There are books with margarita recipes, lots of books. You may think that every possible idea has been explored, but that is far from true. I’ve presented my basic components for a margarita before:
- Orange liquor
- Citrus juice
- Simple syrup
The proportions can vary. I switch between 3:2:1:1 and 1:1:1:1. My favorite? Both. Yes, they do taste differently but in a blind test I’d have to think carefully about which is which. Good orange liquor and fresh citrus juice and that sugar syrup can be as compeling as the tequila.
In terms of specific ingredients, I do prefer lemon juice over lime. And that simple syrup is necessary. It really is. Even if you use lemon juice or lime, it is still not sweet enough. Bartenders far and wide have been slipping sugar syrup into their upscale versions of margaritas for decades. So, you may have to make up for some lost time.
However, the syrup in play does not have to be simple. I’ve posted a Habanero Honey Syrup here [you can find it with the search box] and in a margarita it is is a delightful powerhouse providing a second, lingering layer of heat for the drink. The citrus component can be dramatically shifted by using grapefruit juice. I find it offers the best of lemon and lime: there is sweetness ala lemon but there is characteristic edge that reminds me of lime.
Try this combination this weekend. Don’t go down just one path. Do both. Go whole hog and be prepared for margaritas at a level you have never experienced. Or read about in any book. Trust me.
I think that the margarita is the drink with the widest range of presentation. There are a zillion different versions. And, the thing is, even the basest version does have something to say for itself. Thank back, a year or two, a decade or three, to your first bar experiences. A bad chain Mexican restaurant. The margarita you ordered was made with sour mix and cheap, very cheap tequila. The salt was Morton’s. The taste was, actually, distinguishable and not terrible.
We all know what a margarita can taste like. Ah, but few us know how exceptionally wonderful the margarita can be. Over the past three years here, we’ve made progress in this blog. A real margarita must have some kind of orange liqueur. Good orange liqueur. Not Triple Sec. Not even good Triple Sec, but something Grand Marnier or, my favorite, Mandarin Napoleon.
And there’s sugar, perhaps in the form of sugar syrup. And lastly there’s proportions: 1-1-2-3 or 1-1-1-1, that last has the same amount of everything including simple sugar syrup. This particular recipe produces a superior margarita. I know. I test it weekly. Oh, one of those “1” things is citrus juice which I think should be lemon juice, not lime.
Progress is inevitable. Famed mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim in The Modern Mixologist has I believe gotten us very close to the ultimate beverage. Very close. His solution is to use lime juice but also lemon sour, a combination of lemon juice with simple syrup. And the proportions? As you will see this margarita is half booze and half juice/syrup. I will tell you in all sober honesty that this is the best margarita I have ever had. And, it’s pretty. That distinctive dark color comes from aged tequila. Here you want the smokey flavor that is not quite there yet in fresh, silver tequila. Do try this drink. Sip it, smile, and wonder what ever happened to that waitress in the long-ago Mexican restaurant. She seemed delightful.
Yield: One Cocktail
Preparation Time: 5 minutes with ingredients at hand
- 2 ounces tequila [Tony says silver, I say golden]
- 1 ounce orange liqueur
- 2 ounces fresh lemon sour [technique below]
- 1 ounce freshly squeeze lime juice
In advance make a batch of fresh lemon sour, which you will want to consume within 24 hours. Use two parts freshly squeezed lemon juice with one part simple syrup.
For the margarita itself, pour all the ingredients into a ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until ice cold, then pour into the glass of your choice. A glass rimmed with salt is idea. Rimming with sugar is, I know a sin, but I have priest who only charges one Hail Mary.
Recipe Source: The Modern Mixologist by Tony Abou-Ganim, 2010, Surrey Books
Photography: Canon T2i, 60 mm lens, f4.0 for 1/100 second at ISO 2000