How to Make the Perfect Margarita for Cinco de Mayo, Diagram-Style


Illustration credit: tabletinfographics.com

You don't need Triple Sec or fancy ingredients to make a good, basic margarita. That's exactly what a good margarita is, after all: basic. If you decided not to brave the Cinco de Mayo crowds this year, just follow the simple diagram above to make the perfect margarita at home.

The tequila itself should be as good as you can afford, since you're going to all the effort to juice key limes and -- maybe -- buy a good bottle of orange liqueur. Make sure it's 100 percent agave (if it says mixto on the bottle, move on).

Whether or not you buy blanco, reposado or añejo tequila is really a personal decision based upon your own palate. I'm a big fan of El Tesoro Platinum, a blanco (aged less than 60 days) tequila that has soft, buttery undertones despite its sharp, bright agave flavor. Fans of reposado (aged more than 60 days but less than two years) tequila might want to try the reposado from Partida. I'm not a fan of añejo tequila in margaritas, but your mileage may vary.

While orange juice and/or any orange-flavored liqueur isn't strictly necessary, some people enjoy adding it for an additional citrus undertone and sweetness. That's fine. We aren't judging you.

If you decide to add orange juice, make sure it's freshly squeezed like the key lime juice. If you decide to add orange liqueur, get something other than Triple Sec since you're aiming for a really nice drink -- you can just taste the cheapness of most Triple Sec liqueurs, especially in a simple cocktail like this.

Instead, get a bottle of Cointreau or even Grand Marnier if you don't mind its brandy taste in your margarita. Mind, of course, that these are higher in alcohol content than Triple Sec (and obviously higher than orange juice), so your drink will be decidedly boozier as a result.

Although you'll be tempted to buy bottled lime juice like Rose's, don't. As with the Triple Sec, you'll be able to taste the cheapness of the stuff and it will ruin your cocktail. I'm not saying this as a cocktail purist or an elitist -- I'm saying this as a person with a functioning tongue.

In essence, the perfect margarita comes from a combination of two things: quality ingredients and simple flavors. If you keep it straightforward and buy good base spirits, you're guaranteed a perfect margarita every time.



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9 comments
Dmontgomery
Dmontgomery

A Margarita consists of tequila, triple sec and lime. That's it. Make it with anything else and it's not a Margarita. (And, for the record, Cointreau is a brand of triple sec.)

Sorry, but you don't seem to know a lot about cocktails.

Doak
Doak

You know I love you, but when did a Margarita lose the orange liquor and add a non-alcoholic sweetener?  In all my days, I've always understood that the actual "Margarita" was some mixture of those three things in whatever proportions best suited one's tastes.  Adding or removing anything else made it another drink, despite the fact that folks might still call it a "Margarita." 

It's only in fairly recent history, when those damned "margarita mixes" hit the market did things get so out of control, and the lovely "Margarita" became some syrupy, cloying, frozen distortion of elegance.

My house Margarita is a 2:2:1 ratio of tequila:Cointreau:lime juice.  That is mighty boozy, but I do get rave reviews.  A few do find it a bit tart.  Since I keep simple syrup around, those folks can add a little to their drink.  I don't mind that at all.  I suppose if I kept agave nectar around, that would work at least as well for the same purpose.

Another secret is to leave the lime juice out for a good half hour or so (or even a bit longer) before making the drink, if you can manage it.  It smells and tastes even better.  That only works for lime juice, though.  Don't do that for orange or lemon juice. 

Michael Coppens
Michael Coppens

What are your thoughts about a true margarita being served up in a martini glass? And thank you for pointing out the cheapness of Triple Sec.

mfsmit
mfsmit

Big fan of the simple margarita.  One caveat: I wouldn't ADD Cointreau, I'd use it INSTEAD of the agave nectar, otherwise it gets too sweet.

Cattivo1
Cattivo1

I've heard about a habanero margarita....is that safe to try that at home?

Spartacus
Spartacus

Sit at La Fisheria's bright, sunny bar one afternoon and watch how they make the habanero margaritas. And make sure to drink a couple.

Doak
Doak

I've not done it with habaneros, but I have had good success infusing tequila with fresh jalapenos.  That has made some very tasty Margaritas.

I halve some jalapenos lengthwise, pour some tequila in a mason jar, add the halved jalapenos to the tequila, and let it work. 

A few jalapenos and no more than a couple hours are all you need to infuse a pint of tequila, typically.  Check it every 20-30 minutes, though.  You never really know what those jalapenos may be packing.

Wuwu
Wuwu

This is a great recipe, simple and always good...Cattivo...take and ice cube tray, put some jalapenos cut into thin rings, add them to the water and freeze them...when you serve them to guest they will love them and not to hot either...if you are brave then add thos habs for sure....cheers!

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