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The Margarita

It's been said that the Margarita is the traditional drink of Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican version of Independence Day. But forget that noise. First of all, the fifth of May marks a victory over the French and not the Spanish colonists. And, second, the battle was fought far too early (1862) for anyone to have toasted with Margaritas. If you want a date-specific cocktail, mix a Mint Julep three days before on this year's running of the Kentucky Derby. But the time to have a Margarita is any time the heat is on. Its cooling yet sultry and tart allure in a salt-rimmed sombrero glass will make you a climate-change believer.

The date of birth of this sublime mixture of Mexico's national spirit (Tequila), lime juice and triple sec is as confused as you'll be if you have too many. Nevertheless, it was probably no earlier than 1930, and some claim the '40s. Many creation myths involve a girl of the same name—as either the drink's creator or as its inspiration. But margarita is also the Spanish word for daisy, and some reason that the name is a nod to the Daisy cocktail, substituting Tequila for brandy or gin. However, a Daisy usually takes grenadine, not triple sec.

One point of agreement is that the present marks a high-water (or, if you will, -spirit) mark for the drink. With apologies to Jimmy Buffett, Tequila has not been wasting away in Margaritaville. The choices for the agave liquor have never been wider, nor better. If you subscribe to the notion that great ingredients make a great cocktail, you'll reject the idea that Margaritas only be made with blanco Tequila and explore the many aged options (reposado, añejo and extra añejo) as well. At New York's The Chester bar they've even ramped up the spicy/chili aspect by using Tequila infused with jalapeño for a variation dubbed the Hellfire.

You may want to side with James Bond more than Buffett on another issue. Margaritas are best shaken, not blended. The slushy, blended type dilutes the affair and detracts from the fine ingredients you've chosen. Pour two ounces of Tequila over ice in a mixing glass with an ounce of triple sec (since you're already tricking it out, use a premium brand like Grand Marnier or Cointreau). Add one ounce of fresh lime juice, and if you want a sweeter version, add a teaspoon of agave syrup. Shake and strain into a cocktail or sombrero glass with a salt rim. Then strike a blow for freedom.

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