There’s something about margaritas that just make everything more festive. Back when I was a bartender, I saw it again and again: People having a whatever night suddenly say—aha!—let’s have margaritas! Instant party.

This mighty little drink can be a night-changer. Unfortunately, it can often be, ahem, a little too mighty.

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But can you think of anything nicer on a face-meltingly hot day than an ice-cold margarita? The bite of tequila, the crunch of that salt rim… the super sleepy feeling you get because a margarita is a strong drink and it’s packed with sugar? Sure, you look great on your Instagram post sitting poolside with a marg, but let’s face it, twenty minutes later, your cocktail umbrella is drooping, you’ve got that movie candy-tummy feeling, and you’re ready for a nap. What do you do? Stop drinking them? Stay home? Deny Insta the poolside cocktails it desires?

NOT TODAY. This bartender is here with a solution.

Lower-alcohol “session” beers have been around forever, but in the last few years, more and more people are experimenting with lower-alcohol cocktails as well. They’re delicious, sippable, and won’t make you want to fall asleep where you’re standing.

At any rate, I was thinking about how to make a spicy watermelon margarita that wasn’t too darn sweet, when a coworker mentioned her favorite watermelon sparkling water. Boom! Instant brainstorm. So I headed up to our test kitchen and began experimenting.

It took a little finagling but I finally got it: Here’s how to make a spicy, sparkly, not-too-strong margarita. If you don’t like spice, just omit the jalapeno. If you love spice, add a little more! You can sweeten the cocktail a bit more with a touch of sugar—but try it this way first. You may be surprised to find you don’t need it.


  1. Muddle ½  cup of fresh watermelon chunks, 2 slices of jalapeno, and ½ of a lime in a cocktail shaker or container with a lid, until the watermelon is pretty much just juice.
  2. Add 1 oz. white tequila and ½ oz. of triple sec. Top with ice and shake, shake, shake.
  3. Strain into a glass filled with ice. (Salt or sugar on the rim is optional… I’m partial to a mixture of both.) Top with watermelon sparkling water. Stir.
  4. Garnish with mint (if you have it) and lime.
  5. Enjoy like the responsible adult that you are.

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