A should-be-classic, there might not be a cocktail as maligned as the margarita. Instead of existing as a bracing and bright accompaniment to serious Mexican food, it’s become a by-the-pitcher fuel for sweet-sippin’ inebriation, often in frozen and be-berried forms. So this year, celebrate Cinco de Mayo properly; put away that Jimmy Buffett CD, pour those pre-concocted mixes down the drain (do you really want high-fructose corn syrup in your cocktails?), and take off that sombrero that makes you look like an idiot anyway. It’s time for a dignified drink, up, that allows for some variations but is all built from a standard base.
(makes 2, as you should never drink alone, though if you do, you need a second)
4 oz. tequila
2 oz. orange-flavored liqueur
2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 lime wheels or triangles
2 pinches of smoked sea salt
Add everything to cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Pour into two chilled glasses. Garnish with a lime wheel or triangles, depending on what look you want and the size of your citrus (you don’t want the garnish to dominate the glass). Be sure to run the cut of the citrus along the rim of the glass. (You could rim the glass, but that’s a lot of salt and more work, so therefore better for looks than labor or taste.) Powder a pinch of smoked sea salt over each glass.
Crucial Ingredient Notes
Tequila : At the least, use something that’s 100 percent agave, as mixtos include sugar and will help hang you over mañana. You obviously don’t need to use a sipping tequila like a Casa Dragones, but a midrange tequila will do the trick, and TJ’s and Costco are your friend. I’ve found Cazadores Reposado is a fine house tequila.
Orange-Flavored Liqueur: Yes, triple sec is the least expensive option, but cheap is a synonym for least expensive for a reason: too sweet. Instead, try something like Patrón Citronge or Cointreau, which you need on hand for other fine cocktails anyway.
Fresh-Squeezed Lime Juice: It has to be fresh squeezed. It’s not that hard, and it shows the person you’re drinking with you care. Feel free to shop around for the lime flavor you like, as they really do differ. If possible, buy Bearss, not only because they have that cool double-s thing going, but they are seedless, juicier and larger than Mexican limes, and sour without being bitter. Bitters in cocktails can be wonderful (that’s a whole ’nother article), but you want a margarita to sing with its clear zinginess. If you want to experiment, make a blood-orange margarita (1 oz. blood orange juice to 1 oz. lime): a gorgeous and somehow warming drink.