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The Truth About the Margarita

The Truth About the Margarita

We serious drinkers hold these truths to be self-evident: A martini is made with gin and (very little) dry vermouth, unless it's a vodka martini. A Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth, bitters, and rye — not bourbon or Canadian whisky. And a margarita is concocted out of tequila, fresh lime juice, and orange liqueur, period. (The International Bartenders' Association defines the standard as 50 percent tequila, 29 percent Cointreau, and 21 percent lime juice; that's too much sweet stuff and not enough tequila for me, but never mind.) Most important, the margarita includes no simple syrup or agave syrup and no strawberries or mangos; it is not frozen, unless you're drinking it outside in Alaska in the wintertime and set it down for too long.

Who invented the margarita? Nobody knows for sure. When I used to hang out a little too often on Sunday afternoons at the legendary sticky-floored cantina called Hussong's in Ensenada, the bartenders would always brag that it had been created there, in 1941, by a bartender named Charlie (or Carlos) Orozco, who named it in honor of a young German woman named, well, Margarita. (The more common German form of the name is Margaret, just like in English, but never mind again.) The only thing is that Orozco's recipe, which survives, uses not orange liqueur but a liqueur based on damiana, an alleged aphrodisiac. Several other places in Baja California claim to have invented the drink. So does the Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. There's always a woman named Margarita, or some variation thereon, involved.

A version of the margarita creation myth that does not involve a woman credits it to some unnamed Mexican or border-region bartender who concocted it on the model of a popular 19th-century cocktail called the daisy — margarita being the Spanish word for that flower. Supposedly, said bartender basically substituted tequila for the brandy with which the drink was originally made. But the traditional daisy recipe calls for brandy, rum, Curaçao (which is indeed orange liqueur), lemon juice, and gum syrup (sugar and water syrup in which gum arabic is used as an emulsifier). Sorry, but that's a little too much of a stretch for me.

My theory is that the model for the margarita was the sidecar. This is an excellent cocktail whose origins date to the period between the two World Wars. Harry MacElhone, proprietor of the legendary Harry's Bar in Paris, long claimed to have invented it and named it in honor of a regular who used to get so drunk that he'd always arrange to arrive and leave in the sidecar of a friend's motorcycle. The bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris also claims to have made the first sidecar — and there is a school of thought that credits it to a private club in London. In any case, the sidecar is made with cognac (a modern variation, made with armagnac, is called a sidearm), Cointreau or Grand Marnier (both orange liqueurs), and lemon juice, with its rim dusted with powdered sugar. A bartender in Mexico or thereabouts, perhaps seeking to sell more tequila to gringos who hadn't mastered the art of shots accompanied by a squeeze of lime and a lick of salt, could easily have substituted tequila for cognac and, because lemons are little used or appreciated in Mexico, used lime juice in place of the original citrus. Now, sugar on the rim of a tequila drink (as I discovered once at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, where some bartender thought it would be a good idea to rim a margarita glass with half salt, half sugar), is pretty disgusting. And, hey, tequila goes well with salt. So…There's your damn margarita!

My ideal margarita — and I plan to demonstrate my affection by having two or three of them this evening — is made thusly: I squeeze one juicy lime (or, better, three or four juicy Key limes, which have more of a bite and a stronger flavor) into a cocktail shaker, then fill it two-thirds of the way up with ice. I free-pour about 3 ounces of good tequila into the shaker (my go-to bottling is José Cuervo Tradicional Reposado), add a splash of Citronge or Cointreau (or, if I can get it, the Mexican imitation, Controy, which is slightly drier), and a splash of water to bring all the flavors out fully (as you'd do with neat whisky). Then I shake the shaker vigorously, 50 times, and let it rest for a minute or so. Meanwhile, I run one of the cut lime halves around the rim of a wine glass and dip it in sea salt.

All those other margaritas? Sometimes they're pretty good. But they're not margaritas, any more than vodka and crème de cacao is a martini.

