Mixology Basics: The Margarita

Mixology Basics: The Margarita

According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the margarita is derived from the Brandy Daisy (margarita means "daisy" in Spanish.) Daisies are a family of cocktails that include a base spirit, liqueur, and citrus. The Margarita is simply a Brandy Daisy made with tequila instead of brandy. Other "Daisies" include the Sidecar and the Gin Daisy.

After considerable testing, this is the recipe I ended up with:

The Margarita

  • Lime wedge
  • Black lava salt for the rim. (I get mine from The Meadow)
  • 2 oz, 60 ml 100% Blanco Tequila
  • 3/4 oz, 22 ml Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz, 22 ml Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/4 oz, 8 ml Simple Syrup

Spread the salt on a piece of parchment paper longer that the circumference of the glass. Rub the lime wedge around the upper 1/2" of a rocks glass. Roll the rim of the glass in the salt coating the rim. Add one large ice cube to the rocks glass. Pour the remaining ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake for 30 seconds or until cold, and strain into the glass.

A Word About Agave-based Spirits

It's helpful to know the various styles of tequila. Each has its own characteristics and knowing them will help you make better choices about the type of tequila to buy depending on your preferences and what you want to do with it.

Blanco Tequila: Tequila in its purest form.  Most Blanco Tequilas are bottled immediately after distillation which results in bright agave and herbal notes. Blancos are crisp and refreshing which makes them perfect for citrus-based cocktails like a Margarita or Paloma.

Reposado Tequila is aged for at least two months and up to a year in white oak. It will have notes of vanilla, honey, and toasted nuts and tend to have a smoother finish than Blancos. If you prefer warm notes of Reprosado you can use it in any recipe that calls for a Blanco. Reposado is also a great substitute for bourbon in an old-fashioned and even better if you replace the sugar with agave nectar.

Anejo Tequila is aged for one to three years aging in whiskey barrels, they are often a favorite for those who prefer brown spirits. Flavor can vary a lot depending on the style of the Master Tequilero.  Anejos are best sipped neat or with a little water and ice. They're also a good alternative in cocktail recipes that call for whiskey, cognac, and other brown spirits.

Extra Añejo Tequila is aged for three years or more in oak barrels and is the ultra-premium version of tequila.  More time in contact with wood produces richer amber color and aromas. Like aged cognac and whiskey, they have deep notes of caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla. Enjoy it neat or over ice.

Cristalino Tequila comes from aged añejos and extra añejos Tequilas, filtered through charcoal. This is done to remove tannins and bring forward floral and fruity notes while maintaining the aromas of vanilla and caramel from the aging process. The flavors are softer, lighter, and a bit sweeter than other tequila styles. Like Blanco tequila, Crstalino is clear in color. It is used in cocktails for a deeper flavor with a clear color or sipped neat.

Joven or Gold Tequila, though often thought of as interchangeable but are actually two different styles. Joven tequila is a blend of Blanco and an aged tequila like reposado, Añejo, or extra Añejo to have the best of both worlds: the lightness of a Blanco with the rich flavors of aged tequila. Gold Tequila is generally colored and flavored with caramel, oak extract, or other additives. They often fall into the category of mixto Tequilas which contain less than 51% agave sugars. For this reason, I do not recommend them. Always look for 100% agave when purchasing tequila



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