva Longoria, Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Hart …

Some of these tequila brands are pretty darn good, made for sipping and savoring. There are two indicators to look for when searching for the good stuff. One is the word “Reposado,” the other “Anejo.”

Reposado means “rested.” It allows the spirit a little more time in the barrel to help take the rough edges off and provide additional flavor. Anejo means “aged.” It’s the same fermentation process but with a little more barrel time, which improves the quality. Of course, when creating cocktails, most folks rely on the less expensive tequilas, commonly known as “Blanco.”

Technology marches on, and science has found new ways to charm our palates with excellent expressions of tequila that are clean, clear as water, and exceptionally smooth. The new kid on the block is “Cristalino,” an oak-aged tequila that has been charcoal-filtered to remove some of the color and is usually a little sweeter and smoother.

In any case, here are a couple of tequila cocktail recipes we enjoy serving at Hearth restaurant in Peoria Heights.

Spicy Margarita


  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  •  3 small slices fresh jalapeno
  • 1.5 oz. simple syrup
  •  .5 oz. lime juice


Muddle jalapeno slices with simple syrup. Add a generous scoop of ice and all other ingredients. Shake vigorously and strain into tall glass, previously rimmed with lime and salt and filled with fresh ice. Garnish with fresh jalapeno slice and lime. (You may also substitute Tres Agave Organic Margarita mix for the simple syrup and lime juice. It is a high-quality mix.)

Bonus: Paloma


  • 2 oz. tequila
  • .5 oz. lime juice
  • .1 oz. grapefruit juice


Instructions: Pour over ice, top with a splash of Squirt soda, garnish with lime.

All the best in your summer cocktailing!

Hugh Higgins

Hugh Higgins

is the owner/operator of the restaurant Hearth in Peoria Heights. Prior to that, he spent 30 years in the wine and spirits industry, many of those at Pernod Ricard