Dirty snow has been on the ground for weeks, it’s been so cold for so long all your spare cash is spent on handwarmers and you’ve been fantasizing about getting on the first thing smoking heading anywhere warm.
Sounds like the perfect time for a little margarita madness. OK, so the weather isn’t exactly giving us the sun-drenched, beachy vibe normally associated with one of our favorite cocktails, but today actually is National Margarita Day. And let’s face it, we can all use a little fun to take out minds off our heating bills.
The origins of the Margarita are a bit murky. Some stories claim it was the brainchild of a barman named Willie in Mexico City back in 1934. Others say it’s the creation of an Irishman named Madden who whipped up the drink at his Tijuana bar. Another story has it that Carlos “Danny” Herrera invented the drink at his restaurant, Rancho La Gloria for a customer who could was allergic to all hard liquors except tequila.
Let’s leave the origin story aside and talk about the drink. The margarita is in the pantheon of cocktails that are considered classic. In its classic form, the drink is an elegant blend of three ingredients: 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. lime and 1 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec. But like with all good things, the details matter. Let’s talk about the tequila. It should be one made with 100 percent agave, which is the plant from which tequila is traditionally made. Go for a silver tequila and a good one. Doesn’t matter which brand, so experiment with many to find your favorite, as long as you remember to Keep It 100. I’m serious, use cheap tequila at your own peril. That awful headache and horrible hangover you have associated with drinking tequila since your college days? Yeah, that’s mostly due to bad tequila that is not 100 percent agave (also using overly sweet artificial mixers, which I’ll get to).
Next, is the juice. Leave the bottled margarita mix on the shelf. Invest in an inexpensive hand juicer and buy a bunch of fresh limes. Nothing tastes better than fresh ingredients in a drink. It’s the easiest way to upgrade and elevate your experience. Leave the pre-mix to the amateurs. This also opens the door to experimenting with flavors beyond the classic margarita. While you’re at the store getting limes, pick up some fresh berries, 100% pineapple juice (no sugar added), really any type of fresh fruit. Go ahead and grab some savory elements: baby radishes, bell peppers, basil. All of these can be used to make a great Margarita.
Lastly, you could go Triple Sec or Cointreau for your modifier. I prefer Cointreau– it consistently imparts a better taste than Triple Sec, in my opinion.Drop the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a salt-rimmed glass.One word on the garnish–the salted rim. Just rub a wedge of lime around the glass first, then invert the glass on a dish containing kosher salt.Once you’ve got the classic recipe down, feel free to play around with the proportions and ingredients. Maybe it’s a bit strong for your tastes. Bump up the amount of lime juice. Too tart? Increase the Cointreau a little. Muddle a few strawberries in the shaker along with the Cointreau and lime, add the tequila and ice, shake, strain and pour.
The same goes for any savory ingredients. Toss in a few basil leaves, kale leaves, baby radishes, what have you, in the shaker with the modifier and lime juice and muddle, add ice and tequila, shake, strain, pour, enjoy.
See, doesn’t that make you feel just that little bit closer to summer?