The Margarita, as its name implies, was probably
invented for a woman. Until it came along, only men (and a few hardy women) enjoyed Tequila, the liquor made from the agave plant.
Today, thanks to efforts by José Cuervo and others to expand the appeal of the
Margarita to wider audiences (and younger ages), the Margarita bears little resemblance to
the original, especially in California (and Florida), where the trend appears to be to
find larger glasses, slushier textures, and newer colors with different fruits, until they
are indistinguishable from a 7-11 Slurpee. It's now almost impossible to find a good
Margarita in California (or for that matter anywhere west of El Paso, Texas). Even the
establishments in the Mexican border towns seem to have forgotten how to make them.
One reason is the loss of bartending as an art. You won't find well-trained bartenders
in most bars any more. Why hire one, if all you need is a basic inventory of processed
mixers in plastic jugs, some booze, a blender, and a large supply of ice and sodas? And
since the clientele are getting younger and more female, who demand a drink that tastes
similar to the sweet sodas they grew up with but can still give them a buzz, excellence is
no longer economical. Most bars now concentrate on the highly-profitable happy hour drinks
-- sweet, slushy, and ice-cold, designed to be gulped rather than sipped. Good luck
finding one that serves a real Margarita.
So now we hear debates about whether Margaritas should be served "frozen" or
"on the rocks," when the answer is neither. Also, whether to use Rose's Lime
Juice or Sweet & Sour (again, neither).
Margarita is simply half tequila, one third fresh lime juice and one sixth triple sec
(citrus liqueur). So a single 5-oz Margarita will contain 2½ oz tequila, 1½
oz lime juice, and 1 oz citrus liqueur (usually a quality triple sec such as Cointreau).
The rim of the glass is rubbed with lime juice and dipped in salt. The ingredients are
shaken with cracked ice and strained into the salt-rimmed glass. It's served garnished
with a wedge (not a slice) of limón verde
The Margarita recipe calls for slightly more lime juice and less liqueur than the
classic "Sour" or "Sidecar" recipe (which is simply 2 parts liquor,
one part lime juice and one part liqueur). This makes it more refreshing than the Sidecar.
And if you want an even more refreshing and less potent variation, try the Margarita Squirt.
As can be seen, the original Margarita is smaller and more potent than today's huge,
frothy happy hour concoctions. But the best time to enjoy a Margarita is not at a noisy
bar, but in a quiet cantina or at home with a few friends, preferably on a sunny patio.
Margaritas enhance conversation, so to maintain the proper boundary between conviviality
and inebriation, they should be sipped very slowly. And they should always be
served with food, even if just a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa
Happy hour Margaritas are almost always made with
a too-sweet, artificially-flavored triple sec, or even a citrus-flavored syrup, instead of
the more expensive Cointreau, and Sweet&Sour mix (or limeade) instead of the fresh
lime juice. If you're going to take these shortcuts, you might as well use a cheap tequila
as well and invite your frat buddies. Rose's Lime Juice is the best substitute for fresh
limes (and is made from real Mexican limes). You pay for the convenience, though.
The citrus liqueur is important because its sweetness balances the tartness of the lime
juice and enhances the citrus flavor while complementing the agave flavor of the tequila.
The best (and most expensive) choice is Cointreau, but any good-quality triple sec or
citrus liqueur may be used, such as Curaçao (made from orange skins) and Limoncello (an
Italian lemon liqueur). If you're in Mexico, pick up a bottle of Controy, a Mexican orange
triple sec that Mexican bartenders use (and costs about a third of Cointreau). Some
Margarita aficionados use Grand Marnier, but only in place of half the triple sec. Another
good substitute for half the triple sec is Damiana, a herbal liqueur and reputed
aphrodisiac native to the Baja peninsula.
*Bartender recipe (serves 1)*
2½ oz white tequila
1½ oz fresh Mexican lime juice (or the juice of half a lemon and half a lime)
1 oz Cointreau
garnish: lime wedge
Rim a 6-oz stemmed glass with a wedge of lime and twirl it in coarse salt,
shaking off the excess. Shake the tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau in a
cocktail shaker with cracked ice and strain into glass. Garnish with a wedge
*Makes 1½ quarts (12 margaritas or 24 2-ounce shots)*
1 bottle (750 ml) white or reposada tequila
1½ c fresh lime juice
1 c Cointreau or Controy
salt for glass rims (optional)
garnish: lime wedge
Mix all ingredients together in a glass pitcher and chill before serving.
Serve as icy shots in long-stemmed glasses (rimmed with salt, if you like),
and garnish with lime wedges.
Make a Margarita, but serve in an 8-oz tumbler. Top it with a generous
splash of Squirt (a grapefruit soda beverage), mixing well.
(Recipe courtesy of Margarita expert Dr. Arturo Meza.)