Top Chef's signature Sparkling Jalapeño Margaritas will rock your cocktail hour

Kelsey Barnard Clark
This cocktail sips like a standard Margarita, but is on the lighter side.

This recipe is from Kelsey Barnard Clark's latest book, Southern Grit: 100+ Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Cook, reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

This easy sipper is the most popular cocktail at KBC, where, much to my chagrin, it is known as “The Kelsey Margarita.”

I started making these every Thursday at our Top Chef viewing parties. Each week the restaurant would fill up with excited fans, camera crews, news anchors and even the mayor, all of whom could watch each episode and simultaneously scrutinize my every reaction as I watched alongside.

It was quite the party for them; for me, not so much. I spent the duration of these parties a ball of anxious nerves, just praying they didn’t show the time I fell on my ass, got into a spat with another competitor, cried again, fell on my ass again, spoke out of line, and at least one hundred other less-than-flattering moments that I am obviously not going to make public now.

Enter: my Sparkling Jalapeño Margarita. Tequila was needed, sparkling water made the next day a little less painful, and the lack of sugar prevented a hangover.

Note: If you aren’t a fan of mezcal, replace with a nice reposado. The best margarita starts with good tequila, so don’t reach for the bottom shelf on this one.

Serves 4


3 tablespoons minced jalapeño pepper, from about 1 pepper

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated horseradish

4 ounces agave syrup

8 ounces mezcal tequila

4 ounces fresh lime juice

32 ounces Topo Chico sparkling mineral water

4 tablespoons Tajín Clásico seasoning


In a small pitcher, muddle the jalapeño, a pinch of the salt, the horseradish, and agave syrup with a muddler or wooden spoon.

Stir in the tequila, lime juice, and mineral water and set aside.

Pour a little water onto a flat plate with a rim. On another plate wider than your glass, mix the Tajín Clásico seasoning with the remaining salt.

To coat the rims of the glasses, dip each in water and then in the Tajín mixture. Fill the glasses with ice and pour in the drink mixture. Enjoy immediately!