The Thrill of the Chaser

Sangrita … the name alone suggests mystery, romance, a little vida loca. Loosely translated “little blood,” sangrita is not the most famous tequila chaser (salt and lime take that honor), but it’s certainly the most exciting. Resplendent in sunset hues, this saucy potion more than holds its own against that formidable spirit. Salty, sweet, and spicy all at once, it both tames and enhances tequila’s bite while igniting fireworks of its own. Aficionados advise taking a sip of good-quality tequila followed by a sip of sangrita, and so on into the night. There’s much debate over what a “true” sangrita contains (the juice of sour pomegranates? A purée of the piquant puya chile?), and there are endless variations on its basic components of salt, sugar, and something hot. Folks have been known to toss in fresh chiles, hot sauce, onion, Worcestershire, and yes, tomato juice. The last is a common ingredient, but those in the know argue that the addition of that interloper results in a thinly disguised Bloody Mary, sans alcohol. As for us, we like this recipe from Diana Kennedy’s Cuisines of Mexico for its refreshing simplicity—and because we’re unwilling to juice a pomegranate. (If you can’t get your hands on sour Seville oranges—and you probably can’t—regular orange juice will work; just add about one third cup of lime juice to temper the sweetness.) Give it a whirl. Salt and lime are for sissies, anyway.

1 cups Seville orange juice
3 tablespoons grenadine
salt to taste
a good pinch of powdered red chile,
such as pequín or cayenne

Combine all ingredients (preferably in a blender) and serve chilled, about 2 ounces per person.