Ah, the Margarita, one of the most bastardized drinks on the planet.
When you can find pre-mixed cocktails in plastic bottles, you know the drink is ruined. I am personally not a lover (or even liker) of tequila, honestly. My father used to call it “Ta-Kill-Ya,” and for me, he was almost right. We all have our tequila barfing stories and mine is just like most others, I’m sure, but I will spare you the details.
There really weren’t many opportunities for me to learn to love or appreciate tequila as a cocktail spirit. My only knowledge of it was serving up Jose Cuervo at Chi Chi’s in my late teens, or begrudgingly doing shots and praying the salt wouldn’t run out. That was how it was until I traveled to Mexico.
It was sometime in the mid 1990’s. A few girlfriends and I took a trip from San Francisco via LA to Cabo San Lucas; this was right before it became “Cabo,” aka Obnoxious-Spring-Break-American-Asshole-Takeover.
We were staying in a really nice hotel, because one of the gals had a boyfriend in high places or something. Who cares? Anyway, there was a really nice bar in the hotel, and the bartender was native to the area, and as it turns out, a very talented mixologist. One of the first questions he asked us when we sat down were what type of alcohol we usually drank and what our favorite scents were. I was really blown away and very intrigued by this question. At the time, I was very into rum and my favorite scent was either Gardenia or Orange Blossom; I couldn’t decide. I sarcastically mentioned that my drink better not be a Margarita.
Well, he smiled and went to work, quickly chopping, muddling, dashing and splashing all sorts of things into his cocktail shakers. I was focused on his bartending skills while my friends were a little more interested in his flirty commentary. I fully expected him to present us with some wild, exotic, never-before-seen concoction.
When he was finished, each one of us was presented with a beautiful, vibrantly-colored cocktail with gorgeous floral and fruit garnishes. We all asked what they were and he said: “Just take a sip and then I will tell you.” So we did. Mine was familiar, but I couldn’t place the flavors exactly. It was absolutely amazing.
Then I asked what my drink was, and he replied: “Margarita, senorita!” I almost slapped him in his stupid, attractive, nice, talented face. “Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I asked. After the shock subsided, I took another sip. I didn’t want to be rude. Maybe I was just imagining how delicious it was. Nope, it was, in fact, delicious. But how could this be?
I finally asked him what the heck kind of Margarita that was, told him that I had never tasted anything like it, and I really didn’t even like tequila. He replied: “This is a Gold Margarita, made properly with fresh ingredients and a true Mexican hand.” After begging and flirting as much as I could, he finally told me what he put in it. Ever since that night, it’s the only tequila drink I will consume and it’s the only way I will make Margaritas. I found out sometime later that Margaritas are not even really a cocktail of choice in Mexico for locals. Clearly, this bartender had a mission to teach us silly Americans how to appreciate tequila properly.
So, first a quick word about the history of the Margarita, which is a much debated topic. No one really knows who or when the Margarita was invented! I have read many accounts of purported claims of Margarita inventions, but most agree, as do I, that it is highly unlikely a person of Mexican descent actually created this cocktail. You can choose to believe it was named for Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino). I mean, who wouldn’t name anything and everything for this stunning lady?
One of the most prevalent stories I decided I liked is the story of an American socialite of the 1940’s named Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames. A Dallas, Texas native, she was known for throwing lavish parties at her Acapulco holiday home and credited herself with creating the drink in 1948. Among her well-connected guests was Tommy Hilton, who eventually added the drink to the bar menu at his hotel chain. And there you have it. Thanks a lot, lady!
So, seriously, if you do not love tequila, but you want to be cool like all the other kids and drink a Margarita, drink it like this. Here is my recipe:
- 3 Jiggers Reposado Tequila (Dos Lunas is a really nice choice and well priced; a quality tequila is absolutely necessary)
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Cointreau
- 2 Teaspoons Partida Agave Syrup
- 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice (sweet & sour mix is just forbidden, and plain gross!)
- 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeeze Orange Juice (this is a key ingredient)
Shake well with ice. Put some muscle into it! Then wet the rim of a wide rim cocktail glass.
Pour some coarse Kosher salt onto a small plate, tip the glass upside down, and turn like a screw to coat the rim with salt.
Strain and pour the Margarita into your salted glass, and garnish with a fresh lime and fresh orange wheel.
If you don’t have too many, I can almost promise there won’t be any barfing stories to follow this cocktail.