This is Jimmy Buffett&rsquos Legendary Margarita Recipe

To celebrate summer, we’re asking the season’s most iconic superstars to share their warm-weather secrets. Here, Jimmy Buffett—whose musical, Escape to Margaritaville, is currently playing on Broadway—shares the recipe for his signature summer drink.

Most people don’t know the real story behind the song “Margaritaville,” but the truth is that it was written in five minutes. I was visiting Austin, Texas, for work in 1977, and a friend of mine was driving me to the airport. It was a hot afternoon, and we stopped at this funky little place for lunch on the way. I thought, “Why not have a margarita before going to the airport?”

You could only get a good one back then in Mexican border towns, where people just went to have fun. I was definitely doing my share of that. So I ordered one, and it tasted good. I came up with the name “Margaritaville” right there on the spot.

No one cared about the ingredients at the time, and it’s actually funny to me that everyone is so worried about the pedigree of the tequila they drink now. The thing is, you really can’t take the margarita too seriously—it’s not a science project. The whole point of the drink is just to disguise the taste of tequila.

Although they tend to be too sweet for me these days, every now and then I still like to have one on the rocks, no salt. I’ve had great ones and I’ve had bad ones over the years. But the very best margarita? That will always be the one that somebody else buys for you.

Our Best Margarita Recipes

Matt Taylor-Gross

Classic Margarita

This recipe proves that simple can be delicious. We recommend using Herradura Silver Tequila. Get the recipe for a Classic Margarita »

Frozen Margarita

In 1971 Mariano Martinez figured out how to make frozen margaritas from a soft serve ice cream machine—the rest is history. We recommend using Herradura Silver Tequila for this refreshing variation. Get the recipe for Frozen Margarita »

Mezcalita de Piña

Mezcalita de Piña A spicy ginger kick and the subtle, unmistakably grassy sweetness of kale elevates this vegetal variation on the margarita, from the New York City bar The Wayland. Get the recipe for The Garden Variety Margarita


A jalapeño-infused, blood-colored tequila and beet cocktail, the Moradita (“Little Death”), is a fresh, nearly healthy-tasting drink with some real body and a balancing hint of elegant richness. Get the recipe for Moradita »

Grilled Pineapple Margarita

Grilled Pineapple Margarita

Frozen Limeade Margarita

Canned frozen limeade intensifies the citrus flavor of this slushy Mexican-inspired libation. See the recipe for Frozen Limeade Margarita »

Prickly-Pear Margarita

The prickly pear cactus thrives in the deserts of the American Southwest its bulbous red fruit is prized for many Mexican and Tex-Mex preparations. This legendary margarita, which takes its distinctive flavor from the fruit, comes from bartender Ruben Bernal at Las Canarias restaurant in San Antonio, Texas.

Margarita Al Jazeera

Jerusalem’s most vibrant watering hole is Yudale, where the bar offers sui generis drinks that include this delicious, tequila-based creation infused with rose petals and cumin. The name is an homage to the many journalists who tramp through town. Get the recipe for Margarita Al Jazeera » Ginger liqueur adds a spicy note to this fruity twist on the classic margarita.

How to make a margarita at home (3 steps!)

Once you’ve got the ingredients, you’re good to go! Here’s how to make margaritas at home — the single drink method:

  1. Rim the glass with salt. A classic margarita has salt on the rim. Why? The salt enhances the sweet and sour flavors in the drink!
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take that tequila, Cointreau and lime juice and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes.
  3. Strain into a glass. Add ice if serving on the rocks. The margarita is often served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass, though of course you can use the classic margarita glass too. If you’d like to serve it on the rocks, throw in a few ice cubes (use Clear Ice for a stunning look).

Want to make 8 servings at once? Try our Margarita Pitcher instead! It’s even easier.

8 Things You Didn't Know About The Margarita

The most important holiday of the year, aka National Margarita Day, is this Saturday,򠿫ruary 22.

We know you’ve already started perfecting your Margarita mixing abilities what we’re here to provide is essential Margarita history and facts, which you can impress your friends with while you’re all out sipping Margs.

Read up on the frosty, citrusy cocktail below.

It is believed that the original Margarita was invented in 1948 inꂬulpulco਋y socialite Margarita Sames.

