In honour of Jimmy Buffet's legendary cocktail song we've deconstructed the noble margarita and come up with a couple failsafe recipes -- enough to have you “wastin' away" right through to the fall. NOTE: not responsible for lost or stolen shakers of salt.
Margaritas come in many shapes, sizes and colours but a basic margarita is made with three ingredients -- tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice, then shaken with ice. Although, if you insist on blending yours with ice, we'll let it slide. However, if you have a bottle of “gold" tequila in your cupboard and insist on using that to mix drinks, we're sorry but that just will not do and you should dispose of it immediately.
Types of tequila
There are four types of tequila: Blanco. Joven, Reposado, and Anejo. Blanco or silver as it's also called is clear and bottled right from the still. Joven is silver tequila with colouring added to it -- also known as gold (see note above). Reposado and Anejo are aged, usually in French oak barrels, lending them a more mellow and refined flavour. If you want a great tasting margarita use one of these types. You'll pay more for them but it's the equivalent of staying at a four-star resort on a secluded Mayan beach as opposed to a hostel in the depths of Mexico City.
Orange liqueur also has many incarnations including triple sec/Cointreau, curacao and Grand Marnier. Curacao is made from sour or bitter orange peels in the Caribbean and comes in three colours, orange from ripe oranges, green from unripe oranges and blue, from lots and lots of colouring. More refined is triple sec and the best example is Cointreau (sec meaning dry and triple from the three-time distilling process) but most bartenders and aficionados will agree that either Cointreau or Grand Marnier make the tastiest margaritas. Grand Marnier is made with cognac and therefore lends a smooth brandy flavour to the drink -- all a matter of personal taste though.
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The final ingredient in a classic margarita is lime juice. Seemingly insignificant however a perfectly good cocktail using Añejo tequila and Cointreau can be ruined with the addition of anything other than fresh-squeeze lime juice. Don't ruin your booze with powdered bar mixes -- we implore you!
With all of the options for tequila and orange liqueur the experimental bartender can have many a party and never serve the same margarita twice -- especially if you start substituting other liqueurs like Chambord or peach schnapps for the triple sec.
These measurements are just guidelines -- mixing drinks is like cooking, if you want more sweet-orange flavour add more Cointreau. If you like a more diluted cocktail add another ounce of lime juice or pour over a full glass of ice and let it slowly dilute your drink. The key is to have fun experimenting -- no matter how long it takes to come up with the right measures for you.
1 1/4 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. Cointreau
1 1/2oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
Run lime wedge around rim of margarita or martini glass and dip into kosher or coarse sea salt (table salt contains iodine and tastes terrible). Combine tequila, Cointreau and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously until slushy sounding. Pour into rimmed glass and garnish with a lime wheel.
Rosa Mexicano restaurant in New York City has been mixing a version of this drink for over a decade. Delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day, the addition of tart-but-sweet pomegranate liqueur is an exotic twist on this classic cocktail.
2 oz. tequila
1 oz. pomegranate liqueur
1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
Run lime wedge around rim of margarita or martini glass and dip into kosher or coarse sea salt. Combine tequila, pomegranate liqueur and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously until slushy sounding. Pour into rimmed glass and garnish with a lime wheel.
What's the perfect addition to your margaritas? Layered Mexican Dip! Click here for the recipe from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen.
Dave and Ryan are the authors of Cooking with Booze (Whitecap Books, 2006). For more margarita ideas visit www.cookingwithbooze.com
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