Oh My… Margaritas!

Good morning campers — today is National Margarita Day! Have I mentioned how much I love margaritas? No, not those frozen, icky-sweet concoctions that come out of a blender, or some mess of bottled sweet-and-sour mix thrown together with Jose Cuervo Gold! I’m talking about the simple, delicious elegance of 100% blue agave tequila, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lime juice, shaken up with fresh ice and poured into a lime-and-salt-rimmed glass. *sigh* Yes, this is a day for celebrating! While you could head off to your favorite, local Mexican restaurant for today’s celebratory drink (nothin’ wrong with that, by the way), why not try making a batch at home?

Margarita ingredients
Four simple ingredients for a delicious, fresh margarita!

First of all, contrary to what you might read on the internet, there’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect margarita recipe. While a quick search of the interwebs will turn up a variety of religious arguments recipes for the perfect margarita, everyone’s palate is different, and the perfect margarita is the one that you like.

For me, the perfect margarita has a good balance of tartness and sweetness, while letting the flavor of the tequila shine through.  Blanco (also called silver) tequilas are ideal for margaritas because they’re lightly aged, with crisper, less woody flavor profiles than resposados or anejos. Although I’ve also made some tasty margaritas with reposados, I believe that anejos are best left for sipping and enjoying with a piece of 70% cacao dark chocolate.

Knowing a bit about the tequila you’ll use — it is, after all, the star ingredient — will help you decide if you need to tart up or sweeten your recipe. So before you get started, take a sniff of your tequila. Blanco tequilas can vary from grassy or herbal to floral and fruity. Have a little taste. Some are sweeter, and some are crisper with more acidity. Once you get past the alcohol, what flavors are you noticing?

My House Margarita Recipe
My go-to margarita recipe uses Herradura Silver, which is an herbal, crisp tequila that can stand up to lots of lime; I think of it as a masculine tequila. I like the addition of Cointreau for orange flavor without the syrupy-ness of Grand Marnier or generic triple sec. If you love lime, you might go for extra lime juice. Like a sweeter cocktail? Add a splash of agave nectar. Think of this recipe as a template that you can tweak to your taste.

margarita on the rocks
My House Margarita

You’ll need a martini or old-fashioned glass, cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.

2 oz Herradura Silver
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz agave syrup

For the glass:
Wedge of lime
3-4  Tbs Kosher salt

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, 1 oz = 2 tablespoons, and 1/4 oz = 1.5 teaspoons.

How To:
Pour salt on to a saucer. Run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with four or five cubes of fresh ice. Shake to combine and pour into a prepared glass. If you prefer some rocks in your margarita, add one or two fresh cubes to the glass.

I happen to be a huge fan of San Francisco-based Tres Agaves Tequila, and have used this recipe with their Blanco and Reposado tequilas as well. If you want to try a reposado version of this recipe, substitute Tres Agaves Reposado for the Herradura Silver.

Hola Campeon!
Recently I stopped into K&L Wines in Redwood City to check out their tequila stock, as they usually carry high-quality, smaller-batch brands. The Campeon Silver caught my eye, and it has an interesting story behind it. Not only is the company based in Burlingame, CA, but K&L worked with Campeon to develop their own version. Go 650!

The Campeon Silver is a nice tequila, but sweeter and more floral than my usual Herradura; it’s a good example of a more feminine tequila. My House Margarita recipe was just not working with the Campeon Silver. After a few experiments, I ended up reducing the lime juice to 3/4 oz because it was overpowering the tequila. So, for a sweeter or more floral tequila, here’s my modified recipe:

2 oz Campeon Silver
1 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz agave syrup

For fun I tried out CHOW’s Blood Orange Margarita recipe (which you can find on their site). Campeon Silver is really well-suited to this recipe! The floral sweetness of the tequila is a good match for the blood orange, and the color is oh-so-pretty. CHOW’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 ounces of tequila, but with the Campeon, you could probably increase that to 1 3/4 oz. Keep in mind that early-season blood oranges might be a bit tart, so taste the juice to determine whether you want (or need) to add a drop or two of agave syrup.

Blood Orange Margarita made with Campeon Silver
Blood Orange Margarita made with Campeon Silver tequila

So, Happy National Margarita Day! Did you celebrate with a cocktail at home, or leave the mixing to your local bar or Mexican restaurant? Do tell! Better yet: pictures! Pictures, or it didn’t happen…

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