When I was a kid, I would take a bowl into the backyard and create “potions.” I’d muddle together rocks, flowers, grass … anything I could find, and mix them with water to create my magical elixirs. I’ve always been fascinated with this kind of pseudo-alchemy, mixing different ingredients together to create something entirely original. Now that I’m 21, I’ve moved on to creating more … digestible elixirs: cocktails. When I have the time, I love mixing complicated drinks that feel more or less like I’m that 5-year-old kid creating some kind of potion. Only, a 5-year-old who’s about to get a buzz going. This blackberry-jalapeño margarita fits that bill, and the end product is far more delicious than any dirt-and-grass drink I made when I was 5. 

While most margaritas use tequila as their base, this one uses mezcal, a spirit mainly produced in Oaxaca, Mexico. Both tequila and mezcal are made by fermenting the hearts of the agave plant in water. However, in the production of mezcal, the agave undergoes an extra step before fermentation: cooking. The agave hearts are baked for days in pits dug in the ground, similar to the process used for barbacoa. This extra step gives the end product a delicious smoky flavor that, in my opinion, puts it a step above tequila. 

Chace Duma / Daily Nexus


For the blackberry-jalapeño syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 whole jalapeño 
  • 1 6 oz package of blackberries (setting 5 aside) 

For the margarita:

  • 3 blackberries for muddling, 2 for garnish
  • 1 lime
  • 1 ½ oz mezcal of your choice
  • ½ oz blackberry-jalapeño syrup
  • Salt


For the blackberry-jalapeño syrup:

  1. Slice the jalapeño into rounds and roughly chop the blackberries. Add them to a medium-sized pot on the stove.  
  2. Add the water and the sugar to the pot and turn the heat on high. 
  3. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and bring to a boil. 
  4. Strain into a mason jar or heat-proof container of your choice. 

For the margarita:

  1. Cut the lime in half and swipe it along the rim of your glass. Pour some salt on a plate and roll the rim of the glass in the salt. If it doesn’t stick, swipe again with the lime.  
  2. Muddle 3 blackberries in the bottom of the glass, then fill the glass with ice. 
  3. Add the juice from your lime, the mezcal and a half-ounce of the blackberry-jalapeño syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds, until chilled. 
  4. Strain the drink into the glass. 
  5. Put 2 blackberries on a toothpick or garnish spear, add to the drink and enjoy! 

If you’ve never tried mezcal, I think this drink will blow you away. It’s such a unique spirit and when combined with the blackberry-jalapeño syrup, it creates a beautifully complex and refreshing drink. 

Recipe adapted from “Beautiful Booze” by Natalie Migliarini and James Stevenson.

A version of this article appeared on pg. 12 of the February 25 print edition of the Daily Nexus.