Who makes my heartbeat like thunder? Who makes my temperature rise?
Of course you know it, Margarita-aaaaaaa!
You’ve gotta believe it if Elvis Presley says it.
The Margarita is perhaps one of the most popular cocktails in the world. Americans consume almost 185,000 Margaritas per hour! A margarita is therefore not an insider tip for a busy bartender; it is a mass phenomenon.
The Margarita, like the Whiskey Sour, is exactly a sour cocktail. Even more precisely it belongs to the category of New Orleans Sours. Because of the very low sugar content, except from the liqueur, these drinks tend to be strong and acidic.
There are several variations of Margarita cocktail. However, the classic ‘rita is made up of three simple ingredients – tequila as the main spirit, Triple Sec (orange liqueur) and citrus juice. The classic way to serve your margarita is in a coupé glass with its rim covered in salt and a lime wedge added as garnish.
It is perhaps the most loved of all the summer cocktails. So much so that in the US, 22nd of February is celebrated as the National Margarita Day. This cocktail embodies the very essence of joviality, fun and the joyous expression of life.
As delicious as it is, it is simple to make too! The 3.4 million hashtags on Instagram is a testament to the love it receives. Not only that, Matthew McConaughey has his own Margarita recipe. And so can you, whether you like it frozen, on the rocks, with crushed ice or the classic way. With this guide, you’ll not only know what a “real margarita” is but also how to mix it yourself.
HOW DOES A MARGARITA TASTE?
Having a Margarita is an experience. Once you try it, you stick with it. It is fruity, sour, sweet and delicious. And oh, so tasty! Before even tasting the drink, you can taste the salt rim of the glass. Then comes the acidity of the lime followed by the mild orange sweetness from Triple Sec and finally the spicy tequila with its intense, earthy agave notes. Salty, sweet, sour, and a little smack of tequila spice – the Margarita sends one’s taste buds into a frenzy.
You can continue to savour the sweet-sour-salty taste for as long as a minute just after the very first sip. The cocktail is extraordinarily aromatic, even a minute after the last sip you will still feel the freshness of the drink on the palate.
A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT THAT SALTY RIM!
The salt rim is the most distinct feature of the margarita. The idea behind is simple – to soften the acidity of the cocktail.
Margarita has tequila as its main spirit. And because there is not much sugar in it except in the liqueur, margaritas are strong and sour in taste. So the salt on the rim provides a balancing effect, neutralizing the tingy bitterness of tequila and the sourness of lime. Additionally, it adds a third salty dimension to the sour and sweet drink.
- 2 oz Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- ¾ oz Triple sec
- 1 pinch Flaky sea salt (for the rim)
- Ice cubes and lime wedges
- Put two bar spoons of salt on a plate, rub the rim of a coupé glass with a halved lime.
- Wet with salt and freeze.
- Put the ingredients mentioned above in the cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
- Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Strain the drink into a glass.
- Tools : Shaker, strainer and jigger
- A coupé glass
WHICH TEQUILA TO CHOOSE
A tequila can be broadly organized into two categories – De Agave or Mixtos.
Tequila is a Mezcal, which refers to any distilled spirit made from the agave plant. But every Mezcal is not a tequila. A tequila has to be made by distilling the fermented juices of the Weber Blue Agave plant.
If you find a tequila with the label “100% De Agave” , it means the tequila is made only with Weber blue agave plant. It’s the one mostly recommended and used by bartenders and ‘rita enthusiasts and connoisseurs. The other kind of tequila i.e. “the mixtos” tequila consists of at least 51% agave and the rest can be sugar cane, grain or any other fermentation or coloring.
The unbridled agave power is only available with 100% De Agave tequilas. It is rather costlier, but has deep, complex flavour in it and much less burn as opposed to mixtos, which are cheaper and harsh in flavor which paves way for the burning sensation as you gulp it.
Further, how the tequila is aged will also play an important role in your decision to buy it for your margarita. There are three major types of tequilas depending on how much they have been aged:
- Tequila Blanco: The classic way to make a margarita – mixing it with high quality Blanco tequila.These tequilas are not aged and are bottled right after distillation. It is also called the ‘white’ or ‘silver’ tequila. The flavor is agave forward with notes of pepper and citrus and a spicy finish.
