The Perfect Margarita

I learned to make these margaritas almost a decade ago in a palapa-roofed restaurant on Xcalacoco beach in Mexico. They are the real deal. As I’ve warned many a guest, these are not some fruity, blended Don Pablo’s abomination. No, these are authentic, tasty, tart, and potent pot-you-like-a-houseplant margaritas.

There are only 3 ingredients in the perfect margarita (well, 4 if you count the salt): tequila, orange liquor, and fresh lime juice. As with any recipe, the fewer the ingredients the better those few need to be.

For the tequila, you want 100% Blue Agave. Avoid the mixto tequilas that are blended with those god-knows-what cane or corn-based spirits that tend to be responsible for the growing of horns and the falling off of clothes. You don’t need to shell out for the older Añejo tequilas. Stick with a $20ish dollar a bottle Blanco (white) or Reposado (rested). El Jimador, Hornitos, Herradura, and 3 Amigos are all fine.

For the orange liquor, stay away from the cheap triple-sec. You need something sweet to balance the bite of the tequila and lime, but you don’t need something that’s just liquid diabetes. Go with Cointreau, Patrón Citronage, or Controy (an inexpensive but tasty hecho en México ripoff of Cointreau).

Fresh-squeezed, real lime juice, period. Look for Mexican limes, which are rounder, smaller, and more flavorful than the ones you usually see in the grocery store that look like green lemons.

Once you’ve got your quality ingredients, you need to have them in the perfect ratio. For me, I want a margarita that’s strong, but not harsh. The magic ratio of ingredients is even simpler than the ingredient list – 1 : 1 : 1. So for one drink:

2 ounces tequila
2 ounces orange liquor
Juice of 1 lime, about 1/4 cup
Salt for the rim of the glass

Rim the glass with a just a little coarse salt. Shake all the liquid ingredients with a little ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass (I use a double old fashioned) filled with ice. Or add a little more ice to the shaker and serve it “up” in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

For parties, I’ll typically fill a a pitcher with 3 cup : 3 cup : 3 cup mix and stash it in the fridge until it is cold. Then I’ll add a handful of ice and a few lime slices and serve it with glasses full of ice.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The only thing missing with these margaritas was not having my toes in the sand. Simple and clean – these had plenty of booze, and plenty of ice to cool them cold and not cripplingly strong. The lime nicely cut the sweetness of the orange liquor while letting the orange flavor shine. I used a Reposado tequila and the warm earthiness came through nicely without too much bite.

3 thoughts on “The Perfect Margarita”

  1. Awesome pictures and awesome drink! mmmmmmm! Let me ask a stupid question (I’m a beer drinker, primarily)…what is the right technique to get the salt to stick properly to the glass lip? Under the right circumstances, the falling off of clothes is a good thing.

  2. Thanks! I pour some coarse salt out on a salad plate, run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, and then turn the glass upside down onto the salt. Not too much, as it can overwhelm the drink.

    As to the falling off of clothes – it always depends on whose they are ;).

  3. “growing of horns and the falling off of clothes”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing 🙂

    Great classic recipe. I’ll have to make this for Alexis. She used to like the Slurpee margaritas but has grown to liking them like this over the past 5 years.

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