Margarita (Classic)


So, what’s wrong with this picture?  Looks like a yummy Margarita on the rocks with salt, right?  Well, this is not a Margarita that I would ever entertain paying good money for.  It looks like little more than pond water in a glass.  

What am I talking about?  This is supposed to be a standard Margarita but someone has taken the extreme lazy way out and made it with some liquor store, supermarket or worst, liquor distributor bought pre-mix.  Furthermore, the proportions are way off, there is no frothing agent and it’s not shaken.  Now being a purist and an OCD Margarita snob, this drink at left strikes me as undrinkable. 

After cheerfully greeting your patron, if Mr./Mrs. customer orders a Margarita from you, your next questions should be: (1) Would you like that on the rocks or straight up? (2) salt or no salt? (3) what kind of tequila would you like [as you rattle off or try to upsell them on finer-than-well stock]?  I often go further and ask them if they’d like it (a) frozen or regular and (b) any particular flavor?  Customers often don’t know what they want and/or they’d like to be sold.  They also frequently want something specific but do not order properly (e.g., they’d like a frozen Margarita but simply assume you should know this).  Asking will potentially save you time, embarrassment, lost liquor and subsequently, income. 

Take a look at the Herradura Margarita on the right or the up version bellow.  Better, aye? Yes indeed.  All Margaritas (non-frozen) must be shaken – not rolled, not stirred but shaken unless your customer desires otherwise.  Keep in mind that much like good eats, a good drink’s tastes consists of (1) taste (2) temperature and (3) texture [what many Margarita mixologists neglect]. 

Here’s the basic recipe:

  • 1.5 – 2.0 oz tequila
  • .5oz Triple Sec (or sub Orange Curacao or Cointreau)
  • .5oz fresh lime juice (and/or Roses Lime Juice if you’re lazy, cheap, or spiteful)
  • .5 – 1oz sour mix (equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup)  
  • 1 tsp. egg white (frothing agent).  If you’re cheap, lazy, terrified of eggs or all three, you can cheap-out and just use commercial LemonX by the gallon in place of sour, simple and frothing agent.
  • Glass: Highball, Martini or Sombrero

Don’t skimp or neglect the sour mix or upscale replacement nor listen to naysayers who insist it adds suckage to the drink.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Do a taste test side-by-side with a few testers and gather feedback if you don’t believe me.  Like many other drinks, this one requires practice and experimentation until you get it right every time.

On the rocks – no salt - Add the above ingredients together with ice, shake vigorously several times, then pour into a high-ball glass.  

On the rocks – salted rim - Here’s a beginner mistake or busy club shortcut… they will often mix the ingredients in the same glass they prepare the drink in, drag that drippy glass over to the salt dish, dip, then pour the mixture back in the glass.  Don’t be lazy – do it right when you have time.  Take a clean highball glass, rub the rim with lime and dip into the salt – set it aside.  Mix the ingredients in your shaker set (16oz pint glass and large metal shaker).  Keep in mind the volume of your highball and visualize it in your glass shaker.  Pour the ingredients together, add ice, shake vigorously, then pour into your highball glass.

Up – salt or no salt - Follow the same procedure above regarding glass and drink prep.  Strain into an appropriate glass and garnish.  I personally prefer to first place the glass in front of the customer in this particular instance with a BevNap, pre-garnished, then strain directly in front of him/her.  It’s a terribly slow and messy experience trying to move nearly full Martini or Sombrero glasses with salt several steps down and across the bar.  

NOTE: All Margaritas are garnished with a lime.  If it’s served on the rocks, you must provide a straw or sip-straw.  Frozen – regular straw.  

Additives: Contrary to rampant abusive Margarita butchery, they are not supposed to include O.J. or anything else than what I describe above.  That does not mean that bars can’t invent their own drinks and have special variations/flavors – I don’t mean that at all.  The issue I have is that many bartenders have been passed down bad habits, never learned the old school drink, and are trying to pass off their tricked out version of a Margarita as a basic one – no good when that’s not what I ordered or am expecting for my money.  Furthermore, there is no Grand Marinier in a traditional Margarita.  If you’ve asked for a “Cadillac” or “Golden Margarita,” then sure.  

Cadillac Margarita - Add .5oz of Grand Marinier to your concoction before shaking.

Golden Margarita - Add .5oz of Grand Marinier as well but also use a “golden” tequila not white.  Typically, you’ll want to use an Añejo or Reposado variety tequila as a base.