The Margarita Cocktail is amongst the most famous Mexican exports, in line with other treats like Tequila, Tacos, and Burritos. And it’s one of the most popular cocktails in Northern America, too. The most popular for two years in a row, to be precise, according to Nielsen CGA. And it is no wonder this cocktail is such a crowd-pleaser. The combination of the tanginess from fresh lime juice, citrus notes from orange, and a bold Tequila flavor combined with salt is simply delicious.
Its first appearance is not 100% certain, but it’s thought to have been invented in the 1940s in Acapulco. After that, it took another 20 – 30 years until it finally took off and became a favorite to many. And today, there even is a National Margarita Day, held on February 22nd. So time for me to check what makes a perfect Margarita.
Looking at the ingredients of a Margarita, there’s no way to hide. Always go for fresh lime juice and choose your Tequila wisely. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a quality Tequila but do not use a Tequila “mixto”. This so-called “mixto” is a Tequila that can contain up to 49 percent added sugars, and a Margarita can very well do without that. So stay away from this and better opt for a Blanco made of 100% Blue Weber Agave.
The same care should be applied when choosing the Triple Sec. I find there are some almost unenjoyable ones out there. So to keep it short and sweet, I recommend Cointreau. There definitely are other good options that are more affordable. But Cointreau is a safe bet and available in every halfway well-assorted supermarket around the globe. It’s my absolute favorite when mixing Margaritas.
Some think Cointreau is another word for Triple Sec or a type of this orange-flavored liqueur. Triple Sec is the term for the entire category of orange liqueurs. Cointreau is a single brand within this category. It’s comparable to the Tequila vs Mezcal situation.
The last part is sugar or sweetener. I mostly use either simple syrup, agave syrup, or a mix of both. Agave syrup enhances the agave taste of the cocktail, which I like. But some think it becomes overpowering and prefer the simple syrup version. Either way, both work and will make for an amazing Margarita.
The final touch for every Margarita is the salt rim. For this, do not use ordinary table salt, don’t even try. I recommend sea salt, ideally fleur de sel. The flaky salt will not only look amazing on the glass, but they also taste much better. It creates a subtle and sophisticated saltiness unlike any other type of salt I know. I would go so far as to say that using fleur de sel will lift your Margarita onto another level.
Is Triple Sec necessary for Margaritas?
I get this question quite often, so I wanted to address this individually. And yes, it is necessary. Triple Sec – or Curaçao as some call it- is an essential part of any Margarita recipe. As mentioned above, I would recommend Cointreau to mix your Margarita cocktails. But using any orange liqueur probably is better than using non. When leaving this element off, you will never get a proper Margarita.
- 2 oz Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz Cointreau
- 0.25 oz Agave syrup
- 0.25 oz Simple syrup
- 0.25 cup Sea salt / Fleur de Sel
- Use a wedge of lime and rub around the rim of a glass.
- Dip the glass rim in sea salt and add some ice cubes to chill it.
- Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake it and strain it in the prepared glass.
- If you want, you can garnish it with a lime wedge.
Which Tequila should I use in a Margarita?
I already mentioned, it is best to go with a Tequila made of 100% Blue Weber Agave. But there is a large number of other options available. The most common choice is Tequila Blanco, though, a type of silver Tequila. It usually is the most affordable option and already makes some fantastic Margaritas.
Tequila Reposado is an aged version, offering more complex notes. Some of the flavors may get swallowed by the tangy, strong, and salty elements, but you can still taste the difference. The same goes for Anejo Tequilas, which are aged even longer.
Choosing a poor Tequila can ruin your Margarita. If you don’t know what to pick or look for recommendations, try making your Margarita with:
A classic, high-quality silver Tequila like Patron silver Tequila is a brilliant choice for your first attempts at mixing Margaritas. If your budget allows it, try making a Margarita with Grand Mayan Ultra aged – it doesn’t come cheap, wherefore some may say you shouldn’t mix it in a Margarita. But I say try it. You won’t be disappointed.
The third option is a reposado. The El Jimador’s Reposado Tequila is a great option to taste the difference to using a Blanco for your Margarita.
Using Mezcal for Margaritas
If you end up in discussions with fellow cocktail-lovers about what Tequila to use in a Margarita, most certainly someone will say you should skip them all and use Mezcal. While they may have a point there – Mezcal can get you perfect Margaritas – for me, it’s a different cocktail. Because most Mezcals are very much on the smokey side, they transport this strong taste directly into your Margarita.
If you want to give it a try and look for recommendations, here’s a list of 12 Mezcals you should try in 2021.