mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s book, “cooking with cocktails”

books, cocktails, fruits, recipes, tequila, winter

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Apparently, it is National Margarita Day today, a celebration of all-things-tequila, salt-laced, and citrus-y. I’m also celebrating the book release of one of my favorite food bloggers and friends, Kristy Gardner, of She Eats. Her new book, Cooking with Cocktails, is dedicated to the both the cocktail-imbibing cook and the food-loving beverage connoisseur. Its beautiful pages are filled with 100 boozy recipes, each crafted with wine, beer, or spirits. I’d can safely say that she wrote this book with me in mind.

I have been patiently awaiting the publication of Kristy’s book ever since I helped her test a few recipes for it this past spring. When she asked me to be a part of her virtual book release tour, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Since the date of my post along the tour fortuitously fell upon National Margarita Day, I knew that I had to share Kristy’s recipe for “Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas” with you.

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dsc_3937For those of you new to Kristy Gardner, I’ll give an introduction. She is a writer, photographer, and self-professed “bourbonator” from Vancouver, British Columbia. Bourbon is her jam. She also does a little acting and owns a branding agency called, Peppercorn Creative. The two of us bonded over the subject of cocktails {our first love} from the start about four years ago, and we regularly send each other lengthy emails and care packages filled with culinary treats {our second love, essentially}.

I trust Kristy’s drink-making skills implicitly. In fact, the very first recipe of Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight out of the jar. This particular recipe that I’m sharing with you is the perfect combination of flavors. As much as I love a simple lime-centric margarita, this smoky, savory, and slightly vegetal version might be my new favorite.

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Although I jumped straight to the cocktail section in Kristy’s book, its pages aren’t only comprised of drink recipes. She shares recipes for spirited versions of salads, soups, meats, seafood, vegetables, sweets, and sauces. My favorite recipe from her book is for “Old-Fashioned” Pumpkin Pots de Creme with Bourbon Whipped Cream. I’ve made it three times. It even counted as “dinner” for me once.

What makes her book most unique – even engaging – is her personality. Just as she does on her blog, she makes you feel like you’re sitting with her in the kitchen, sharing a Manhattan or two, and laughing. Like, spit-out-your-drink kind of laughing. Kristy boldly yet unassumingly shares her philosophy on eating locally sourced ingredients and promoting quality over quantity without ever coming across stuffy. She peppers her recipes with personal anecdotes and humorous stories, easing readers into confidently trying to make something new.

dsc_3986 dsc_4004 dsc_4012Kristy, mad props to you for letting me share this recipe here! For this savory cocktail, she makes sure to mention “not skimping out on the garnish – the margarita-soaked cucumber slices are kind of the secret ingredient.” I’ll also add that firing up the grill to get that perfect char for the jalapeños is a must-do. And if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I agree with Kristy on swapping out the tequila or even a portion of it for a smoky Mezcal.

mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas

  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup flaky, coarse sea salt {like Maldon}
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • fresh lime wedges
  • 1/3 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 cube brown or cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
  • 1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3 ounces reposado or silver tequila {I used Código reposado}
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice {approximately 5 limes}
  • ice
  • lime wheels and slices of cucumber, for garnish
  1. First, grill the jalapeño: preheat your grill or broiler to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the jalapeño halves on the grate and blacken thoroughly, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let cool to the touch. Chop roughly.
  2. As the pepper chars, make the salt rim. Combine the sea salt and smoked paprika in a shallow rimmed dish. Set aside.
  3. Prepare your serving glass: take one of the lime wedges and run it along the lip of the glass. Dip into the salt mixture and twist your wrist to coat the rim. Gently shake off any excess. Set aside.
  4. Now for the good stuff: make your cocktail! Place the blackened jalapeño, cucumber, sugar, and Cointreau in a large mason jar or cocktail shaker. Muddle with a bit of force until the sugar breaks down.
  5. Add the mint leaves, tequila, and lime juice. Muddle lightly. You don’t want to destroy the mint, but to extract the oils.
  6. Top with ice, cover tightly, and shake until your arm hurts.
  7. Place a small, fine-mesh strainer over the prepared glass and pour the liquid through it.
  8. Garnish with a lime wheel and slice of cucumber. Bottoms up!
  • This recipe yields one drink, according to Kristy. You could definitely divide the cocktail into two glasses, like I did here, for a less boozy punch; although, aren’t margaritas meant to be a little on the feisty side?
  • The recipe for the smoked paprika salt yields enough for several cocktails. Simply store the finished salt in an air-tight container.

