A Really Good Margarita

Below, as a guest post, is the recipe A Really Good Margarita from my friend Steve Rive in Toronto. I can attest it’s prima! He took the image as well.



How to Make a Really Good Margarita


  1. Ingredients: Don’t bother with any fancy, expensive tequilas or with Cointreau, which is also expensive. A basic tequila and Triple Sec will do just fine for a mixed drink of this kind.  (The exception is if you want to substitute a smoky mescal for the tequila, where the flavour of the mescal is quite distinct and will stand out.)  However, you absolutely must have fresh limes.  This is the key to a really good margarita.  It is also why I don’t order margaritas in bars and why a lot of people think that they don’t like margaritas: the use of lime syrups that are too sweet and have the flat, dull taste of artificial flavourings.  In a really good margarita the tart burst of freshly squeezed lime juice is tempered by the Triple Sec alone.  No sugar! The other essential ingredient is kosher salt for the rims of the glasses.  The very large grains make a huge difference, both to the tactile feel of the salted rims on the mouth and tongue, and to the sour/salty “pre-taste” that is essential to the whole margarita drinking experience.  Of course, the other essential point is to use lime juice, not water, to stick the salt to the rims, as set out below.  Otherwise, there simply is no sour/salty pre-taste.


  1. Equipment: You will need glasses, a shot glass for measuring, and a container of some kind in which to mix the ingredients. (A stainless steel cocktail shaker is the ideal mixing container, but a glass container is OK too.) You will also need a manual, stainless steel citrus juicer—the kind with a dome and strainer on top and a little dish below to collect the juice.  This two-part design is the best in terms of function.  But the stainless steel is important too.  What adjectives come to mind when you think of what a really good margarita should be? “Sharp,” “tart,” “tingling,” “clean,” “fresh,” “refreshing,” “crisp,” “bracing”—i.e., the opposite of what you think of when you think of mulled wine, or a good cup of hot chocolate.  And that is stainless steel.  It has a similar, slightly electric tingle on your tongue.  It even smells clean!  Stainless steel also feels good when you handle it and is strong enough to allow you to press down really hard to squeeze out every last drop of juice. No plastic!


  1. Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the juicer and remove the top part of the juicer. Now rinse and dry your hands, so you don’t make sticky marks on the glasses, dip the rim of each glass into the dish of the juicer to coat it with lime juice, and then—keeping the glasses upside down–sink each rim into a plate of kosher salt.  You don’t want salt falling off the rims into the glasses, so before turning each glass upright, pat it on the bottom or tap it on the sides to knock off any loose grains.  Put the glasses upright in the freezer. Note that we salt the rims before we have squeezed all of the lime juice that we are going to need.  This is in order to get the glasses into the freezer as soon as possible. The longer they spend there the better.


  1. Squeeze the rest of the lime juice that you need, using the shot glass to measure it out into the mixing container. How much you need depends on the size and the number of margaritas that you are making.  The proportions are equal parts of lime juice, Triple Sec, and tequila.  I use 1 ½ ounces of each per drink.


  1. You now have in your somewhat sticky hands a shot glass that is coated inside and out with the lime juice. At this critical stage in the process, when all of the really hard work has been done, pour some tequila into the shot glass, let it soak up the lime juice residue inside and then knock it back.  Savour it.  Let it roll around in your mouth for a bit while you stare absently at the wall, or, what is better, out of the window at the back garden, lost in thought.


  1. Swallow.


  1. Thus refreshed and fortified, you are ready to mix. Rinse and dry your hands again. Add the equal parts of Triple Sec and tequila to the lime juice in the mixing container and stir.  If you are making the margaritas in advance, you can now put the mix in the fridge to let it chill.  But the pre-chilling is not essential, and if you leave the mix in the fridge too long, you lose the immediacy and freshness that is the essence of what a really good margarita is all about.


  1. Remove the glasses from the freezer. Take the mix out of the fridge, give it a final stir, and then fill the glasses, being careful to pour into the centre of each glass, so you don’t wash salt off the rims.  Add ice. (A recent innovation is to use just one of those really large ice cubes.  This has the usual cooling effect, but with less rapid melting, and therefore less rapid dilution, due to the larger cubes having a lower ratio of surface area to volume.  But ordinary ice cubes are fine.  The key thing obviously is that you want the margaritas to be cold.)


  1. That’s it. Your guests will be wondering why they have never tasted a margarita that is this good before.


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