Bobby Heugel's Weekly Cocktail: The Margarita
Nobody wants to talk about margaritas on May 6, the day after Cinco de Mayo. However, rather than avoiding discussing the source of the dreaded May 6 hangover, we thought we'd confront the Tex-Mex monster head-on. You can almost smell the lingering stench of artificial margarita mixes and poorly made tequila throughout the city today. Could there be a more perfect opportunity than today to appeal to Cinco de Mayo casualties everywhere to embrace a fresh, classic perspective on cocktails?
The margarita is the cocktail no self-respecting Houstonian can be preachy about. Regardless of their culinary and cocktail expertise, any local who claims not to enjoy the iconic frozen Houston happy-hour staple is lying through their quickly deteriorating teeth. Those slushy margaritas ranging in every color of the rainbow firmly planted next to that bottomless serving of chips and salsa is not only a guilty pleasure. Frankly, it's a Houstonian birthright.
The margarita, however, was not always served from those hypnotic rotating mind-manipulators that always seem to convince you to have just one more. The margarita, in fact, is a simple adaptation of a classic drink genre known as the daisy. Sure, several competing legends elaborately explain the origin of the margarita, but it is likely a cocktail that emerged in several different places and owes its origin to no single individual.
A daisy is a cocktail that is somewhat loosely defined but is usually composed of a spirit; lemon, lime or, occasionally, pineapple juice; and a sweetener that is typically a liqueur or some sort of a flavored syrup such as grenadine. Like most cocktails, daisies have evolved and changed drastically over the past two centuries, but the classic margarita is a perfect example of a prototypical daisy made with tequila.
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Despite the stories of hopeless margarita romantics, it is likely that people in several different places made basic tequila daisies that utilized orange liqueurs to sweeten the lime juice and tequila. A similar relationship was executed successfully in another classic cocktail - the sidecar, which consists of brandy or cognac, lemon and an orange liqueur. Even the Spanish word "margarita" translates to "daisy."
This is not to suggest that you walk into Café Adobe and order a frozen tequila daisy. They're likely to pitch you right off that notorious second story right onto Westheimer. However, the classic margarita is a fresh, vibrant cocktail that doesn't require a $3,000 margarita machine. Above all, a margarita made with fresh ingredients actually might be the best complement to bottomless chips and salsa. Just a simple recommendation to keep in mind 364 days from now...