Is there another drink is human history that defines the concept of ‘party time’ more than a margarita? With its citrus kick and tequila bite, it’s the undeniable baller of summer vibe cocktails – which is why everyone’s got an unquenchable thirst for the good stuff as soon as the sun’s out and there happens to be some tequila and lime juice within a five-mile radius.
It might be a modern favourite, but the margarita is decidedly old-school. The drink evolved from a popular American and Mexican cocktail called the Daisy, itself dating back to the 1870s. Originally it was made with brandy, orange liqueur, lime juice, and a splash of soda, but got a tequila upgrade thanks to prohibition in the 1920s and ’30s.
“The margarita was recreated using tequila instead of brandy as Americans crossed over the border to Mexico for alcohol,” says Oli Pergl from tequila brand Maestro Dobel. “It eventually became known by its Spanish name, ‘Margarita’ – Daisy in Spanish. In 1945, José Cuervo was already running a campaign for the drink, stating: “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name”, which popularised the drink not only in the US, but the whole world.”
What Is In A Margarita?
The basics of a margarita haven’t changed much over the years – tequila, fresh lime and orange liqueur is the go-to recipe – but the great thing about tequila is that it’s a versatile spirit when it comes to mixing things up.
“I’ve found it to go well with almost any fruit,” says Pergl. “In the summer, you can look at adding fresh berries, tropical fruits and familiar flavours like pineapple and cranberry. In the winter, look at flavours like rhubarb and blackberries, or even adding herbal notes like rosemary and sage. It especially helps if you have a blender at home and you can add all the ingredients together with ice to produce an extremely tasty frozen margarita.”
The classic margarita recipe is still an all-timer, and can be served on the rocks (over ice) or straight-up in a cold salt-rimmed glass.
- 2 parts tequila
- 1 part Cointreau
- 1 part lime juice
- Wedge of lime squeezed in
Pergl also recommends tweaking the recipe with Dobel Diamante. It’s Mexico’s best-selling tequila and the first multi-aged, cristalino-style (charcoal-filtered) tequila. “Essentially, it has the complexity of a barrel-rested spirit with the clarity of a silver tequila,” he says.
Black Diamond Margarita
- Rocks Glass (rimmed with lime juice & black salt)
- 2 parts Dobel Diamante
- 1 part fresh lime juice
- Half part agave nectar
There’s no secret technique to how to actually make a margarita, but it’s all in the shake. It sounds obvious, but you need to make sure the spirit, liqueur, and citrus are well combined and balanced.
- Whether you’re going for the classic or a twist variation, pour all your ingredients together into a cocktail shaker and add ice.
- Give a good shake for 10-15 seconds, but stop shaking before the ice is completely smashed, or you risk over-diluting the cocktail. Listen to the sound of the ice as you shake and you will be able to tell when to stop.
- Finally, strain and double strain the shaker into a martini glass with salt on the rim. Serve immediately.
How Do You Order A Margarita?
It’s never as simple as just going to a bar and ordering a cocktail, is it? If you want it to taste right, it needs to be made right. And to be made right, it needs to be ordered like a margarita-supping pro who knows their tequilas.
“I’d recommend asking for 100 per cent agave tequila,” says Pergl, referring to the native Mexican plant that forms the base of tequila. “This style of tequila is the one you can sip neat and has a richer, more complex flavour compared to the other style we simply know as ‘tequila’, which contains only 51 per cent agave.”
“Silver (also known as ‘unaged’ tequila) is very clean and fresh, and can be similar to gin in terms of the herbaceous and citrus notes. Otherwise, you have the aged styles like reposado and añejo – this is where the silver tequila has rested inside an oak barrel for a period of time. Depending on where the barrel comes from, this can add notes of caramel, honey, wood and spices, I prefer this style for after dinner.”
But Pergl is also a big champion of using the new cristalino-style tequila. “Think an Old Fashioned cocktail,” he says, “but in the summer.”
Silver Or Gold Tequila?
When it comes to knocking back shots of cheap tequila, most people opt for less spiky gold tequila (also know as ‘joven’ tequila). But when it comes to margaritas, some experts will tell you that silver (or ‘blanco’) is the way to go. It’s a younger drink, but stronger flavoured and easier to mix. Golden tequila, on the other hand, can have a woody undertone, or other flavours such as caramel added in, which won’t necessarily mix well for that classic, biting margarita taste.
However, it’s down to personal preference. Other experts will tell you that the sweet, spicy kick to golden tequila gives the margarita something extra.
The Best Tequilas For Margaritas
Made from 100 per cent blue weber agave and produced in small batches for old-school authenticity, Patrón Silver delivers a smooth drink with fruity aromas and a peppery finish.
Every batch of Ocho 8 comes from a different field or ‘rancho’, giving a unique flavour. And the brand takes things slowly, using plants that have grown for eight years to make 100 per cent agave tequila.
An award-winning tequila, Herradura Reposado was also the world’s first ‘reposado’ tequila. It’s aged for 11 months and has a rounded taste of cooked agave (100 per cent, naturally), butter, and vanilla. Herradura also produces silver and other styles.
This multi-aged cristalino tequila is blended from extra-añejo, añejo and reposado tequilas, and has the smoothness for sipping rather than slamming. (But also feel free to slam away, of course.)