Girly Drinks

I wrote about Margaritas a little while ago. I stuck to describing the “canonical” recipe, rather than giving my own, because I hadn’t really perfected the drink. Since that time, I’ve been touching up and refining my recipe until, if I do say so myself, it is almost entirely perfect. The other day I was in a Dave and Buster’s, and had the opportunity to drink on someone else’s tab. Without thinking, I ordered a margarita on the rocks, and was given something well-nigh undrinkable. I knew my Margarita recipe was better than what you find in most bars, but I didn’t realize just how much better it was until I had refreshed my memory.

I’ll give you my Entirely Perfect Magarita recipe in a little while, but first let me wander afield and talk about something else that happened recently. It starts, as so many stories do, with my friend Nat.

“Hey!” I said to Nat, “I have the perfect Margarita recipe! Are you prepared to go from zero to drunk in 8.9 seconds?” “Sure,” he said, “although actually I haven’t been drinking many Margaritas recently. I’ve been making a lot of Sidecars.”

I’m all about the booze, but I have a poor memory for mixed drinks, and I’d never had a Sidecar. “What’s a Sidecar?” Wikipedia claims it is a descendent of the Daiquiri, which is almost the eohippus of the class: equal parts brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice, often served with a sugared rim. Intrigued, I set aside my Margarita experiments and spent a week madly making (and, er, drinking) sidecars, using different types of brandy and different types of lemon. I mentioned to another friend of mine whether he knew of a bar in town that made a decent sidecar so I could have a reference against which to judge. His answer was quick: “No, I don’t know any bars where I could get a sidecar,” he laughed, “because I’m not a girl.”

This sort of thing has gotten me into trouble before. Once, when put on the spot in a bar I’d never been to, I blurted out the first drink I saw on the menu. “I’ll have, uh, a Cosmopolitan.” I had absolutely no idea what a Cosmopolitan was; it turns out that it is a ridiculous pink martini. I’m not insecure in my sexuality, but you simply can’t avoid it: a man drinking a pink martini might as well be wearing a dress. I spent the rest of the night getting funny looks from everyone around me, and when I left was half- convinced that people at the bar might follow me home and beat me up for my lunch money.

So there is this concept of “the girly drink” that floats around in the zeitgeist. What is it that makes a drink girly? We should note that “girly” does not, in fact, mean that only women drink these drinks. First off, there are plenty of women who drink real drinks: witness Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Furthermore, the success of Chi-chis is not based entirely on 45 year old twice-divorced legal transcriptionists going out for Ultimate Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris. For every woman at a bar drinking a girly drink, you’ll find a guy drinking one too. OK, it’s true that he’s just trying to convince her to drink more so that he can take her home in his Camaro and score, but that’s not the point. The point is that just as our culture has embraced fake food and fake political debate because they are more convenient than the real thing, we have embraced fake cocktails as well. When I call something a “girly drink”, it’s that easy acceptance of mediocrity that I am in fact trying to evoke.

Some drinks are born girly, while others have girliness thrust upon them: we’ve already established here that although “Daiquiri” today connotes a fruit smoothie specifically constructed to hide the taste of booze, the real daiquiri will knock you for a loop, pillage your cattle, and write a Hemingway novel before you cure your hangover. One classic sidecar recipe calls for cognac/lemon juice/Cointreau in an 8:2:1 mixture. So the girliness of a given drink is often in its implementation.

A week spent downing innumerable sidecars, with varying grades of brandy and cognac, has convinced me that I still like Magaritas better. So here, with no further ado, is my discussion of the Entirely Perfect Margarita.

I’ve already discussed how to make a good Margarita: use a decent tequila (100% blue agave), and Cointreau instead of any other triple sec. The two things that separate the Entirely Perfect Margarita from the others you’ve had are the citrus juice, and the proportions.

Limes are problematic. Perhaps people in sunnier climes don’t have this problem, but at least where I am I cannot get limes that taste the same year ‘round. One batch is bitter and acidic, another batch is sour and juiceless, a third batch is sweet and lemony. The point is that around a third of your Margarita is subject to the vagaries of whatever limes got delivered to your grocer this week. I have found a way to solve this problem. Instead of persian lime juice, I use the juice of two key limes combined with the juice from half a (small) lemon. This will give you the exact taste you’re looking for in a Margarita, and will be much more consistent to boot.

Second, I use a 1:1:1 ratio of all the ingredients, rather than the more traditional 2:2:1 of juice:tequila:Cointreau. 1/3rd key lime and lemon juice, 1/3rd tequila, 1/3rd Cointreau, shake over ice and serve. Make this for guests and you’ll be a superhero.

Just make sure you get their keys, first.