Top-shelf tequila key to delicious margarita

Top-shelf tequila key to delicious margarita

There’s something almost visceral about the modest margarita and our corresponding obsession. Maybe it’s the fresh citrus, or heady sweet and tangy flavor. Or perhaps the one-of-a-kind spirit that makes a margarita what it is. You guessed it – tequila.

The Southwest U.S. shares the Sonora Desert with the only place in the world that produces tequila – Tequila, Mexico – near Guadalajara. It’s also the only place in the world where Webber Azul, or blue agave, plants are grown – the source juice for tequila distillate.

Making a margarita is simple, and’ recipe fairly traditional. Ours calls for two ounces tequila, one ounce orange liqueur, two ounces lime juice, and a mere splash of orange juice, shaken with ice and poured into a salted-crusted cocktail glass.

To line the glass with salt, you pour coarse bar salt onto a plate, moisten the rim of the glass with a lime wedge and dip the rim into the salt. Garnish the margarita with a wedge of lime, and you’re ready to enjoy. Simple, delicious goodness. No wonder the margarita is the No. 1 requested cocktail in the United States, according to trade journal Beverage Analyst.

To make the experience more top-shelf, use a tequila that specifies “100 percent blue agave” on the label, or else you may be purchasing about 51 percent agave distillate (by law) and the rest is typically a flavored, neutral spirit. Also upgrade your orange liqueur from Triple Sec to either Cointreau or Grand Marnier, both from France. I also like Italy’s Gran Gala to save a few bucks. Finally, always use fresh lime juice. None of that stuff that comes from a lime-shaped squeeze bottle, or that lemon-lime sweet-and-sour mix. You’re a professional, and your cocktails should reflect it.

Also, we need to say a word about whipped margaritas versus on the rocks or straight up. Each are good, viable options. If you’re in mixed company, the guys typically like their margs on the rocks, while some women prefer martini style or whipped in a blender with ice. Don’t limit your options. Follow the same recipe and multiply as needed based on your number of guests. Serve with chips, salsa and perhaps some homemade guacamole and get your summer margarita party started.

More to drink in
• Add a splash of orange juice to soften and round-out your margarita.
• Blanco or silver tequila is fine for margaritas. Reposado or Anejo tequilas are aged and best for sipping.
• F.j’s favorite 100 percent pure agave tequilas: Gran Centenario, Patron, Don Julio, Don Eduardo, El Tesoro, Chinaco, Partida, Cabo Wabo, Tres Amigos

Where to find top-shelf margaritas
A few of the best places for margaritas in the U.S. (based on both quality and ambiance). Note that locations are concentrated in Southwest.
• El Encanto in Cave Creek, Ariz.
• Javier’s, Newport Beach, Calif.
• La Puerta, San Diego
• La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, N.M.
• El Patron, Albuquerque, N.M.
• L&J Cafe, El Paso, Texas
• Desperados, Dallas, Texas

Take these margarita tidbits to heart as you’re traveling for work or pleasure, or entertaining at home this season. And always think top-shelf. Salud!

Photo by Los Muertos Crew

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