If the thought of anything too hot makes you weep like Jennifer Lawrence in a Hot Ones meme), then it's probably best you avoid Spicy Margs. But for any of us who embrace the hotter side of life, the increasing popularity of the sometimes fiery cocktail is warmly welcomed.

The Spicy Margarita is a drink that, in just a couple of years, has gone from underrated to ubiquitous in the bars of Australia both Mexican-leaning and not. The picante version of everyone’s favourite tequila classic has become so common it’s now found as a staple on cocktail lists from pubs to private dining rooms all around the country. “Spicy Margarita” generates a staggering 1.16 million results on Google, beating out longstanding classics like the Singapore Sling (948,000 results) and the Negroni Sbagliato, 2022’s most-viral cocktail, at 479,000 results. There are even ready-to-drink versions from Curatif, Mexink and Sophisticated Cocktail Co.

Shirley Yeung, group operations manager for Perth bars Foxtrot Unicorn, Edward & Isa’s and Nieuw Ruin, says more people than ever are ordering Spicy Margs, even if they’re not on the menu, “and with more confidence, too. It’s gone from people being a little hesitant to even ask if we make classic Margaritas, to just straight up ordering a spicy one without any question that we would be able to do it. It’s just expected now,” she tells Broadsheet.

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But not all Spicy Margs are created equal. For the best in piquant pleasures, there are a couple of places we trust above all others. At Sydney’s newly opened Centro 86, the Spicy Margarita gets pride of place. The subterranean bar is by the same crew that gave us Cantina Ok and Tio’s Cerveceria, so its tequila cocktails – and its influence on Australia’s growing love of agave sprits – is second to none. Jeremy Blackmore, the group’s creative director, says the Spicy Margarita has been Centro’s number-one seller. “Turns out people love Spicy Margaritas,” he tells Broadsheet. “We made almost 800 in our first week open.”

The Centro 86 version is made with Rattlesnake, its house-made spicy tequila liqueur infused with cascabel and pasilla chillies. “We infuse the dried chillies for two days in tequila, then sweeten it into a liqueur,” says Blackmore “The mix of different dried chillies give it an amazingly complex spiciness along with notes of dried fruit, PX [Pedro Ximenez] sherry and cinnamon.”

At Melbourne’s brilliant modern-Mexican eatery Taquito, the Taquito’s Tommy’s cocktail also makes use of multiple kinds of chilli for added complexity, along with mezcal for that smoky, earthy funk we love.

“We use a combination of smoked guajillo chillies and fresh jalapenos,” Taquito co-founder Alec Villarreal Wurts tells Broadsheet. “The smokiness of the guajillos complements the earthy notes in the mezcal, while the fresh jalapenos bring out more vegetal notes and add a bit of extra kick.”

Meanwhile, out in Melbourne’s west, the appropriately-named Mr West is the area’s primary peddler of all things agave (and craft beer, and whisky, and generally delicious drinks). Here it’s helping kickstart weekends with its Spicy Flamingo – a chilled shot of Espadin mezcal with freeze-concentrated watermelon and a bit of cayenne.

With agave-based shots like these on offer, maybe we can finally do away with “lick, sip, suck”.

The go-to recipe

Makes 1 serving
1.9 standard drinks

Centro 86’s Blackmore says Spicy Margaritas are super easy to make at home. For a simple-as-can-be recipe, throw the following in a cocktail shaker with some ice, and give it a shake.

60ml tequila
30ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml agave syrup
A few slices of fresh chilli

“You can make it spicier or less spicy by choosing the right chilli,” says Blackmore. “Fresh jalapeno for just a little kick or something like habanero if you want to punch it up.”