- Tequila Reposado: Reposado is Spanish for “rested”.Reposado tequilas are aged for 2 months to a year. It is relatively smoother in taste than Blanco tequilas, with vanilla,butter and brown sugar as its dominant flavors.
- Tequila Añejo: Añejo is Spanish for “aged”. And so, Añejo tequilas are aged more than reposado tequilas, for 1 to 4 years before use. Expect an even smoother tequila with notes of cinnamon,vanilla and smoke. These are generally more expensive than Reposado Tequilas because of their prolonged aging.
The classic way to prepare a margarita cocktail is to use the Blanco tequila for it’s dominating, unadulterated and earthy agave notes. The other tequilas, such as the reposado, añejo or even extra añejo tequilas, which can be called ‘gold’or ‘brown’ tequilas depending upon the duration of their aging process are more suitable for milder drinks such as the buttermilk margarita. Remember, Añejo tequila does not mean “the best”, it simply means “the oldest”. While Blanco or Reposado tequilas are most widely used for margarita cocktails, one must sip and taste the añejo tequilas first before trying it for their margaritas as they usually have very strong flavors.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEQUILA
Tequilas can be heavy. There are several ways to consume it. People consume it either as shots, with lemon and salt or as cocktails, like here in margarita. Choosing the right tequila can save you from the hustle of hangovers and headaches.
To avoid a tequila hangover, prefer the pure agave tequilas because they are low in sugar content while the cheaper mixtos tequilas contain low quality sugar to finish off the tequila which is more likely to cause a headache. Though the agave tequila is more expensive, it ensures better quality and less hangover.
There are tons of brands that offer pure De Agave tequilas. Many margarita lovers enjoy inexpensive tequila brands like Cimarron and Espolòn because they provide great de agave taste at affordable prices. Mid-Range Tequila brands such as Tapatio and El Jimador provide much more complex and nuanced flavors with stronger and richer agave notes in their tequilas and offer great value for your money. The Premium Tequilas vary in their aging notes and offer different taste profiles to suit your moods. The distillation process of these drinks offer profound flavors to them. G4 Reposado Tequila, for example, is distilled using springwater and rainwater. Premium tequilas diffuse the harshness of the drink and are so smooth, you can even take shots straight from the bottle. Below are some of the best tequilas to choose from for your margaritas :
Pocket Friendly Tequilas ( Below $20)
- Cimarron Blanco and Reposado Tequilas
- Olmeca Altos Tequila Plata
- Lunazul Blanco and Reposado Tequilas
- Espolòn Tequila Blanco
- Corazòn Blanco Tequila
- Calabrese Tequila Reposado
Mid-Range Tequilas ( From $20-$40)
- Herradura Reposado Tequila
- Azuñia Blanco
- Suerte Blanco Tequila
- Cabeza Blanco Tequila
- El Jimador Reposado Tequila
- Espolòn Tequila Reposado
- Tapatio Tequila Blanco
- Casa Noble Blanco Tequila
- Espolòn Tequila Reposado
- Cabo Wabo Blanco
Premium Tequilas ( Over $40)
- Fortaleza Blanco Tequila
- Tequila Ocho Plata
- Pasote Blanco Tequila
- Avion Reposado Tequila
- Fuenteseca Cosecha Blanco Tequila
- Siete Leguas Añejo Tequila
- El Tesoro Reposado Tequila
- Don Julio Blanco Tequila
- G4 Tequila Blanco
- G4 Tequila Añejo
You can try substituting cheaper tequilas such as Jose Cuervo, Monte Alban Tequila or Los Arango Tequila with above recommendations to treat your palate with richer, nuanced and deeper flavors of the classic spirit and see the difference in your margaritas yourself!
TRIPLE SEC – The Citrus Magic
It is the magic ingredient of several cocktails but to anyone who has never been behind a bar, a triple sec can be a perplexing term. Simply and broadly stated, Triple Sec is a category of dry orange liqueur made from bitter and sweet dried orange peels.
