Margarita Recipe from Scratch

This has been my go-to margarita recipe ever since I scribbled it down on the cooking notes for my Nachos. The flavors are well-balanced with just a hint of sweetness from the orange juice and agave. After finding key limes at the Santa Monica Farmers Market a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to break out the cocktails. Clementine oranges also happen to be in season so I switched things up a little and subbed them in for Valencias. Delicious.

As Tom and Donna would say, "Treat yo self."

Clemntines at Polito Family Farms - Santa Monica Farmers Market

Useless Facts

  • Traditional margaritas do not have salt on the rim. Why ruin such a beautiful cocktail with a mouthful of sodium? My guess is that the salted rim evolved from the tequila shot/lime/salt game, but I'm not certain. (Writing that last bit gave me a hangover.)
  • Margarita recipes often call for an orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or triple sec. To oversimplify things, Grand Marnier is a premium brand of Curacao and Cointreau is a premium brand of triple sec. Let's break things down further. This was such a rabbit hole of Googling and my conclusion is that the Internets is totally confused by booze. I did my best.

Curacao

  • Curacao (no it's not always blue) is the grandaddy of these orange-flavored liqueurs. "Real" Curacao is made from the laraha fruit that only grows in Curacao. When Valencia orange trees failed to flourish in Curacao, they eventually morphed into the laraha fruit - inedibly bitter on the inside but the skins work for making liqueur. I don't recommend Curacao for margaritas as the sweetness can ruin your cocktail.
  • The consensus seems to be that Curacao or Orange Curacao should be brandy-based.

Grand Marnier

  • Grand Marnier is a premium Curacao and has a brandy base. It uses only bitter orange peels.
  • A Cadillac Margarita has both Cointreau and Grand Marnier.
  • Of the four liqueurs mentioned here, Grand Marnier is considered to be the "highest quality" though I prefer Cointreau for margaritas.

Triple Sec

  • "Sec" means dry, but Triple Sec is quite sweet and the Internets has too many theories when it comes to the name's origin. Since triple sec has a neutral-alcohol base, I'm going to guess it means triple distilled as some have suggested.
  • This liqueur is made with sweet and bitter orange rinds. Though more "refined" than Curacao, low-end brands are often too sweet so it's worth investing in a quality bottle if you're going to use it for cocktails.

Cointreau

  • Cointreau is a premium triple sec and is far less sweet than other brands.
  • The neutral-alcohol base gives this liqueur a lighter and balanced flavor which is why I prefer it over Grand Marnier for my homemade margaritas.

Recipe Tip

If you're having a party, simply juice the fruit an hour or two in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container. Easy enough to add agave and booze when the guests arrive.

    Tools

    • Chef'n Lime Juicer - I love this tool. Squeezes every bit of juice out of the fruit and is easy to clean.
    • Mini Measuring Cup - I’ve purchased five of these little guys for home and the Airstream. They’re handy for everything from the ubiquitous "2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan" to margaritas.
    • Plunger Mini Measuring Cup - Very handy for measuring sticky substances such as molasses, honey, and agave.
    • Large Cube Ice Tray - One of our favorite restaurants serves their margaritas with large ice cubes and it makes sense. The large cube keeps the drink very cold, melts slowly, and looks great. I bought the linked trays and can confirm that they work well. One note is to hand wash the trays or use an unscented dishwasher soap. I find that detergents with a strong smell can add an odor to silicone tools.
    • Cocktail Shaker

    Ingredients (This makes two margaritas.)

    • 3 oz quality tequila
    • 2 oz Cointreau
    • 1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice Note: Key limes are preferred if you can find them.
    • 1/2 oz agave UPDATE: Since posting the recipe, I've reduced the agave from 3/4 oz to 1/2 oz. If you're using quality tequila and fruit, you don't need much sweetness. Chef's discretion.
    • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 oz fresh orange juice Note: I use a Valencia orange or Clementine when in season.
    • Lime slices for serving
    • Ice

    Instructions

    • Combine all of your ingredients in the shaker.
    • Fill with ice and shake, shake, shake.
    • Strain the margaritas evenly into two glasses before adding the ice (to keep it even-steven).
    • Add ice and enjoy!

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