Howdy everyone! With the heat of summer now bearing down upon us, I thought I’d take a break from all the high-fallutin’ writing talk and share one of my favorite ways to beat the heat: Margaritas. Now many of you will know that I live in Texas, so it shouldn’t surprise any of you that this frosty alcoholic concoction is one of my favorite treats on a scorching day. Rocks, frozen, half&half, salt or no, there really is no wrong way to do a margarita.
At least, that’s how it should be. In recent years I’ve seen more and more places offering a half-assed version that’s little more that tequila, low-end triple-sec, and some sweet & sour. Even the frozen ones have declined in quality, unless one is very careful about where they drink. This great beverage has begun to decline, and I am taking it upon myself to spread the word on how to do it right.
And really, who is more qualified?
Now margaritas fall into two equal yet distinct categories: frozen and on the rocks. For today, we’ve going to be focusing on the ones you serve just with ice. The reasoning here is that frozen recipes will vary greatly depending on your equipment: blenders need a different set of ingredients than rotating steel-drums, and an ice shaver brings in a whole other element. Rocks is a good place to start, because you can make one with mostly standard kitchen equipment, a bare-amount of culinary knowledge, and time.
The recipe I’ll be giving creates the margarita core: this forms a great drink on its own, and honestly it’s what I drink. But some like them sweeter, or with flavors, and that’s fine. Think of this as the margarita béchamel, or for those of you who don’t know fancy sauce terms from watching Good Eats: like a cake that has yet to be frosted.
The margarita is composed of three elements:
1. Simple Syrup
3. Fresh Lime Juice
Like all simple recipes, this means the key is in doing each step properly. We’ll take it one at a time in case you’re unfamiliar with any aspect of this recipe.
Simple Syrup is essentially just sugar properly dissolved into water. There are different variations of simple syrup you can make, depending on the intensity of the sweetness you’re looking for, but for this one we want the default: equal parts. This means you will need equal parts sugar and water; a cup for every cup. I really can’t make it more straightforward than that.
Oh look, I did!
Put your water is a larger pot that you think you need and bring up to a boil. You don’t need it to be rolling, but get a little more than just a few bubbles sputtering up intermittently. Once the water has achieved a full boil, pour your sugar in and begin stirring, preferably with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the water is completely clear, as if the sugar were never added in the first place. Kill the burner and remove from the heat to cool.
I funnel this into an empty bottle when I’m done, preferably glass because I don’t want to worry about residual heat warping the plastic. Since this is for a margarita, try and use a bottle where any leftover flavors won’t work against you.
Case in point, a margarita mix one
Look, I could spend hours writing about the ups and downs of various tequilas, pricing, and inaccurate reputations, but we all know you’re just going to buy whatever is on sale. Besides, in a mixed drink, actual brand of tequila matters less than in shooting. So, here are some basic rules to consider when buying your tequila for the margarita core:
1. Gold tequila has a stronger flavor than silver. If you like the flavor of tequila, you’ll probably want to go gold. If you just want a hint of it, think silver.
2. The journey from bottom-shelf to mid-shelf is a lot further than the journey from mid-shelf to top-shelf. Spend a little more for something not horrible, but don’t go nuts and blow your liquor budget on this.
3. Just cause it’s on sale doesn’t make it bad. Some place run promos for liquor without established reputations. Ask the clerk, remember, he’s got incentive to steer you toward high-end stuff, so if he likes something cheap that’s probably genuine recommendation.
Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Nope, you’re not getting limeade, or that shit in a lime-shaped bottle. We’re here to make a great margarita, and quality comes from sacrifice. In this case, the sacrifice is your time and comfort, also you may get some hand cramps. We’re going to buy a bunch of limes and juice them bitches. How many you get is up to you, but know that they yield less than you think. For my last batch of margaritas, I bought a fuckload.
Imperial, not metric
That’s 40 limes for juicing, and it took me a while. At this point in the process, you have to choose between doing it by hand or using a juicer. If you have the latter, I highly recommend it once you get into the bigger amounts of limes. I bought mine from Wal-mart for like $15 and it does a decent job. Using it is a pain in the ass, mind you, but it still gets the limes juiced pretty thoroughly
The decadence of being a writer
The 40 limes I juiced took about an hour and a half and netted me approximately ½ gallon of lime juice. Not saying that’s the standard to use in lime-to-juice ratios, just letting you know it as a bit of sample data so you can plan your lime purchasing appropriately.
Okay, now that we’ve got all three ingredients created, there’s one step left:
The proportions here literally could not be simpler: a third, a third, and a third. Whatever size drink you’re creating, you combine the ingredients in equal parts so that each one constitutes a third of the total. Therefore if you’re making a drink that is 3 cups of liquid, you would add a cup each of the lime juice, tequila, and simple syrup.
At that point, you’ve created your margarita core. Now you can add things like flavorings, triple sec, agave nectar, or whatever fancy shit you may enjoy. Personally, I like it as is, so maybe try taking a sip and letting the cold joy of life wash over you. It’s margarita time. Fuck it, enjoy life and have some fun.
Just not too much fun