The origin of the margarita will forever be shrouded in mystery. Many origin stories take place in Mexico. This makes perfect sense since the primary ingredient in a margarita is tequila, but other claimants to being the inventor exist in places such as Texas and California. It’s likely that the margarita was invented independently by multiple people at around the same time.
The basic formula for the margarita had been around since the 19th century in the form of a drink called the Daisy. One early version of this drink called for brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. Substitute brandy for tequila, and lemon juice for lime juice, and you have a tequila daisy. How do you say daisy in Spanish? Margarita.
Use good tequila but don’t use the best tequila. High end tequilas are better left for sipping. Don’t use the cheapest tequila you can find either. The cheap stuff won’t have any of the agave flavor that tequila should have and you’ll be left with nothing but a caustic throat burn.
Although the typical margarita recipe calls for triple sec, there are other orange flavored liqueurs on the market that can add a subtle but distinct change to the drink. Cointreau is the most popular substitution and has a smoother taste and higher alcohol content. Grand Marnier is another popular option. It has the same alcohol content as Cointreau but is made with brandy so has a different flavor. The blue margarita is made with blue curaçao, a popular orange liqueur with blue coloring added to it.
Margaritas can be adulterated to good effect by adding in fruit flavors. The most popular flavors to add are strawberry and mango, but any fruit flavoring can be added depending on our palette. Typical recipes call for adding an amount of fruit flavoring roughly equal to the amount of tequila you are using.
According to Mike Roberts, a bartender at El Centro D.F., the best margaritas are the ones with the freshest ingredients. Don’t substitute the fresh lime juice for a bottled version or a store bought sour mix if you want the best flavor.
El Centro D.F. is on every list of the best margaritas in D.C. In addition to their traditional margaritas they offer unique flavors like cucumber, pear, and tamarind. Mike Roberts, a bartender at the 14th St. location, recommends a classic margarita with either the Casa Noble Silver or the Fortaleza Blanco.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana makes many of the lists for best margarita. Oyamel changes up the formula for margaritas by using a salt foam in their signature drink instead of salting the rim of the glass. Their margarita menu features lots of high-end tequilas and mezcals, and flavors like blood orange and chile.
Lauriol Plaza is famous for their frozen margaritas. They feature flavors like strawberry, mango, peach, sangria, and swirl. They also have a selection of margaritas on the rocks with high end brands like Sauza, Jose Cuervo 1800, and Herradura.
La Esquina makes the list of most best-of-NYC margaritas. Their location has three distinct restaurants that offer different takes on the margarita with ingredients such as grapefruit juice, orange marmalade, aloe juice, lime bitters, and passion fruit.
Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant has one of the best reputations in the country for their margaritas. They have hundreds of tequilas on their menu and are known for their signature margarita which substitutes blue agave syrup for orange liqueur.
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