A margarita is the gold standard drink of any Mexican-American cultural celebration, especially on Cinco de Mayo. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and sour, salty and bitter. No one knows who invented the margarita but there are a few theories. Some say Carlos Herrera developed it at his Tijuana restaurant in 1938 for one of his customers, an aspiring actress who was allergic to all hard liquor except tequila. Another legend gives the glory to Margarita Sames, a Dallas socialite, who whipped up the drink for friends at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. But maybe not. Recent research shows that in 1945 a tequila importer advertised “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name.”
Fuzzy history aside, the classic margarita ingredients are one and a half ounces of tequila, a half ounce of triple sec, and one ounce of lime juice, shaken or blended with ice and strained into a salt-rimmed glass. Note the lime juice. If you order a frozen or on-the-rocks margarita at a restaurant or bar, they will nearly always use sour mix instead of lime juice because it’s cheaper. Restaurants and bars usually cut the alcohol content, using only one ounce of tequila — and then charge you between $8 – 12 for a sweet, watery concoction that tastes good and looks pretty but is a huge profit generator for the business.
Obviously the best margaritas are made by you, at home. If you’re a purist, be sure to use fresh squeezed lime juice, but bottled will do. Don’t sweat over the tequila’s color, white or gold. Gold is simply caramel coloring, not aging, and a marketing technique. You don’t have to buy premium, but don’t buy the cheap stuff either. Mid-price is the way to go.
For variety, substitute the lime juice with your favorite fruit juice. Or try my homemade recipe, one I whipped up while vacationing in Arizona, and a family favorite.
Frosty Margarita Frio
6 – 8 ounces tequila
1 cup limeade (or lemonade)
1/2 pint lime (or lemon) sorbet (Note: Sorbet NOT sherbet. Sorbet is icy sweetened water, without cream. If sorbet is unavailable, use a couple of crushed frozen sorbet fruit bars like Edy’s brand.)
Place all ingredients in a blender and top with ice cubes. Blend until slushy. Makes enough for 4 margarita glasses.