Sangrita for Tequila

La Fiesta, without a doubt, is the most celebrated holiday in Santa Barbara. The entire town literally shuts down for four days in early August to celebrate “Old Spanish Days,” with festive food, mariachi music, raging parties, flamenco dancing, and parades. We always head over to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church for the best food in town (try the carnitas and the flautas), hit a parade or two with the kids, and have a bit of our own celebration here at our own casa.

Fiesta celebrations at our house traditionally begin with a shot of tequila followed by a sangrita chaser. Tequila has a special place in my heart because of our dear friend Rica. She absolutely loves it, and her reverence for this exotic drink has made me a convert. (I’ve come a long way after a few terrible “tequila nights” in college.) Now that I’m older and wiser, I limit myself to one or two shots, and insist on good tequila. Clase Azul, Reposado is my tequila of choice because it’s so smooth.

This sangrita recipe is a tasty way to chase down a shot. Local chef Alex Castillo shared this recipe with me a few years back. It’s so good I’m almost tempted to skip the tequila … well, no, that wouldn’t be right.

As we say in Santa Barbara, “Viva la Fiesta!”

Chili de Arbol

Sangrita for Tequila


1/4 medium yellow onion, peeled, and grilled or sautéed

3 dry chiles de Arbol

2 cups tomato juice

3 cups fresh orange juice, strained of pulp

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper to taste


In a dry pan toast the chili until the smell perfumes your kitchen. Then mix it in a blender (remove the stems, please) with the onion and tomato juice. Add the orange and lime juice and season with salt and pepper. If it looks a little lumpy, strain it through a cheesecloth or sieve. Chill for at least one hour before serving.