One needn't wait till Cinco de Mayo to enjoy a Margarita—any warm day would be just fine. Contrary to popular belief, the Fifth of May is not Mexico's Independence Day. Rather, it is a somewhat minor, regional holiday—observed mainly in the state of Puebla—commemorating the Mexican army's improbable victory over superior French forces in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Curiously, the holiday is celebrated chiefly north of the border. (Mexico's actual Independence Day falls on 16 September: dieciséis de septiembre).
Enough about history—how does one make a great Margarita? To begin, it's best to avoid mixes. While they may taste insidiously good, they contain ingredients that sound as though they'd be best avoided. For example, Jose Cuervo's Margarita Mix—admittedly one of the tastiest of the genre—contains "water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (to preserve flavor), cellulose gum, polysorbate 60, gum Arabic, glycerol Abietate, and FD&C Yellow No. 5."
Instead of mixing with all those chemicals, why not simplify the drink to include just three components? The best Margaritas are made with tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. Using premium ingredients may cost a little more, but the results are worth every penny. Begin with a superior tequila—never settle for anything made with less than 100% blue agave (Mexican law mandates at least 51% agave; no such minimum exists for domestic "tequilas"). Cointreau, a liqueur from Angers (pronounced ahn·ZHAY), France—produced from curaçao oranges—ranks as the crème de la crème of triple sec. Its orange peel flavor is an essential part of a great Margarita. Not to be overlooked is the fruit juice: fresh squeezed limes are a must. Again, a mix tastes all right; fresh lime juice, however, tastes far better.
While optional, the final ingredient is Kosher salt. Use it to salt the rim of the glass, if you so desire. Now that we have all the ingredients, is there anything else we need? Yes! Never underestimate the importance of proper glassware. Genuine Margarita glasses add that little extra appeal to the drink. Avoid water goblets or anything of that ilk.
Ready to mix? Here, then, is my recipe for the perfect Margarita:
The ideal tequila-to-Cointreau ratio is 4:π (or roughly 4:3.1416).
In terms of measure for one drink:
- 2 ounces 100% blue agave tequila
- 1½ ounces (+ a drop or 2) Cointreau
- Juice of 1 to 1½ limes
Your interpretation of perfection may vary, however. It's easy to adjust the ingredients to your taste.
Shake well, serve with a slice of lime, and enjoy!