A Perfect Margarita

A perfect Margatita. Shaken, not blended.Yeah, yeah, I know. When you are eating barbeque, you should be drinking beer. It’s one of those Great Truths Of Life. And it’s definitely hard to argue with the pairing of a good cold beer (none of this Coors Light business) and smoky saucy juicy meat … as perfect pairings go, it’s right up there with Starsky and Hutch. It’s also true, however, that variety is the spice of life and you should definitely have a couple of go-to cocktails in your repertoire. You want something that is quick and easy to make, pairs well with barbeque, and works as a premium refresher in the summer heat.

Regular readers, of course, will already have the “Faux-ito” on standby. Today we will add to that by busting out the tequila (but not the blender) and lay down a perfect Margarita. There are no tricks here – just remember that the quality of your ingredients is key. In a properly balanced Margarita all four of the flavours are front and centre, and there is no place for second-rate hooch to hide. Start with good booze and everything else flows from there. Grab your shaker and keep reading!

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Before we go any further, let’s get something straight: A frozen Margarita is not a Margarita at all. It’s a Slurpee with alcohol in it. I have nothing against Slurpees – in fact, I still wax poetic about the long-lost and much-lamented Chocolate Slurpee. But the sad fact is that the frozen “Margarita” (and yes, this is definitely the correct usage of quotation marks) was only invented to cover-up the taste of cheap tequila by numbing your taste buds with an overload of ice. After the first mouthful you could be drinking lime Kool-aid and rubbing alcohol. In fact, if you have the misfortune to stop in at a TGI Fridays, you probably are. A real Margarita is a celebration of flavours, not a way to hide them. So ditch the blender, assemble your ingredients, and let’s get shaking. For each perfect glass, you need:

1.5 oz blanco (AKA silver) tequila (see note below)
1 oz Cointreau (see note below)
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (see note/recipe below)

A Note About Tequila: You want a blanco tequila for a Margarita, period. Reposido tequilas are great for sipping, but to balance the sweet and tart components here you need the little bit of a sharp edge that a blanco brings to the table. And it must be 100% agave – none of this blended crap. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t drink it straight (and by straight I mean straight, without any of this rookie lime and salt guff) then you shouldn’t be putting it in your Margarita. Good choices that won’t break the bank are El Jimador (my personal favourite for an everyday Margarita) and Herradura. If the bottle says “José” anywhere on the label you should probably just put it down and back away.

A Note About Cointreau: Some people say that you should use triple sec in a Margarita. Some people say that Cointreau and triple sec are interchangeable. Some people are idiots. Cointreau brings more of a natural orange flavour to the drink, and that includes some bitterness. I firmly believe that the bigger flavour of Cointreau and the addition of sugar in the simple syrup gives you a better overall flavour hit. Period.

A photo of generic dollar store plastic squirt bottles

Yes, this kind of squirt bottle.

A Note About Simple Syrup: For some reason, a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of making syrups. Fear not – it couldn’t be simpler (heh heh). In a small saucepan combine equal amounts of sugar and water. I use 175ml (about 3/4 cup) of each, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. Heat to hot but not boiling, while stirring. As soon as the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and let the syrup cool in the pot. And … done. Really. If you use the amounts mentioned you will find that the finished product fits into a typical dollar-store 99 plastic squeeze bottle with enough room left for 1 tablespoon of vodka. Why add vodka? Because that way it keeps good in the fridge for at least a month, that’s why.

So. After a freaking novella about the ingredients (I told you that they were important), we finally get to the recipe proper. Luckily, this part is quick and easy. Fill your glass of choice (I like to use a traditional old-fashioned glass) about 3/4 full of ice and swirl it around for a moment to chill the glass. Dump the ice into your cocktail shaker, then add all four ingredients. Shake it until the outside of the shaker frosts up. Pour everything into the glass unstrained, and decorate with a wheel or wedge of lime. Finito. I told you it was easy. Now sit back and enjoy.

What’s that? Rimming the glass? Personally, I’m not a fan of the salt-rimmed glass – I think the salt just dulls the taste of the tequila, and I highly suspect that back in the day this was just another way to disguise crappy booze. But if you feel the urge, go crazy. Just remember to rim the glass after you dump the ice into the shaker but before you pour your drink. You’re welcome.

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