The first frozen margarita machine was invented by a high school drop-out named Mariano Martinez in 1971.
(Source:ꂫ Inventors Photo: Smithsonian)

On average, Americans consume 185,000 Margaritas per hour.
(Source: The Nibble)

According to mixologist Dale DeGroff, a drink very similar to the Margarita, called the Tequila Daisy, was served at Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack in the 1920s.
(Source: Food & Wine Photo: Food & Wine)

The U.S. is the number one tequila market—larger and more important than Mexico.
(Source:ꂾverage Business)

All tequila must be made from the blue agave plant.
(Source:਌ooking Channel Photo:਌ooking Channel)

The South򠫌ounts for the majority (34.9%) of the nation’s margarita sales.

The margarita allegedly made its print debut in America in December 1953, when਎squire named it the 𠇍rink of the month.”
(Source: Food & Wine)

How to Make the Perfect Margarita

A perfect margarita isn&rsquot tough to mix. All you need are four simple elements and the right formula for combining them.

I𠆝 imagine most of us have had at least one or two experiences under our belts that involve a bottle of bottom-shelf tequila, a plastic jug of margarita mix, a blender, and some quality remorse-filled hours spent simultaneously self-soothing/-loathing on a cool bathroom floor. Try to push those memories far from your mind.

A well-made margarita is a perfectly balanced, tart-sweet, refreshing, tequila-based cocktail that doesn’t taste a thing like regret. And the best part is, you most assuredly do not need to be some sort of mixologist to make this classic cocktail𠅊nd make it right. In fact, to make the perfect margarita, all you need are the following four things:

Two Parts Tequila

Obviously, tequila is important in this scenario. For a classic margarita, I prefer to go with silver tequila (you’ll also see this labeled as “white” or 𠇋lanco”). The main difference between silver and gold in terms of tequila is that gold has been aged, while silver has not. The cleaner flavor profile of the unaged silver does it for me in the context of such a simple cocktail, but if gold is your game, you gotta do you. If you’re not 100% sure, try making a margarita with each and see which suits you better… sometimes you have to down a few drinks in the name of living your truth.

Other important thing about the tequila: Whether you go silver or gold, it needs to be good-quality liquor. It’s not at all necessary to spring for the most expensive top-shelf bottle in the store, but using the $12 handle of tequila is a great way to ruin this simple sipper (and leave you with a headache tomorrow). My personal preference for a good balance of quality and budget consciousness is Tres Agaves brand. I’ve gone through my fair share of tequila tasting and frankly, for a super clean, clearly well-crafted tequila, you can’t beat this bottle’s price tag. Their blanco is perfect for a classic margarita and costs around $24 for a 750-ml bottle.

The Only Margarita Recipe You Need To Know

Let&rsquos not kid ourselves: The majority of Americans look forward to Cinco de Mayo for the simple fact that it&rsquos an excuse to drink. Let&rsquos not kid ourselves: The majority of Americans look forward to Cinco de Mayo for the simple fact that it&rsquos an excuse to drink. Problem is, most people meet up with friends at their local Mexican joint and guzzle down whatever atrociously sweet slurry is on special. Or, just as bad, we have people over to our homes and break out those industrial concoctions known as margarita mixes.

Sure, both are a good time, but thanks to cheap mixto tequilas and an excess of sugar, the next morning is pure hell. A great margarita should be simple. It should contain a couple of classic Mexican flavors, but the tequila should always be the focal point of the cocktail. For a recipe that does just this, we turned to Courtenay Greenleaf, the resident tequila librarian at La Biblioteca de Tequila in Manhattan. (Possibly the coolest job title ever, right?)

Biblioteca's margarita recipe is very basic, replacing the traditional triple sec with a house sours mix that doesn't dominate the taste of the tequila. The result? We'll let you be the judge, but first a warning: Once you have one of these margaritas, you&rsquoll always be looking for an excuse to drink them.

