Guess what. A margarita isn’t supposed to taste like a lime Jolly Rancher and have the coloring of a glow stick or antifreeze. Most margaritas you get at bars are made with a mix that is little more than colored high fructose corn syrup with the addition of a bunch of other crap like cellulose gum, which is basically wood pulp, and chemical stabilizers and only a minuscule amount of actual lime juice. The mixes you get for your home bar are pretty much the same. A margarita should be a nice balance of sour, sweet, bitter, and salty, allowing a hint of tequila to come through, without pounding you over the head with the taste of alcohol.
There are a number of origin stories for this storied Mexican cocktail, including by far the most famous version involving a Tijuana-area restaurateur named Carlos "Danny" Herrera. He is said to have whipped up the drink at his eatery, Rancho La Gloria, in the late 1930s for a B-movie actress and Ziegfeld Follies gal named Marjorie King who was allergic to every type of booze except tequila. There are other versions of how it was created, but to whomever the credit belongs, it seems pretty clear the cocktail derives from the Sidecar, which was created at least a decade earlier during the Roaring 20s.
Making a margarita from scratch is incredibly easy and worth the effort. Here’s how...
This recipe makes two margaritas straight up, as in no ice.
What you need:
- 4 ounces decent tequila (Here's a list from GQ for the best brands under $25).
- 3 ounces Cointreau or equivalent (Here's a nice piece from Serious Eats that gives you flavor profiles and price points for a variety of orange liqueurs). If you grab the cheapest triple sec at the liquor store it will show in this drink since it doesn't have a lot of ingredients with which to hide the flavor.
- 4 ounces fresh lime juice (about two limes).
- 2 tablespoons of cane syrup, such as Steen's (if you can't find cane syrup here are some substitutes). This ingredient is pretty essential as it gives the cocktail a depth of flavor without making it overly sweet.
- Salt for rim.
Rub the rim of a stemmed glass with a slice of lime to coat, then lightly dip the rim on a small plate of salt. Since there isn't ice in the drink you want a glass with a stem because it keeps your hand away from the actual drink thus keeping it cold longer.
Fill a shaker with ice. Add two tablespoons of cane syrup. Pour in four ounces of tequila, 3 ounces of Cointreau, and 4 ounces of lime juice. Shake well. Pour into the glass and garnish with a lime wheel. Cheers!