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Tequila, limes and margaritas. Tips and techniques from a self-professed tequila snob.

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The quality of your ingredients matter whether you’re making a world class cocktail or a seven course meal. Since we’re in the heat of summer, let’s discuss the ingredients required to make a traditional margarita. I don’t mean the frozen kind made with sugary mixes and drunk out of a fancy glass. I mean the authentic, Mexican margarita.

First and foremost, TEQUILA. You want tequila that says 100% agave or 100% de agave. If it just says agave on it, it’s a mix of agave and fermented cane sugars. These “mixed” tequilas are called “mixtos”. They have a lot of additives for flavor and color. “Gold” tequila is a mixtos tequila with added caramel coloring. It is not a higher quality tequila.

Aside from “mixtos” (which is basically JUNK tequila) there are four main categories of tequila. Silver/blanco, Resposado, Anejo, and extra Anejo. Silver or blanco tequila is the purest tequila. It is 100% agave and is not aged. They tend to have a strong up front agave taste and can be considered “strong”. Resposado or rested tequila has been aged between 2 and 12 month in wooden barrels. This mellows out the agave taste while picking up wood flavors and coloring. Anejo tequila is a reposado that has been aged over 1 year. Extra Anejo has been aged for more the 3 years.

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The other main ingredient in margaritas is limes. A lot of limes are overly acidic because they have been picked too “green” and are not properly ripened. This will make for a sour, acidic drink that will keep you up all night with heartburn. No thanks. The best way to check a lime is to open and taste it. It should be juicy and not sour. But how do you know which limes to buy in the store? I did a little research and I read that ripe limes are lighter in color, have smooth rather than dimpled skin, feel heavy and give slightly when squeezed, so I did a lime experiment. I bought four limes. Two dark green and two light green/yellow.

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You can see that the lighter colored limes also have smoother skin. They were all juicy when I opened them, but the lighter colored limes were definitely less sour.

So now that you have 100% agave tequila and ripe limes let’s make a margarita!

Grab your cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Add two parts of your favorite 100% agave silver tequila, one part freshly squeezed lime juice and one part either triple sec OR Grand Marnier. (Triple sec will give the margarita an orange flavor, Grand marnier a brandy flavor).  Give it a good shake. The longer you shake the more water will melt from the ice and dilute your margarita. This is just personal preference. I like mine lightly shaken, but if it’s too strong for you just shake it longer.

Take your margarita glass and rub the rim with lime and dip it in coarse salt. Pour the margaritas into the glasses then take a spoon and add some of the ice from the shaker. I do this rather than pour over fresh ice as the ice in the shaker is coated with the drink.

For an extra twist that will impress your friends, take your favorite Reposado or Anejo 100% agave tequila and pour it over the back of a spoon on to the drink to “float” about 1 teaspoon of tequila on top. This step will give you a high quality “tequila shooter” for the first couple sips of your drink. Absolutely delicious!

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Mexican Margarita
Ingredients
  • 2 parts 100% agave silver tequila
  • 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 part grand marnier or triple sec
  • coarse salt
  • 1 tsp 100% agave resposado or anejo tequila
Instructions
  1. Fill your cocktail shaker with ice

  2. Add the silver tequila, lime juice and grand marnier or triple sec (triple sec will give the margarita an orange flavor, grand marnier a brandy flavor)

  3. Shake well - the longer you shake the more water will enter the drink

  4. Rub the rim of your margarita glasses with lime. Dip rims in coarse salt to coat

  5. Pour the mixed margarita into the glasses. Then add ice from the shaker with a spoon

  6. Take your favorite Reposado or Anejo tequila and pour it over the back of a spoon and onto the top of your drink

  7. Garnish with a slice of lime

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