1 bottle (750 ml) blanco or silver tequila (we recommend Herradura*)

1 1/4 cups fresh lime juice

1 cup sugar kosher salt (optional), for salting the rims

How to make it: In advance of drinkin' time, heat the sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Measure out 7/8 cup syrup and transfer to a quart-size plastic container. Place in the fridge to cool. Once the syrup has cooled, stir in the lemon juice, lime juice, and 1/2 cup water to create the sour mix. To make each margarita, pour 2 ounces of tequila and 2 ounces of sour mix into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Vigorously shake the mixture so the ice breaks up a bit, thoroughly chilling the cocktail. Through a strainer, pour the mixture into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a slice of lime. If you like a salt rim, slide a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and invert over a shallow dish filled with kosher salt. Makes about 13 drinks.

*Greanleaf recommends a blanco or silver tequila for a classic margarita, but she says the slightly more complex flavors of an aged reposado tequila can give the drink a bit more depth. Herradura ages its silver for 45 days in oak barrels, so this is a good way to get a bit of both worlds. At Biblioteca, the sours mix, tequila, and salt are served separately for patrons to mix their own margaritas according to personal preference. You can take it a step further by setting out all of the ingredients and letting your guests experiment with the portions.

BONUS: Tequila Tip Sheet The Three Rules for 100 Percent Blue Agave Tequila

1. The tequila must be fermented only using the Blue Tequilana Weber agave plant sugars from any other sources are prohibited.

2. The agave plants must be grown in one of five regions of Mexico, with Jalisco being the largest and most famous region. 3. The distilled and fermented tequila must be bottled by an authorized producer in Mexico.

The Four Expressions of 100 Percent Blue Agave Tequila

First Expression: Plata (means silver also called white or blanco)

Aging: Optional. If aged, the process cannot exceed 59 days.

Second Expression: Reposado (means rested)

Aging: At least 60 days, but cannot exceed 11 months

Third Expression: Añejo (means aged)

Aging: At least one year, but cannot exceed three years

Barrel: Any wood, barrel size cannot surpass 159 gallons

Fourth Expression: Extra Añejo (means extra-aged)

Barrel: Any wood, barrel size cannot surpass 159 gallons

Mixto Tequila To be considered mixto tequila, at least 51% of the alcohol must be fermented from the sugars of the blue agave plant. The remaining amount can be fermented using other, cheaper sugars. The use of cheap sugars is partially responsible for the wicked hangover many people associate with tequila. (Most types of Jose Cuervo are a golden mixto. Starting to see the connection?) Mixtos that meet these qualifications can be mixed and bottled outside of Mexico.

Golden Tequila Just because a tequila is gold doesn't mean it's been aged longer. Tequila companies often add artificial coloring or syrups to their tequilas and mixtos to give them a darker hue. To make sure you are getting 100 percent blue agave tequila, always look closely at the label.

What's a party without snacks? Try these super spicy Kicked-Up Party Nuts. And for more Cinco de Mayo drink ideas, check out this easy recipe for a delicious sangria.

How to make a perfect salt rim

Last, let’s talk about the glass rim in this classic margarita recipe! The best type of salt to use is kosher salt or flaky sea salt: they have a nice chunky texture. Or try our Best Margarita Salt — the orange and lime zest makes the glass look perfectly look festive! Here are our tips to making the perfect rim:

  1. Spread the salt on a plate in an even layer.
  2. Take a lime wedge and cut a notch in the middle: then slide it around the rim of the glass. This perfectly moistens the glass rim without having to use your fingers!
  3. To rim the glass, you’ll want the salt on the outside of the glass only, not the inside where it can fall into the drink. To do this, tilt the glass so that only the outside edge goes into the salt.
  4. Shake off any loose salt into the sink.

Another drink with a salt rim? Our Salty Dog.

Rachel Dean

Chances are, you'll be eating and drinking outdoors for Taco Tuesday when the weather gets nice enough. Depending on how hot it is outside, you're going to want something to cool off with, which is where the recipe for this blackberry mint margarita comes in.

Whatever you plan on doing, you're probably want to get straight to drinking and aren't in the mood to waste hours making margaritas. On the other hand, making any of these easy margarita recipes won't ruin your meal.

