Margarita Amateur Hour

You’d think, since I’m always bossing people around and telling them what booze to drink, that I’d have strong opinions on Margaritas and tequila. After all, I have already written booze-snob instructions on how to make the perfect daiquiri.

But here’s the thing: I don’t really know anything about tequila. This lack of knowledge probably stems from university traumas. Sure, sure, I’ve heard people talk about “sipping tequilas,” but I was more familiar with what I call “gulping tequilas.” Or, to be perfectly accurate, “puking tequilas.”

Despite that, I’ve done a little research and can say a few things about margaritas. They’re probably all wrong, but if you were looking for sober reflection and informed opinion, you wouldn’t be reading a weblog, now, would you?

The canonical Margarita recipe is simple:

For the tequila, the only thing that really matters is that it be 100% blue agave. I settled on the Cuervo Tradiçional, a reposado, as giving a good flavor at a very reasonable price — about $20. In talking to tequila snobs, I’ve discovered that José Cuervo eats wolf babies and grinds up cute little bunnies for fun, and all of his alcohol is terrible and I’m a bad person for using it. But I stand by it as a reasonable choice for someone who doesn’t want to spend $50 on a bottle of tequila for mixing. It has a nice tang, and doesn’t have the attenuated, breathless taste that the bottom-end tequilas have.

I took the recommendation of a friend and also invested in a bottle of El Tesoro añejo, which ran me about $45 (note to faithful Tea Leaves readers: thanks for reading the google ads that appear on these articles, since they are funding my drinking. I’m not sure what my liver thinks about all this, though.) The El Tesoro was interesting — very smoky and full bodied. I liked drinking it neat, but it seemed wasteful in my Experimental Top Shelf Margarita. The smokiness was lost, and it wasn’t quite as bold in the mix as the younger reposado. So I’ll stick to the Tradiçional for mixing until I get a more economical good recommendation.

For the orange liqueur, use Cointreau. Using Grand Marnier is both wasteful of an excellent liqueur that should be drunk on its own, and it doesn’t really give the right tang to the drink. I actually tend to be somewhat generous with the Cointreau — my ratio is more like 3:2 tequila to Cointreau. Don’t use triple sec. It lacks joie-de-vivre.

A word about limes. The type of lime you use will have a major impact on the drink. When I have very bitter and sour limes, I tend to use less; when I have sweet and lemony-tasting limes, I tend to use more. I haven’t tried this with key limes yet, but given that my key lime daiquiris were much better than my persian lime daiquiris, I have high hopes.

Shake over ice. Pour into a glass. Drink. Post your results here after having a few glasses.