‘Sec’ is a French word which means ‘to dry’. Thus, in case of triple sec the orange liqueur is triple distilled. As Margarita belongs to the Daisy family of drinks, using triple sec is essential to obtain the citrus, tangy-orange infused flavor.
TRIPLE SEC VS COINTREAU
Triple Sec is both a category and the name of a product. Therefore, any bottle with a label of Triple Sec on it would mean an orange liqueur which can be used for your Margarita. The orange liqueur adds to the sweetness of the drink. Cointreau is nothing but a brand of triple sec liqueur.
The basic difference between an ordinary Triple Sec and a Cointreau is the alcohol concentration. While a triple sec usually holds up an alcohol percentage of about 15-30%, a Cointreau is made up with 40% alcohol. Cointreau is more expensive than an ordinary Triple Sec and has a smoother, cleaner finish which balances the taste between bitter and sweet, with warm spices that add complexity and nuance to the taste. Is Cointreau really necessary if you want your margarita to be a classic? Absolutely YES.
LIME OR LEMON
The classic Margarita recipe uses lime juice to add the zingy punch to it. The acidic quality of lime is a perfect fit for this cocktail. When preparing a high-quality margarita, one can’t avoid using fresh ingredients. It is always recommended to use fresh lime from the market. The simple method of pressing the juice directly into the drink will get you a good margarita, but if you want yours to be an edge above others, squeeze a handful of limes and let the juice stand for 4-12 hours before you use it. It’ll enhance the aroma and the freshness of your drink.
Additionally, you can make sure to use key limes which are tarter, juicier and more aromatic than regular limes for more intense flavor.
Here’s a pro tip : freshly squeezed lime juice over bottled lime juice. Anytime, Everytime. Bottled lime juice can never add the punch of freshness that fresh lime juice can. It’s often either too sweet, too sour, or too artificial.
To do away with your confusion, the round – green colored one in your market is the lime and that oval shaped bright yellow colored one is the lemon. While limes are a perfect fit for the margarita, some people might wonder upon using lemon juice instead. Well the decision is yours to make, only see this – both lime and lemon juices are 6% acidic solutions. The difference is that lemon juice is majorly citric acid which hits your palate right away and fades away as fast as that. Lime juice, however, contains both citric and malic acid and its impact stays a bit longer. The citric hits you first and as it fades, it makes room for the malic acid to work its magic on your palate and you get that wonderful aftertaste.
WHICH GLASS TO CHOOSE?
You’ve got to feel that “cheers” in your entire body as you raise your ‘rita glasses with your friends and family. For that, choosing the right glass is very essential. The best glass for your margarita really depends upon the recipe you are using. Popularly, margaritas are served in coupé glasses with the iconic salty rim. These are delicate and elegant. The wide and shallow saucer is a characteristic feature of this stemmed coupé glass, which is generally used to serve “up” drinks.
Other types of cocktail glasses such as Libbey Cactus glasses, Confetti Margarita Glasses or the Ribbon Margarita Glasses can be used depending upon which variation of the cocktail you are serving.
KNOW YOUR MARGARITA
Margarita is almost a century old cocktail. The experts disagree on who invented it. It is mostly believed to have been developed in Mexico. The most famous story goes back to Carlos “Danny” Herrera from the restaurant Rancho La Gloria who is said to have developed the drink for the dancer Marjorie King.
The margarita was first mentioned in 1938 in the recipe collection of the bartender William J. Tarling, but at that time he called the drink “Picador”. The drink got famous by its name in the 50s when it got its first mention in the Esquire Magazine.
A cocktail as wonderful and as popular as Margarita would be the last thing to enforce gender stereotypes on. There is no such thing as a girly or manly drink. A margarita sweeps everyone off their feet alike.
The number of calories in your margarita depends entirely on how it’s made and what are the proportions of ingredients used.
Margaritas usually have about 33% ABV.Generally, the calorie count in a margarita cocktail ranges from 150-200 calories per drink and can shoot up to 300 calories if more sugar based ingredients are used.
