The Margarita: The Queen of Sour Cocktails

by
February 22, 2018

The margarita. Spanish for “daisy”, a margarita is a sour cocktail (liquor + citrus + sweetener) with the addition of triple sec, an orange-flavored liqueur. It’s my cocktail of choice, despite the fact that whiskey has been my calling professionally for over a decade now.

Born and raised in Texas, I was weaned on the queen of sour cocktails from a young age. It is the unofficial cocktail of the state. My love for the drink is simply beyond my control.

As is the case with most classic cocktails, the origin story is murky. Stories often involve some of Hollywood’s elite traveling to Mexico and being served the cocktail in cantinas there. Then the stories go on to the naming of the drink which involve a host of women named Margarita. These origin stories are fun but we’ll never really know. Suffice it to say, it cropped up around the 1930s and ’40s and really picked up steam in the 1950s when Cuervo and Sauza came to the States.

In my opinion, there is never a wrong time for a margarita. Even a poorly made, or sugary frozen margarita (introduced by a Texan in the 1970’s) is fine by me as you are usually sitting in the sunshine with friends while consuming it. But do try making them well. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

For all sour cocktails, the balance of sweet and sour is key. With the margarita, you get the added element of tequila’s savory/earthy quality and often, the added salt rim to enhance it all.

TEQUILA

You can make a margarita with any style of tequila, so if you prefer añejo tequila, by all means go for it. But blanco or reposados are more commonly used. Just please always use 100% blue agave … if your bottle doesn’t proudly say this, then DON’T USE IT. Your head will thank us.

Margarita: Sauza MargaritasSauza Margaritas / Photo Credit: Sauza

TRIPLE SEC

The most famous brand of triple sec is Cointreau and we highly recommend it, but we are also fans of Combier and Luxardo Triple Secs. You can, however, make other substitutions such as curaçao or Grand Marnier which is a Cognac-based orange liqueur made in the style of curaçao. If you use Grand Marnier, your margarita is called a Cadillac Margarita. If you like añejo tequila, use GrandMa.

LIME

There are so many types of limes, which will vary based on where you live. Mexican or key limes are what we see most commonly here in the States, but perhaps you are traveling. Make sure to give the limes a taste prior to use. Some varieties are more sweet than sour.

Margarita: LimesLimes / Photo Credit: Michael Stern

SWEETENER

Sugar or simple syrup is common, but agave syrup consumption has definitely been on the rise. Make sure to taste it on its own as a little agave syrup goes a long way.

GUIDE TO MAKING MARGARITAS

There’s nothing wrong with reposados in a margarita (it can add some sweetness, so adjust your recipe accordingly), but I prefer blancos in mine. For the record, here is my perfect margarita recipe:

– 1 ½ oz blanco tequila
– ¾ oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
– ½ oz Cointreau
– 1 tsp. Agave syrup

Pour all ingredients in to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Sometimes I have it on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass, sometimes I’ll have it poured up in a coupe. Both are delicious.

Pro tip: Add a pinch of salt INTO the glass prior to serving.

Margarita: Tommy’s MargaritaTommy’s Margarita / Photo Credit: Patron

Tommy’s Margarita

The most famous margarita variation and for good reason is Tommy’s Margarita, created in the early 1990s by Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Restaurant in San Francisco. Julio discovered agave syrup in a health food store. He decided to substitute that for the standard triple sec and the rest is history. You can find this cocktail on menus around the world.

You can call your own tequila upon visiting, but if not, they will make it with reposado tequila.

Recipe:
– 2 oz tequila
– 1 oz lime juice
– ½ oz agave nectar

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice or serve up without ice. Salt rim on glass optional.

*Folks who ask for a “skinny margarita” really in truth want this one but don’t know it yet.

OTHER OPTIONS

Add a float (teaspoon-½ oz) of mezcal on top of the margarita. Or use mezcal instead of tequila.

Use Tajin or create your own salt/spice mix to rim the glass.

Muddle fresh herbs or fresh peppers (or create a flavored simple syrup) to add another layer of flavor. For herbs think cilantro, thyme, lemon verbena, mint, or basil. And peppers serrano, jalapeño, or habanero work well.

Addition of other fruit juice/puree to the cocktail. Pomegranate, mango, watermelon — the possibilities are endless. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust the sweet factor here. In most cases, you can eliminate the simple syrup/agave syrup altogether and you might even need to add a touch more lime.

As you can see the options are endless. And this is why the margarita is my favorite cocktail. ¡Salud!


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