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How to Make a Better Margarita

How to Make a Better Margarita

Mixologists, bartenders, spirits experts and drink recipe developers have weighed in: the margarita is the most popular cocktail in the world. There are many reasons why, starting with the fact that the margarita equates to celebrating good times with friends.

According to Jeremy Bohen, a mixologist and co-founder of the canned cocktail brand QNSY, “The ingredients for a margarita are widely available and relatively inexpensive, and it doesn’t require much in the way of tools or technique. Plus, the flavors are straightforward enough for the occasional imbiber, but still sophisticated enough to appeal to a connoisseur.”

Yet as much as this cocktail generates happy vibes, it also requires attention to detail. Balance is the key. “Creating a well-made margarita is similar to dancing the tango,” said Gabriela Abaroa, a Sarasota, Fla.-based bartender. “The flavors are the complete opposite of one another, but they also complement each other perfectly.”

The margarita is a simple drink that uses only three ingredients. The basic recipe calls for 2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of orange liqueur (Cointreau is preferred), and one ounce of fresh lime juice. A dash or two of organic agave nectar or simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, warmed just enough to dissolve the sugar) can be used to sweeten the drink.

Cocktail experts are firmly in favor of “rocks,” with none of them preferring a blended drink. “A truly well-constructed margarita becomes too diluted when blended with ice,” said recipe developer Jackie Alpers.

“I definitely prefer rocks to frozen, because you get a better sense of the details when you don’t blend it into a slush,” said Eric Trueheart, co-founder of Black Yeti Beverage. “The slurpee margarita is a fun drink…but if you want to taste something complex, interesting and delicious, rocks is the best way to go.”

Home mixologists, take note: Before you get started, pop your glassware in the freezer. A minute or two in the freezer will keep your cocktail cold, in much the same way as oven-heated plates keep food warm.

There’s another factor that separates an average at-home drink from a “wow” cocktail, and that’s the quality of ice you’re using. If your ice tastes like the other things in your freezer, you’re in for an unpleasant tasty surprise. Be aware that ice turns to water after shaking and becomes a large portion of your drink. If you’re using flimsy ice, it will melt too quickly, producing a watery margarita. No bueno.

A proper shaker is a good investment, though a mason jar or something similar will do in a pinch. Shake a margarita for five to 10 seconds, depending on how vigorous you want to be. Avoid over shaking the cocktail. Otherwise you’ll water it down too much.

When shopping for a tequila for your margarita, choose a quality silver (blanco) tequila, which has a crisp, clean, vegetal flavor. Read bottle labels carefully when you’re shopping. Authentic tequila is made from 100% blue Weber agave. Take note of where the spirit was produced. For example, tequilas from the Los Altos region of Jalisco, distilled from oven-baked agaves, bring forward citrus and roasted agave flavors.

Los Cabos residents and visitors are lucky: they have access to fresh Mexican limes, which impart tartness and acid that can only be derived from native citrus. Fresh lime juice brings more to your drink than just its liquid. Hand-juicing Mexican limes will introduce the delicate oils which come from the peel. Citrus oils have a pungent aroma and add depth to a margarita.

Once you’ve mastered the art of juicing limes, you may want to experiment with flavors by tossing in other ingredients. Add freshly cut mango, strawberry, pineapple or cilantro to elevate your margarita. Some imbibers even use jalapeño and other peppers in their concoctions.

Whether you prefer the rim of your glass salted or unsalted, you can find a mixologist who shares your view. Alicia Perry, general manager at San Diego’s Polite Provisions, splits the middle. “When it comes to a salt rim, I always ask about the customer’s preference, because salt isn’t for everyone,” she said. “I personally prefer a partial salt rim, so I have a choice with each sip.”

Aficionados use local peppers to create homemade spicy salt to enliven their margaritas. Another interesting option is Gusano salt, a Mexican salt using the ‘worm,’ a grub that feeds on ripe agaves.

As for margarita garnishes, use fresh citrus twists or wedges, a dried lime slice or anything else you like.

If you’re a a Quivira resident who’d rather step out for a first-rate margarita, look no further than the Lobby Bar at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. The bartenders here specialize in the creation of the Signature Margarita. It is made with top-shelf Clas Azul tequila (the one in the blue and white ceramic bottle), Cointreau, Grand Marnier, agave syrup, and fresh lime and lemon juice. It is incomparable. Enjoy the banter in the wood-beamed bar--or savor the drink on the open-air terrace overlooking the ocean. Salud!