With this little history and knowledge on your tips, you can pick up your margarita glass and be the cocktail expert at the party that everyone looks up to!
There are several variations of the classic margarita recipe . Some of them are listed below:
Frozen Margarita has a pureed frozen texture which can be refreshing to consume if the weather gets extremely hot. There are several ways to make Frozen Margarita. Take the ingredients mentioned above, freeze them overnight and serve it with margarita salt.
Tommy’s Margarita is making rounds around the world. It was invented by Julio Bermejo at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco in the 1990s. This version uses agave syrup instead of a triple sec and therefore the flavor is crisp and agave forward.
Strawberry Margarita is served both frozen as well as on the rocks. The frozen version is prepared in a blender, unlike the classic margarita. You need all the ingredients used in the classic margarita along with frozen strawberries. Blend the ingredients in the blender until they are fully combined. You can add ice cubes to it as well.
For the on the rocks version, you can blend strawberries with sugar and water till they are completely smooth puree.Then using a fine mesh sieve, the mixture is to be poured into a glass. Finally, add tequila, triple sec and lime juice.
Strawberry Basil Margarita can also be prepared by muddling basil with strawberry the same way and mixing it with tequila, lime juice and triple sec.
Mango Margarita can be prepared using either fresh mangoes which can be chopped or frozen mangoes. Both of them can provide the creamy, frosty texture to your cocktail.
Blend the tequila, triple sec/agave syrup and lime juice with frozen mangoes and ice and you’ve got your new favorite ready for you.
Grapefruit Margarita can be prepared by mixing grapefruit juice with tequila, lime, triple sec and ice to add a citrus spin to this classic.
Using grapefruit juice to stick the salt to the rim of the glass can add additional bursts of tanginess to the drink.
Pineapple Margarita adds a tropical touch to the drink.
Simple mix the tequila, triple sec and lime juice with some pineapple juice in a shaker and strain it in a glass with some ice cubes. The sweetness of the pineapple and the sugary flavor of the triple sec make up the sweet tart flavor.
Kiwi Margarita uses the refreshing green beauty of Kiwi at its core. You can prepare the Kiwi juice by blending the kiwi until smooth and removing the pulp by straining through a mesh sieve. Shake the kiwi mixture with the core ingredients of the cocktail with ice cubes to get icy-green colored beauty. You can add a slice of the fruit or use the seeds to enrich the flavor of the drink.
Keto Margarita, or skinny margaritas are low on carbs. So if you’re dieting, this is the margarita for you. You can replace the Triple Sec with Orange seltzer or add a little bit of orange extract or some orange zest in order to control the calorie count of the drink. You can also add low calorie natural sweetener to increase the sweetness of the drink.
The Prickly Pear Margarita is one of the most unique versions of the drink. It’s characteristic pink color comes not from artificial coloring but from the prickly pear Cactus. Add the prickly pear syrup, which is magenta in color and has notes of watermelon and raspberry, to tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Strain the mixture in the lime salt glass and serve it with ice cubes.
Jalapeño Margarita uses a jalapeño pepper slice to add some kick to the cocktail. It’s crisp and spicy. Choose the quantity of jalapeño slices that suit you, 1-2 slices can be subtly hot while 3-4 can be very spicy, and mix them with the classic margarita ingredients. You may or may not use the pepper seeds. Strain the blazing hot mixture into a lime salt glass with ice.
Watermelon Margarita is reddish pink in color and irresistibly delicious with a salty touch to it. It can be prepared by blending the watermelon in a juicer and then mixing the fresh watermelon juice with lime, tequila and ice. Additional sweetener is not really required. The drink can be served immediately or can be chilled for a few hours before serving.
Rhubarb Margarita is prepared by mixing rhubarb juice with tequila, triple sec and lime. To prepare the rhubarb juice, heat the rhubarb in a pan with water poured in it. Bring it to simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium low until it begins to produce its juice. Strain the juice and remove the pulp using a mesh sieve. Let the juice cool down before you mix it with tequila,lime and orange liqueur and strain it in a glass with ice cubes. You can also use fresh mint to add to the freshness of the drink.
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