The Good Life

The Margarita

Tasting away in Margaritaville.
| By Jack Bettridge | From CBS Sunday Morning, May/June 2020
The Margarita
Photo/iStock

Every year on Cinco de Mayo (May 5 in gringo speak) revelers seek to show their solidarity with the cause of Mexican independence (the holiday celebrates an 1862 victory over the invading French) through drink. An obvious option is the Margarita, a cocktail that melds the preeminent south-of-the-border spirit, Tequila, with the charms of tart lime juice and sultry orange liqueur. 

Once you’ve landed in Margaritaville, another choice awaits: frozen or straight-up. Jimmy Buffet devotees will instantly recognize it as a blender drink with chipped ice (“that frozen concoction that helps me hang on”). Cocktail purists tend to fall on the side of shaking the drink with ice cubes and straining. There’s an argument for both.

The latter example is the classic approach to most cocktails. It chills a drink with minimal dilution. Given the vast choices in aged Tequila now available, it makes sense to let the spirit shine through and mingle with the other liquids. Then again, all the same ingredients are awfully refreshing when super-chilled in a slushy on a warm day. But you probably won’t want to pour your extra añejo over crushed ice.

Referencing how-to texts surprisingly supports the frozen method. The drink wasn’t invented until the 1930s, but many think it evolved from the Brandy Daisy (Margarita is Spanish for daisy). Tracing the Daisy to the cocktail canon, Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide of 1887, you find it as a shaved ice drink. 

Whatever you choose, time spent in Margaritaville doesn’t necessarily mean wasting away.

The Classic Margarita

  • 2 oz. Tequila of your choice
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. orange liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. agave syrup or simple syrup

Put all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass with salt on the rim. Alternatively, build in a blender with ice and frappe into a slushy consistency. Garnish with lime wheel.

Drink

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