The Perfect Margarita
In most circles it is agreed upon that a classic Margarita ingredients are tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. But the eternal question is how much of each? As with most things in life the secret is proportion; balance is everything people.
Having made many, many margaritas (don't judge me), according to all sorts of recipes, I have finally determined the best margarita in my books.
1 1/2 oz. tequila (100% agave a must, preferably a "reposado")
1 1/2 oz. triple sec or Cointreau
1 to 1 1/4 oz. of lime juice
1/2 tsp simple sugar
Salt for the rim of the glass
Shake all the ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker until the exterior frosts. Strain into a glass over rocks, or "up" into a cocktail glass. A slice of lime as a garnish, while not strictly necessary, is a civilized touch.
I think the reason these proportions work so well is the way I enjoy a margarita—with food as opposed to by itself. Were I to drink margaritas in the same time and place I drank a martini, I would probably prefer a more assertive, tequila-forward ratio. Instead the tequila should be presented in harmony with the other ingredients for a more balanced potion. For the same reason I prefer them on the rocks, rather than "up." They mellow a bit as the ice melts.
About the ingredients:
TEQUILA Since the most importantflavor of the margarita is the tequila, for the love of Mexico make sure you buy the best stuff you can get your hands on, so look for the "100% de agave" legend on the label of your bottle. If it isn't there, then up to 49% of your tequila is actually fermented cane sugar. And don't let the "gold" in the name or in the liquid fool you; it's caramel coloring added to make the colorless tequila more appealing. I like to use a "reposado," which is (usually) a 100% agave tequila that has been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months to a year. Unlike the "silver" tequilas, it has a mellower flavour, which I prefer. I always laugh when my friends say they love a cheap gold tequila. Have at er, but when I come to your house I'll bring wine thanks. Personally my favourite tequila right now is Cabo Wabo. Mmm, so good :)
TRIPLE SEC vs. COINTREAU Triple sec or Cointreau? The eternal question. Triple sec, a liqueur made from the skins of oranges, ranges in alcohol content from 15% to 30%, depending on the brand. Cointreau, a proprietary orange liqueur made from sweet and bitter orange skins, is stronger, at 40%. In a margarita the flavours are quite similar; it really comes down to how "boozy" you want your drink to taste. I like the lush orange note in my margarita, so I add an amount equal to the tequila.
LIMES Ahh the limes. The flavour of limes can vary considerably depending on the variety, season, weather, and origin, so I have provided a quantity range. You should try to taste your lime juice first before you mix your drink. If you have an aggressively sour, caustic batch of the stuff, use the smaller quantity. The addition of lime should be a refreshing one, not something to make your throat burn.
What about Key limes? Well, first of all, are about the size of a quail egg, and it takes ages and many, many key limes to get the smallest amount of juice from them. And the flavour difference? None. Zippo, Zero. Personally I value my time way more than that.
One last note: if you've gone to the trouble to find all the best ingredients for your margaritas, you owe it to yourself to shake them with ice rather than toss it all in the blender. A frozen margarita dulls the tongue with cold that it's practically impossible to taste it. Pour your margarita over ice, or strain it and drink it "up" (if you're feeling elegant), to get the very most out of your labours.