We’re in that time of year when we could all use a reminder that yes, in fact, summer will come again. In my mind one of the best glimpses of summer is the Margarita. A cocktail synonymous with good, warm times full of sun and warmth. A great Margarita should taste first of the tequila its made with, then a bright hit of citrus from the lime, a little (a little!) sweetness, and the orange liqueur should be present but not overpowering. Oh also, I don’t necessarily have anything against a 48 ounce slushy beverage every now and then, but this recipe is for a cocktail that's a bit more… restrained.
First, you’re gonna need a few tools. If you have a passing familiarity with cocktail making you’ll likely recognize most of this, but if not I’ll give you a quick rundown.
- A glass (I use a rocks glass, but that’s somewhat atypical. The usually vessel is a cocktail coupe.)
- A Jigger (I use a Japanese style jigger with 2, 1.5, 1, 0.75, and 0.5 ounce measures.)
- A set of shaking tins
- A hawthorne strainer
- A fine mesh tea strainer
- A juicer
You’re also gonna need some liquids.
- A delicious tequila (I recommend Siete Leguas Blanco, or El Tesoro Platinum)
- Orange Liqueur (typically Cointreau, but others can work)
- Agave syrup ( 4 parts agave nectar, 3 parts water, mixed until homogenous)
- Lime juice (freshly squeezed, of course)
Before we can start dosing out our liquids we need to load our shaker with ice. One of the main reasons to shake a cocktail rather than simply stir it is texture. When you shake a drink you want to lightly aerate it. That's what gives well shaken cocktails their velvety texture. Believe it or not, the type of ice you use in your shaker matters. Depending on the size of your ice the finished texture of your drink will change. The best type of ice to optimize texture is a big cube.
The other reason to shake a drink is dilution. Getting the proper dilution in a cocktail is critical. If your dilution is off, everything will either be too intense (too sweet, too sour, etc.), or too weak, and will just taste watered down. Shaken drinks tend to have a much higher dose of either sugar, acid, or both, so they require more dilution than a typical stirred drink. Unfortunately the best type of ice for texture is not the same as the best type of ice for dilution. For proper dilution you want to use multiple smaller ice cubes. To rectify this discrepancy I simply layer the ice in the shaker. I start with a big cube for texture, then top is with a handful of smaller cubes for dilution
Then add the following to your iced down shaker:
2 oz. tequila
0.75 oz. orange liqueur
0.75 oz. lime juice
0.25 oz. agave syrup
And rather than salt the rim of the glass—which feels like overkill—I just add a small pinch of salt to the shaker (season everything).
And now we shake. Now a lot of bartenders like to make a big fuss about proper shaking technique, but if it ever felt like “proper shaking technique” was just a bit of theatre being used to communicate a level of expertise without actually making much difference in the end result (which is to say: if it ever felt pretentious) that may be for a good reason. Experimentation shows that shaking technique makes almost no difference. As long as you shake vigorously enough to properly aerate your drink, and long enough to properly dilute and chill (which are inextricably linked by the way) the specific esoteric gyrations you go through don’t make much difference.
Strain though the Hawthorne strainer and the tea strainer into a prepared glass—I use a rocks glass with one large, perfectly clear (but that's another post) hunk of ice—and garnish with a single lime wedge.