Margaritas. I have conflicting feelings about them. On one hand, the mere thought of sipping on a margarita made with the standard supbar restaurant’s powdered sweet-and-sour mix gives me a stomachache. On the other, the idea of a naturally sweetened, fresh margarita made with real lime juice makes me want to clap my hands and jump up and down. Truly, they are two entirely different animals.
When Shoko asked me to contribute to A Cup of Jo’s “The Best ____ You’ll Ever Have” series, I decided to try my hand at perfecting the real deal margaritas that I so enjoy. I took this task very seriously, of course. Copious amounts of tequila were consumed in my quest to create a margarita recipe that stands up to the audacious title of “The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have.”
After narrowing down the proportions of lime to tequila to sweetener, I invited my friend Emily over to help me finalize the margarita recipe. She happily obliged. We played around with the ingredients, made a big mess, sampled a lot of margaritas, got tipsy and, finally, landed on the perfect margarita.
The secret to the perfect margarita, we discovered, is to skip Cointreau/orange liqueur altogether and replace it with freshly squeezed orange juice. The difference is remarkable.
On Wednesday, to celebrate, I made these margaritas for my friends Alissa and Jordan. I poured the margaritas into their glasses and awaited their reactions. Their eyes lit up on first sip, and each proclaimed, “No really, this is the best margarita I’ve ever had!” It was just what I wanted to hear.
I really couldn’t be more delighted to be featured on A Cup of Jo, one of my all-time favorite lifestyle/design blogs. Joanna and Shoko, thank you ten times over! I wish you all a wonderful weekend with many margaritas.
- Kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) silver tequila
- 1½ ounces (3 tablespoons/about 1½ small limes) fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons/about ½ of a medium orange) fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
- 1 lime wedge or round, for garnish
- Pour a layer of salt onto a small plate (preferably one just slightly larger than the top of your margarita glass). Slice off a small piece of lime and run the wet edge of the slice along half of the rim of your glass. Dip the top of the glass into the salt at a 45-degree angle and roll it from side to side to catch the salt. Add ice cubes to your glass and set it aside.
- Fill a small cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the tequila, freshly squeezed lime and orange juice and agave nectar. Put on the lid and shake for 30 seconds. Strain the liquid into your glass and garnish with a slice of lime.
- Use 100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco. I recommend Milagro, Hornitos or Patrón.
- Citrus at room temperature is easier to juice than cold citrus, so take your limes and oranges out of the fridge an hour in advance. Here's another tip, from Brenda, a reader: Before you slice the citrus, roll it back and forth on cutting board, pressing slightly. Then cut it in half lengthwise, not across! You will get up to ⅓ more juice that way.
- Consider lining the rim of just half your glass with salt so you can control how much salt you taste with each sip (that’s a great tip I picked up from a recent issue of Bon Appetit). If you’d prefer a light sprinkling of salt all around the rim, just pour a very thin layer of salt onto your plate and run the lime slice around the entire rim of the margarita glass.
- Want to make a pitcher of margarita? For 10 drinks (about 45 ounces, or 5½ cups), combine 2½ cups silver tequila, generous 1¾ cup fresh lime juice (around 15 limes), 1¼ cup fresh orange juice (about 5 medium oranges) and 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light agave nectar. Mix well, and add ice. Don't forget to garnish your rims with lime rounds and coarse salt.
Fruity margarita variations:
(Keep in mind that since the fruit contributes liquid and sweetness, you might want to reduce the amount of orange juice and/or agave nectar in the original recipe):
- Muddle a few pieces of juicy fruit like strawberries, peaches, watermelon or mango at the bottom of your shaker before adding ice and the other ingredients.
- You can muddle up fresh herbs, like a couple of basil or cilantro leaves, for garden-fresh flavor or add a skinny slice of serrano or jalapeño pepper for heat. Strawberry basil (not shown) and grapefruit serrano (shown in the photo above, on the left) are both great combinations.
- Add a splash of fruit juice to your shaker. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is one of my favorites because it cuts through the flavor of the tequila. Pomegranate or cranberry juice would be festive during the holidays.
- For a fruity frozen margarita, blend the basic margarita ingredients in a blender along with 1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberry margaritas are my favorite, shown in the photo above, on the right) and a few ice cubes. Serve over a couple of ice cubes to slow the melting.
- Have fun with your rim salt. Mix in raw sugar or spices, like ground cinnamon or chili powder, to add an extra layer of complexity to your drink.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a good meal (enchiladas! fajitas!) or snacks (nachos, quesadillas) to complement your margaritas, check out my Mexican recipes.