Margarita Recipes

Do you have a favorite margarita recipe? Blended or on the rocks? Tequila brand?

Classic Cadillac Margarita Cocktail Recipe

  • ice cubes
  • 1 Lime

thinly sliced (saving the end piece to rub the glass)

or any other style of 100% agave tequila that you like

Chill The Cocktail Glass: Prep the cocktail glass by filling it with ice water then set it aside until ready to use.

Make The Crushed Ice: Wrap a handful of ice cubes in a clean kitchen towel or in a ice bag and, using a rolling pin or mallet, tap on it until all the ice is broken up and crushed into pieces ranging from pea-sized to snowflake sized.

Shake The Margarita: place the tequila, lime juice, agave, and orange liqueur in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well until chilled and frosty, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Serve The Cadillac Margarita: Right before you going to serve the drink, discard the ice water, rub the rim with the end of the lime then dip it in salt, pressing to adhere.

Strain the margarita into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice (with a salted rim, if desired). Garnish with a few slices of the lime and serve.

Tips To Make A Perfect Cadillac Margarita Cocktail

Regardless of how you have it there are a few key tips to help you shake up cocktail perfection:

  • Use 100% Agave Tequila: Truth is you're supposed to use reposado tequila in order to call the cocktail a Cadillac. But, if you want to use silver tequila or the more aged, Añejo style, we say go for it. Just pinky promise us that you'll only use 100% agave tequila (check the label to confirm) and to steer clear of the swill that is mixto tequila.
  • Choose A Quality Triple Sec: Just to be 100% clear -- triple sec is not a brand name but rather a style of orange liqueur. It's similar to Curacao liqueur but it tends to be drier and originated in France. While there are plenty of crappy, low grade bottles in your local liquor store labeled "Triple Sec" there are, in fact, high end styles of the liqueur -- like Cointreau or Grand Marnier - that are good enough to drink on their own. As we said before Grand Marnier -- a brandy-based triple sec -- is the de facto liquor for a classic Cadillac margarita.
  • Take The Time To Make The Cracked Ice : Like we said, this cocktail is classically served up and not on ice so feel free to make it that way if you'd like. For our version, we like pebble-sized pieces of ice and we crush it by hand. Yes, it takes some extra effort but it's very much worth it.
  • Use Freshly-Squeezed Lime Juice: We'll say it over and over until we're blue in the face: please only use freshly-squeezed juices in your cocktails. If you're making a big batch of margaritas, you can by all means juice a ton of limes up to one day ahead and have it ready to go -- just please never use the bottled junk!
  • Use Agave Syrup If You'd Like: We like to make our Cadillac Margaritas with one major twist from the classic: by using agave syrup in addition to the triple sec. We do this because we feel that the triple sec on its own can be a lot of orange flavor but you still need a decent amount of sweetener for a balanced cocktails. We take a page from the original agave syrup-based margarita, known as the Tommy's Margarita and created by Julio Bermejo at Tommy's bar in San Francisco in the 1990s, and add a touch of agave syrup to the mix.
    If that's not for you, no sweat. Feel free to leave it out and instead just add more of the triple sec.
  • Salt The Rim With Style : Whether you want your margarita with or without salt? That's 100% your personal choice. But, if you are going to add salt, you have a couple options of how to do it. The most classic way is to put salt on the entire rim, which is done by rubbing the cut-side of a lime against the rim of a cocktail glass and then rolling that in a plate of salt.

Then, of course, you can mix up the salt as you please! Try different style of salt, be it the flaky Maldon or pink Himalayan salt, or add some flavor to your salt like say some thyme leaves, some chili powder, or dried hibiscus flowers!

What to Serve With A Margarita

Enjoy your margarita with your favorite Mexican or Tex Mex fare. If I’m making these for a party or happy hour, I always serve them with tortilla chips, salsa, and lots of guac. They’d also be fantastic with mango or pineapple salsa or my seven layer dip. For more appetizer ideas, check out this post!

If you’re enjoying your margarita for dinner, pair it with veggie tacos, stuffed poblano peppers, grilled avocado, taquitos, or nachos. Bottoms up!

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