It’s time to make a margarita (always, but particularly today — National Margarita Day). Depending on your experience level, you might be thinking of a frozen drink, served in plastic cups. Or maybe you envision an alcoholic hipster smoothie, made with endless ingredients and negligible levels of tequila.
To which we say, “Know how to read sheet music before you try to improvise.” The margarita ought to be an un-complicated drink. At its basic level, it’s got just five ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, salt, and ice. That’s all you’ll need to make your own.
The margarita’s progenitor, the “daisy” cocktail (margarita is Spanish for daisy) was made with brandy, originally. France, Spain, and Germany’s colonization of Mexico over the centuries brought that spirit in. But as those European powers waned, the drink shifted from a brandy-based one to a local tequila-based drink. Clearly, we’re all better off for it.
The recipe below is a classic margarita with just five ingredients. I’m not salting the rim either. For one, it’s wasteful. But I’d also argue that it oversalts the drink, setting the balance of tequila, citrus, and savoriness off-kilter. If you want to salt your rim, no one is stopping you. But maybe try it this way first.
Let’s get shaking!
- 2-oz. reposado tequila (plus a splash from the bottle)
- 1-oz. fresh lime juice
- 1-oz. orange liqueur
- Pinch of salt (about the size of a lentil between your fingers)
- Lime wheel
I like to use a reposado in my margaritas. It adds a little extra depth to the whole drink. A plata, blanco, or silver is perfectly fine but can get lost in the mix. I had a bottle of Sierra Reposado already on my shelf, collecting dust, so that’s what I used. Generally, I’d go with an Altos Reposado or a Casamigos, if I want to get really fancy.
For the most part, the fresh juice from one lime will be about one-ounce. So I usually just squeeze the lime directly into the shaker. But if you’re going to be shaking all night, get a bag of limes, squeeze and sieve them, and store the juice in a bottle or jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Lastly, there’s the orange liqueur. Cointreau is the most noted one to use. That’s fine, but a little spendy. A solid triple sec will also get the job done. I’m using a mid-range triple sec from France that’s very bright-orange forward and costs about half the price of Cointreau in my liquor store. The point is to find a good orange liqueur that’s not one of those cheap plastic bottle mixers just called “triple sec.”
What You’ll Need:
- Rocks glass
- Cocktail Shaker
- Cocktail strainer
- Pairing knife
- Add ice to the rocks glass, set it aside.
- Add tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, salt, and ice to a shaker.
- Affix the lid to the shaker and shake until the outside of the shaker is ice cold and frosted over.
- Strain the margarita into the waiting rocks glass over the fresh ice.
- Garnish with a lime wheel.
It’s really hard not to love this drink. It’s salty, full of bright and layered citrus, and carries that distinct agave/tequila flavor while being light and f*cking crushable. The best part is that you can make two at a time. Just double up the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and salt and get shaking.
This is the sort of no-nonsense margarita that transports you straight to a thatched hut on a sunny Mexican beach, eating fish tacos for a $3-per-plate. It’s simple, delicious, and easy to make. A perfect classic to have in your cocktail-making repertoire.