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Making this cocktail in the middle of a cold streak here in Denver was just the taste of summer that I needed to make it through. For more sneak-peeks into Kristy’s new book, be sure to check out the other bloggers’ recipes and highlights along the Cooking with Cocktails Blog Tour. I’m already gathering the ingredients to make this Cinnamon Apple Whiskey Sour that Natalie of Arsenic Lace made this week.

To get your own copy of Kristy’s book, follow this link. It’s available on Amazon, as well. And for more laughs, recipes, tips, and cocktails, follow Kristy on She Eats, over on Instagram, on Pinterest, and Facebook.

Cheers to National Margarita Day and to my finally getting back on the blog. I have super big news to share with you on the next post or so that will completely excuse my absence here. It involves a big move, a giant leap of faith, a complete change of career {well, kind of}, and a lot of grapes.

I need a margarita just thinking about it all.

















  1. jellytoastblog says:

    Cool cookbook! I’m going to check it out 🙂 And as always, your photos are amazing!! <3 xoxo

    • Emily, thank you!! <3 <3 I hadn't posted in almost four months, and I hadn't picked up my camera since then, either. It felt very foreign today, ha! And a big yesssssss to this cookbook. So many fun ways to incorporate spirits, beer, and wine into recipes. Hugs to you!

  2. Joan Steese says:

    Kristy sounds like a terrific person along with all her talent! I already know your secret that you will be sharing and I am so excited for you and Steve!! Mom Steese

    • I always love it when you pop by and say hello here! Steve and I are sending you so much love right now. Thank you for your support and kind words and thoughtfulness always. We hope we can see you sooner than later. You are more than welcome (and encouraged!!!) to come out for a visit. 😉 And yes, Kristy is a gem of a friend. She is such an inspiration and is the best letter-writer and care package-giver. Well, you give her a good run for the money on both of those accounts, actually! Y’all are a solid tie! XOXO!

  3. Donna Baker- says:

    I can’t believe you are moving but what an adventure! Orvin and I just got back from Patagonia and the city of Valparaiso, Chile on the coast outside of Santiago. I found a chef in Valparaiso who we cooked with almost all day (7 dishes) in his home. We had wine and pisco sours, yum, to accommodate our meal. Fab experience on so many levels! We also did a bike tour of a small boutique winery, Kingston about 40 mins. outside Valparaiso . Sampled 4 wines and then had lunch at another winery. Great trip, you and Steve would have loved it! Let’s get together if you have time! Hugs

    • Hi, Donna! I followed along your adventures on FB and vowed that Steve and I have to visit Patagonia one day in the future. That was so cool that you and Orvin cooked with that chef. What a great experience!! I sold a bottle of Patagonian Pinot Noir the other night at the restaurant – a great one if you can find it – Chacra Barda. We HAVE to catch up before we leave. I really want to hear all about your trip. We will drive back to Denver every month or so, so it won’t be too bad! Hugs to you, as well. Can’t wait to chat!!

  4. […] Read the post & get the recipe –> Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas […]

  5. As a cook who married a bartender I have to check out this book. And this margarita looks like exactly the kind I want to drink- herbaceous and with personality.

    • You must be a great “pairing” together! My fiancé and I are both sommeliers, so our cooking and cocktail-making is always a fun but lengthy conversation. From what you’ve said, you’d love this book. 💞 …and I could so use a couple of these personality-filled margs for my crazy Thursday. 😬😬😬

  6. Your photos are so Beautiful.

  7. In lumina says:

    […] via mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s new book, “cooking wit… […]

  8. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m always looking for new ways to imbibe! I’ll definitely look for this book.

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