The Margarita is a chilled cocktail labeled as an “all day cocktail” by the International Bartender’s Association, which must mean that it is an appropriate concoction at both 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., right? Generally served in a shapely glass with a rim of salt, the Margarita is the perfect option for a girl’s night, a cookout, or an afternoon by the pool.
Few people can’t finish the line “Wasting away in – .” securing the Margarita tropical leanings and a prominent spot in our social conscious. A whole host of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville bars are strung throughout Key West, the Caribbean, and points near and far, all in homage to one spicy mamacita of a cocktail.
The Margarita is also one of those cocktails that has been added to, experimented with and transformed every which way. It can be served frozen, straight up, or chilled, and it can be found with variations on the spirits and juices used. However, the perfect Margarita is made in traditional fashion with tequila, which perhaps is why Mr. Buffet can’t find his shaker of salt.
The History of the Margarita
There are many stories for explaining the origins of the Margarita, and each has as much of a possibility of being true as the next. There are stories that the Margarita was a chance concoction that resulted from accidently putting tequila in some other drink, such as a Sidecar or the Daisy (and the Spanish word for daisy is margarita). Other stories claim that it was a drink to honor one of any number of women named Margarita.
Most accounts base its origins around the age of Prohibition in the U.S., when the necessity for alcohol became the mother of invention. Many really stellar drinks have their origins in Prohibition, when those thirsty for alcohol put their minds to the problem. Truly, it’s the same ingenuity that put a man on the moon.
Jose Cuervo claims that its tequila was used to mix the first-ever Margarita. While the actual origins are hard to prove, the story of the Margarita has all the elements of a great legend: One part creativity mixed with two parts mystery, for one tasty drink.
The Necessary Ingredients
The Margarita involves a bit of planning; it’s not a drink that you can whip up with three fingers of this and a dash of that. You must first get your ingredients in order. You will probably want to keep them in order after that to make the next batch. Remember, you are drinking tequila after all.
First, you will need Margarita glasses, though the drink can be served in old-fashioned short glasses. However, the cocktail does seem most at home in the curvy glass that bears its name.
You will also need tequila, the main component in the Margarita. One Margarita has 3.5 centiliters of tequila, the equivalent of one liquid ounce or one shot. Additionally, the International Bartender’s Association recommends Cointreau as the second ingredient. Cointreau is a brand of triple sec, a liqueur made in part from oranges. A Margarita has two centiliters of Cointreau.
The perfect Margarita deserves the best ingredients, so your prep should also include squeezing some limes for fresh lime juice. You will need about 1.5 centiliters of fresh lime juice for each Margarita.
Lastly, you need salt for the rim of the Margarita glass; it is the finishing ingredient to make a Margarita authentic. Salt and tequila are well paired throughout drinking culture anyway. It is recommended to use coarse salt or kosher salt, as the large particles are not overpowering like fine table salt.
Now that you will also need ice and a shaker to mix your ingredients. Fancy mixing skills that include tossing the shaker in the air and catching it behind your back before pouring are optional, but totally desirable. To make a large batch, you can double, triple, or quadruple your ingredients as needed.
Building Your Margarita
Pour your tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice in your shaker. Add ice and mix by shaking vigorously. This is the point where you can show off your theatrical bartending skills, but move anything breakable out of the way beforehand.
Your next step is to add your rim of salt like icing on a cake, and there are many suggestions for this step. The sexiest option is to run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, and then swirl the glass through a heap of salt.
Then, carefully pour the contents of the shaker into your Margarita glass. A steady hand is needed, as you don’t want your concoction to pour over the salt, or it will ruin the effect. Add a garnish of lime wedge to the side of the glass if you desire, and then enjoy!
Variations on the Margarita
The Margarita is such an icon that many have attempted variations to create a wider selection for this salty, sour drink. For one, many use ice that has been chipped in a blender to create a frozen Margarita, much in the style of a daiquiri or colada. Other brands of triple sec are also used, adding a different flavor or color.
The International Bartender’s Association also suggests that fruit of any kind can be added to the Margarita mixture for additional flavor, texture, and color. However, the mixing of the traditional Margarita should be perfected before you begin to experiment. That means several batches of Margaritas at several different functions including your closest friends, so start planning!