This recipe is based on Morgenthaler's rendition of the original sangrita, which is so simple there's not much to change about it.
The main difference between his and mine is that I simplified the pomegranate component. Morgenthaler's recipe has you blend fresh orange and lime juices with good-quality grenadine syrup, for which he also provides a recipe. That makes sense for professional bartenders, but whipping up a batch of from-scratch grenadine just to make a tiny shot of sangrita seemed to me like more effort than most home drinkers are willing to make. (If you are willing, go check out his recipe.) Instead, I call for plain fresh or from-concentrate pomegranate juice, along with just enough sugar dissolved in it to simulate the grenadine's flavor.
The shot itself has a blood-red tint from the pomegranate—hence the name, which translates as "little blood." Mixed with it is freshly squeezed orange juice that's punched up with lime to re-create the effect of sour oranges, then made spicy with a pinch of chili powder. I used hot Pequin chili powder, but you can substitute others, like cayenne, if you don't feel like tracking it down at a Mexican market.
My idea here was to bend the sangrita in a more tropical direction, while using a small amount of cucumber juice for its cooling effect, which plays beautifully with the hot alcohol and chili spice. It works really well. Once again, lime juice helps raise the tartness to a more intense level, while Pequin chili powder adds heat. It's a combo that's proven to work—pineapple is one of several fruits dusted in chili powder and sold from Mexican street carts.
Grapefruit is another citrus that's a great partner to tequila, yet isn't used nearly as often as lime and orange are. To tame the grapefruit's bitter edge, I added honey for a more complex sweetness, and then spiked it with the bold flavor of smoky chipotle chili powder. This is a deeper, darker sangrita than the light, fruity ones above, proving just how many possibilities there are with this drink.
Clamato Sangrita With Jalapeño and Coriander
Even if tomato wasn't an original sangrita ingredient, I wanted to give my own nod in its direction—after all, enough people enjoy the tomato-spiked version that it shouldn't just be automatically dismissed. Even so, I wasn't interested in blending it with orange and pomegranate like most recipes say to.
Instead, I stuck with a more straightforward tomato flavor, reaching for a can of Clamato, which is very common in tomato-based sangrita recipes. Clamato markets itself as a tomato-clam juice, but it tastes much more strongly of celery salt than anything else (though it does contain clam as a seasoning). I think of it more as a not-spicy Bloody Mary mix than as a seafood-y drink, and that's the route I took with my sangrita: Using a blender, I puréed the Clamato with diced white onion, fresh cilantro leaves, ground coriander seed, freshly ground black pepper, fresh jalapeño, Worcestershire sauce for even more savory depth, and lemon juice for acidity. It's practically a Bloody Maria, with the tequila on the side.
To me, that's a very good thing, even if it has relatively little to do with any kind of "authentic" version.