Just this last week cookbook author, restaurant-owner and chef extraordinaire Donna Nordin of Tucson was in my home conducting Southwestern cooking classes to a sell-out crowd. While Donna was putting the finishing touches on her Tortilla Soup, Grilled Duck in Mole and her Chocolate Mousse Pie featured on the cover of Bon Appetit, I served margaritas. Out of the many requests I receive for recipes, my margaritas are one of the most frequent. There are a couple of reasons I believe they are especially good.
The first secret is I use a combination of freshly squeezed citrus. While limes are the brass section in this orchestra, lemons provide support with percussion. Oranges add not only some natural sweetness, but also interesting notes to the concert.
The second important factor is good liquor. While expensive, aged tequila should never be used in margaritas, a respectable tequila is vital. I always use one made from 100% agave. Suggestions include Milagro, El Jimador, Azul or Espolon---all are moderate in cost. A good quality liquor also includes the orange liquor. Forget the supermarket’s insipid Triple Sec…in fact, forget Triple Sec from any store! Instead, opt for Cointreau or Gran Marnier---very little is used per drink so the 10-fold price does not translate to much per serving.
My recipe below, honed after >50 trips to Mexico, does not make super strong margaritas, so if you want something with a real punch, increase the Tequila (but keep the Cointreau or Gran Marnier the same).
- Step 1: Citrus mélange: squeeze a ratio of 10 : 2 :1 citrus (e.g. 20 limes, 2 lemons, and 1 medium orange). For 2 margaritas, squeeze 1 cup of citrus juice.
- Step 2: Make a simple syrup from a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. (e.g. 1 cup of sugar + 1 cup of water----place in a pan and cook for a few minutes until sugar dissolves well).
- Step 3: Make a “citrus-ade” using a ratio of 1:1 of combined citrus juice and the simple syrup. (Save any left over simple syrup in the frig for another batch of margaritas---it keeps for months).
- Step 4: Rim a glass with a wedge of lime, dip the rim in kosher salt.
- Step 5: Add ice cubes.
- Step 6. Pour in 1 cup of the citrus-ade.
- Step 7: Add ¾ cup of Tequila and ¼ cup of Cointreau or Gran Marnier and stir well.
- Step 8: Stir well and top with a lime slice.