Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With A Spicy Tequila Shrimp Ceviche Cocktail

Food & Drink

When I took my first sip of Ghost Tequila, I immediately thought that it would be just the thing to upgrade my grilled shrimp ceviche.

Ceviche almost always has minced chiles in it, but because they can be really spicy, you add a small amount to a larger dish. Once the ceviche is made, if you get a bite without any chiles, the sweet heat is missed. I have long added a splash of tequila to my ceviche, but adding the Ghost Tequila to my ceviche adds both the agave spirit and the spicy flavor of ghost peppers. And, most importantly, there is the flavor of the chile in every bite. That consistency was one of the motivations for creating Ghost, although the founders were thinking about making spicy margaritas.

Ghost Tequila was introduced to the market in 2016. It was created by Chris Moran, a former bartender who was looking for a better and more consistent way to make a spicy margarita. After experimenting with all different kinds of chiles, he discovered that the Bhut Jolokia pepper, a.k.a. Ghost pepper, gave him exactly what he was looking for. The small 2-to-3-inch red pepper is one of the world’s hottest chile peppers with a clean, sweet, hot spice.

The base tequila is made from 100% Weber blue agave and is twice-distilled in Jalisco, Mexico. A small amount of ghost pepper extract is added to make the tequila spicy without losing the characteristics of a great blanco tequila—and without adding any vegetal flavor. Moran explains, “… from the beginning, my goal was first and foremost to make a great tequila, and then make it spicy.” 

When I asked for his favorite spicy margarita, he sent me a recipe for a spicy pineapple margarita. That inspired me to incorporate pineapple chunks in my grilled shrimp ceviche. I love the twist of adding the sweet acidic pineapple which goes perfectly with grilled shrimp.

Most people I know eat ceviche at restaurants or on beach vacations to Mexico—even though it is thought to originate in Peru.  But it is one of those dishes, like sushi, that folks shy away from making at home. I think that is because it is generally made with raw fish, which necessitates having really fresh fish—often hard to find when you live hundreds of miles away from the beach.

This recipe doesn’t require you to leave near the ocean. Most of the time, I make this grilled version with the frozen IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) shrimp that I thaw just before cooking. With my grilled version of ceviche—using shrimp—you can make it anywhere, anytime.  

The shrimp is grilled before being marinated in a puree of lime, tomatillos, tequila and cilantro.  You could also add or substitute lump crabmeat, baby squid, scallops, and rock shrimp—even lobster in this recipe.  I love the addition of the smoky grilled flavor. It makes the finished dish taste more substantial and the grilled shrimp is complimented by the fresh citrusy, raw salsa.

The key to making this ceviche “cocktail” is grilling the shrimp just until they turn pink.  If you overcook them before marinating in the acidic marinade, you will have tough, gummy shrimp and they will not yield a light and refreshing dish.

The traditional “bite” to the dish usually comes from minced chile peppers, but using the spicy tequila makes this easy to throw together. Add chopped ripe grape or small cherry tomatoes, creamy avocado and sweet-tart pineapple chunks to add fruitiness to the tangy tomatillo-lime mixture.  

These ingredients are best tossed into the seafood just before serving.  If you are planning to save some “leftovers” for the next day, reserve the seafood and add the flavoring ingredients just before serving the second time as well. The tomatoes, avocados and any fruit will get mushy, the longer it sits.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Ceviche with Tomatillo Salsa

Light, chilled and refreshing with a toothsome texture, ceviche is summer in a bowl.  Add tortilla chips and it becomes a cross between a meal and a snack.

Serves 4

1/2      cup of fresh-squeezed lime juice

2-4       tablespoons Ghost tequila, depending on taste

4-5       large raw tomatillos, peeled and washed 

1          loosely packed cup of cilantro leaves, reserve a few sprigs for final mixing and garnish

1/2      teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1          pound of Jumbo or Colossal shrimp, thawed if purchased frozen

1          pint grape or other cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

1          large avocado, diced

½         cup pineapple chunks, with juice

            Fleur de sel

            Lime wedges

            Tortilla Chips

Puree lime juice, tequila, tomatillos, cilantro and salt in a blender.  Set aside. 

Prepare shrimp. Thaw in cold water if frozen. Place thawed shrimp in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and season lightly with salt. Grill 1-2 minutes per side over medium-low direct heat or until the shrimp turn a light pink.  Remove to a platter and let cool. It is important not to over-cook the shrimp. Refrigerate until ready to make ceviche.

Cut each piece of shrimp into 3-4 large chunks and set aside. Pour tomatillo mixture over shrimp. Mix to coat. Let sit covered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Mix several times to make sure the lime-tomatillo salsa is evenly distributed.

Just before serving, mix in tomatoes, avocado and pineapple. Note: If you don’t want to buy a whole pineapple, It is fine to use the pineapple tidbits in juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.  The Ghost Tequila has a slow burn so don’t add more until you wait a minute or two or it might be too spicy. Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of cilantro. Serve with salted tortilla chips on the side.  

Chris Moran’s Pineapple-Ghost Margarita

This is the perfect margarita to serve with the Spicy Grilled Shrimp Ceviche. The cocktail compliments the dish and vice versa.

Makes 1 drink

2          ounces Ghost Tequila

1          ounce lime juice

1          ounce simple syrup

½         ounce Elderflower liqueur

¾         ounce pineapple juice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, liqueur and pineapple juice.  Shake. Pour over fresh ice in your choice of glass or serve straight up in a martini glass.

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