Monday, June 24, 2024

Relief in a glass: it’s margarita time!

Margarita lovers know there’s a world of difference in how this classic drink can be made; packaged mixes and mixtures may save time and a few pennies, but like the saying goes, ain’t nuthin’ like the real thing.

You want to use the best ingredients you can afford. This is the premise for any simple recipe, from salad dressing to tacos. The fewer the ingredients, the more the quality and freshness of each one matters.

If you’re a devoted margarita fan, it’s worth taking the time to research tequilas available in your area. Talk to a knowledgeable bartender or chef and do your own tasting with margaritas made with different tequilas. It’s never too late to train your palate!

For a classic margarita, use clear, unaged blanco tequila for a bright, refreshing taste. For a warmer, more mellow flavor, reposado tequila can be used.

Sriracha-Mango margarita
A Sriracha-Mango margarita is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.

The kind of orange liqueur you use also matters. Each brand has its own characteristics, depending on what kind of oranges and alcohol are used in the distilling process, as well as other factors. But then it gets confusing: are Cointreau, Curacao and Triple Sec the same thing? I’ll let the experts in this link explain here.

The French brand Cointreau mixes sweet and bitter orange for a distinctive balanced taste. Curaçao — made with Laraha oranges grown only on the Caribbean island of the same name — has a unique sweetness. Triple Sec either means it’s made with three kinds of oranges or is triple distilled.

And Grand Marnier, with a brandy base, lends subtle flavors of oak and vanilla along with orange.

Margaritas, a contemporary classic, are consistently rated in the top 5 of the 100 most popular drinks in the world, says Drinks International, a ranking confirmed by the IBA (The International Bartenders Association). Here’s how to make yours prizeworthy too!

Classic Margarita

  • 3 oz. blanco tequila
  • 2 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • Garnish: lime wedges, coarse salt for glass rims

Run lime wedge around rims of 2 rocks glasses; dip in salt. Set aside. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Fill with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain margarita into glasses straight-up or on the rocks. Garnish with lime.

Spicy Cucumber Margaritas

  • 1 lb. Persian cucumbers (about 7 cucumbers), roughly chopped
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp. minced jalapeño plus slices for garnish
  • Salt
  • 6-8 oz. tequila blanco
  • Ice

In blender on high speed, process cucumbers, cilantro, sugar, lime zest, lime juice and minced jalapeño until foamy and blended. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set; you should have 1½ cups strained liquid; discard solids. Add 1/8 tsp. salt.

Mix cucumber liquid with tequila; set aside or refrigerate up to 8 hours. When ready to serve, rim glass with salt. Fill rocks glasses with ice.

Working in batches, shake margaritas in ice-filled cocktail shaker. Garnish each glass with slices of jalapeño.

Spicy Cucumber Margarita
Use smaller, more tender Persian cucumbers for this Spicy Cucumber margarita. And don’t forget the jalapeño!

Mexican Martini

  • 2 oz. tequila reposado
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz. fresh orange juice
  • 2 green olives
  • ½ oz. olive brine
  • Salt

Wet half the lip of a martini glass and dip in salt; chill in refrigerator. Pour tequila, the lime and orange juices and the olive brine into a cocktail shaker; fill with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into glass. Garnish with olives on a spear. —

Sriracha-Mango Margarita

  • 1½ oz. tequila blanco
  • 1 oz. mango nectar
  • ½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ tsp. Sriracha
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • Garnish: sliced peeled mango, coarse sea salt, lime wedges

Moisten rim of 1 cocktail glass with lime wedge. If desired, rim glasses in salt. Place tequila, mango nectar, lime juice, Sriracha and frozen mango in blender; cover and process until smooth. Pour into prepared glass. Garnish with lime wedge and sliced mango.

Fresh Pineapple Margarita

  • 1½ cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2¼ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1½ oz. simple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4½ oz. reposado tequila
  • 6 oz. Cointreau
  • 3 ice cubes

In blender, mix pineapple, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, salt, tequila and Cointreau with ice cubes. Blend on high until smooth and frothy. Pour into pitcher; serve over ice.

Frozen Margarita

  • 8 oz. blanco tequila
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 4 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 4 cups ice
  • Garnish: lime wheels or wedges

In a blender, process all ingredients until slushy, adding more ice as necessary. Serve immediately, garnished with lime.

Mexican Margarita
Mexican Margarita anyone?

Margarita Shandy (for a crowd)

  • 1 (12-oz.) can frozen limeade concentrate
  • 8 oz. reposado tequila
  • 12 oz. water
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 24 oz. lager or pilsner beer, chilled
  • Salt for rimming glasses

In large pitcher, mix limeade concentrate, tequila and water; stir well to mix. Refrigerate up to 6 hours or proceed immediately to next step.

Just prior to serving, fill pitcher with ice, lime slices and beer, stirring gently. Serve immediately in salt-rimmed glasses.

Watermelon Margarita

  • 6 oz. fresh watermelon juice from 1½ cups of chopped seedless watermelon, blended and strained
  • 2 oz. tequila blanco
  • 2 oz. fresh lime juice, rinds reserved
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Tajín (find it in your Mexican market’s spices section)
  • Ice, as needed
  • Optional: 2 oz. Cointreau

On a small plate, combine salt and Tajín. Set aside. In a shaker filled with ice, combine watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau (if using) and lime juice; shake well. Rim 2 rocks glasses with lime juice and salt mixture. Fill glasses with ice; strain margaritas into the glasses and serve. —

Jamaica Tequila Cooler

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup dried jamaica (hibiscus) flowers
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 cup homemade hibiscus-lime syrup (see below)
  • 1 cup blanco tequila
  • 2 cups tonic water, chilled
  • 1 lime, sliced thin

To make the hibiscus-lime syrup: in small saucepan, simmer sugar and water over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add jamaica and lime zest. Stir, cover and steep 15 minutes. Strain, cool and add lime juice.

In a pitcher, place lime slices, hibiscus-lime syrup and tequila. Refrigerate up to 6 hours or add tonic water, stir and serve over ice.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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