Mike Wolf’s Lively Twist on a Margarita

An avid gardener and co-owner of the acclaimed tiki bar Chopper in Nashville, Mike Wolf wakes up our tastebuds with his Day-Off Rita from his book, GARDEN TO GLASS: GROW YOUR DRINKS FROM THE GROUND UP

“Using peppers, whether fresh or dried, affords the bartender the opportunity to add heat and excitement (!) to any cocktail. These drinks are the kinds of drinks bartenders make for other bartenders. You think you want a margarita on your day off? Try enlivening that sullied, tired palate with this drink, the Day-Off Rita.” — Mike Wolf, bartender and co-owner of Chopper in Nashville, from his book Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks From the Ground Up (Turner Publishing, 2019)

For this recipe, the spicy kick comes from the Ginger-Cayenne Cordial, which steeps for a few days. Prepare it ahead so it will be ready when you mix and serve your margaritas.

Garden to Glass by Mike Wolf


Serves 1


  • 1/2 ounces Reposado Tequila
  • 1 ounce Mezcal
  • 3/8 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/8 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Ginger-Cayenne Cordial (recipe follows)
  • Barspoon (1/8 ounce) Green Chartreuse
  • Barspoon (1/8 ounce) Giffard Pineapple Liqueur
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 1 ounce Topo Chico sparkling water
  • Ginger leaves, pineapple fronds, and mint (optional), for garnish


Shake all ingredients with plenty of ice and open pour into a tall glass. Garnish with ginger leaves, pineapple fronds, or mint. Sip slowly.

Ginger-Cayenne Cordial


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups julienned ginger (peeled and diced)
  • 2 tablespoons ginger juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper, (handled with gloves!) split open and coarsely chopped on a separate cutting board


Start with the water, adding it to a pot and simmering over medium-high heat. Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes until the smell of alcohol dissipates. Turn the heat down to a light simmer and add the sugar and ginger, stirring to incorporate. Remove from heat after a few minutes and allow to cool, then add the ginger juice, lemon juice, and dried cayenne pepper. Let that mixture steep for 3 days or until the heat/spice level of the cordial is to your liking. The purpose of the cayenne is to mimic and intensify the spicy character of raw ginger. Using dried cayenne adds an element of umami that gives a lot of depth to this cordial.

Recipe excerpted from Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks From the Ground Up by Mike Wolf (Turner Publishing, 2019)

More Craft Cocktail Recipes