Winter is my favorite time for margaritas. Maybe it’s because citrus is at its finest this time of year, or maybe it’s because fall is for bourbon and summer is for rosé and beer. Whatever the reason, nothing seems to taste better on a bitterly cold winter night than a margarita made with not much more than freshly squeezed lime juice and chilled tequila.
The first margarita memory I have is an evening spent with two of my closest friends in college. Maybe it was finals week, or maybe just a week packed full of classes and work and internships, but for some reason we all felt it just to celebrate a hard week with something a little more special than $5 pitchers of PBR. We journeyed to the liquor store in the town over from our college, and each came away with small bottles of three different types of tequila. We bought some limes, and being the great baker I was at the time, I also felt inspired to create a margarita cupcake to enjoy alongside our pint-sized libations.
So I stirred a thin batter full of lime juice and sugar and flour, and the three of us took shots as I baked. Our kitchen became a joyous mess of salt and decimated lime shells and cupcake wrappers. I suppose we never actually drank a margarita – that type of concentrated mixology was beyond our patience – but the flavors were there. A lick of salt, a swing of the bottle, and a bite into a lime and then a cupcake. No one knows how to have a good time like college kids, and good times were always had in our kitchen. Except for maybe that time my one roommate told my other vegan roommate that he wanted to smear cream cheese on her. That was a bit tense, but I think we’ve all moved past that in our old age and continued friendship.
I think it was probably after enjoying the dangerously good margaritas at Mazunte that Jason and I decide it was time to make our own. I made the all-important purchase of a citrus press, and embarked down the rabbit hole of internet searches marked “best margarita recipe ever”. We squeezed and stirred and shook, and eventually found our way to the ratios of the drink we enjoy today.
The margarita is one of the few mixed drinks I like, mostly because it relies on a few quality ingredients and is low on sugar. It’s important to remember that these bad boys are really composed of not much more than liquor, unlike the syrupy sweet watered down junk you find at most chain Mexican restaurants. We’ve seen a friend lose the battle to our margaritas and it was not pretty. Consider yourself warned.
There is a bit of financial investment involved with these margaritas, and that is due to the need to purchase Cointreau. It’s not cheap, but it really makes all the difference. You can usually find smaller bottles, and since you only need one shot per drink this will last you a decent amount of time. If you can’t bring yourself to throw down for the good stuff, then just leave it out all together or follow my recipe for margaritas on the run. Any other cheap orange liqueur will just ruin it.
My last note for this recipe is that I really recommend pairing chocolate and tequila together. One night I made a batch of Jeni’s milkiest chocolate ice cream and we enjoyed bowls paired with margaritas and it was amazing. A square of salted dark chocolate with a margarita is as close to heaven as you can get on a weeknight, and I urge you to give it a try.
Full force margaritas for two
2 ounces of lime juice (I find one lime usually gives me about an ounce, sometimes more, sometimes less, so plan to buy at least 3 limes to ensure you get enough)
3 ounces of good quality 100% blue agave silver tequila
2 ounces of Cointreau
1 tablespoon light agave syrup
Get your set up ready. Good preparation means you won’t let your margarita sit in ice and get watered down, so prepping your station is important. Grab two small plates, and into one pour a very small amount of tequila. Into the other sprinkle a decent amount of salt. Grab the glasses you plan to drink your margaritas out of. Because I am a terrible hipster type person, I love using small jam jars. I’m not so much a fan of a stemmed margarita glass because I am clumsy and the bowl shape doesn’t allow for nice ice distribution.
Dip the glasses first into the tequila plate and then into the salt plate. I don’t know why the tequila makes for much better salt stick-age than water or lime juice, but it does. Swivel around for good salt application. I am a salt fiend and this is probably my favorite part of the drink, so I am pretty generous here.
Grab a cocktail shaker and into it put your lime juice, tequila, Cointreau, and agave syrup. It’s useful to taste the lime juice before adding. If it is bitter, add a little more agave syrup. I also really like to add a pinch of salt to help offset any bitterness. Once all your ingredients are in the shaker, fill with a generous half cup of ice. This is also a good time to add the ice to your glasses.
Shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty and cold. I like to joke that you should shake once for each year of your life, because as you get older you need a more watered down drink. Whether this is true or not, I find about 30 shakes to be right for me.
Immediately pour into your glasses and enjoy. It’s really easy to just sip the shit out of these because they are so tasty, but I recommend taking your time.
Margaritas on the run for one
Sometimes I don’t have the time or energy to get out the cocktail shaker, so I make a half ass margarita, usually while cooking something else at the same time. They are also a nice alternative when we are out of Cointreau and I don’t have $40 lying around waiting to be spent on booze.
1 ounces of lime juice
1.5 ounces of good quality 100% blue agave silver tequila
1/2 tablespoon light agave syrup
If I am feeling really lazy, or as though if I create one extra dish to clean I will scream, I take the remains of the lime I just juiced and run it over the rim of my glass. I then sprinkle salt on the glass while holding it over the sink. Not a perfect system, but it gets the job done with limited clean up.
Fill your salted glass with ice. Pour your ingredients over the ice, and stir. I have these really adorable animal drink stirrers, but the handle end of a spoon will also work. Stir generously until ingredients are mixed or you are bored. I usually let this sit for just a little bit to allow for more of the ice to melt, or I just keep it close to my stove while I cook and it melts just fine.
When going to store for nothing more than a couple limes sounds unbearable, I have on desperate occasion used lime juice from a squeeze bottle. This admission alone should probably discount all of the above advice, but I call these “fake margaritas” and I enjoy them all the same.