Cinco de Mayo por uno

Usually Cinco de Mayo is a holiday of raucous and meaningless-to-most celebration, fuelled by unnaturally green margaritas strengthened with Everclear and tostados dyed the color of the Mexican flag.

We have a perfectly good reason to skip that this year. Instead, you can toast the so-called holiday with yourself (that means you get two drinks, or how would you clink glasses?)

Here’s how to do it. If you know me, you know this rant. If you don’t, remember it.

My late husband made this drink so locally famous that friends call it the Glenarita. But it’s just a Margarita done the right way. As Glen used to tell it, we invited people over for an evening of food and drink. He mixed the Margaritas the right way, guests drank them the Utah way—fast, as if they were frozen—and the party was over in an hour, with everyone prudently gone home or passed out on the sofa. The moral: This is a powerful drink.

(And, just to dispel another possible illusion,  this is not a cat drinking a margarita.)

The Margarita is at once America’s favorite and most mistreated cocktail. It should be simple, but no one seems to be able to leave the Margarita alone. Here’s a primer to point out common missteps, mistakes and misunderstandings.

  1. Choose a glass: not a tumbler, not a goblet with a cactus on the bottom, not a tall or collins-type glass. A stemmed cocktail glass is correct.  Think about it—you wouldn’t drink a tumbler of Martinis, would you?
  2. Gather ingredients—what chefs call your mise en place: fresh limes, not Rose’s lime juice, not sweet and sour, not limeade, not lemons; good, but not great tequila (silver or reposada); Cointreau; agave syrup; coarse salt. At this point, resist anyone’s suggestion to add beer, grapefruit juice, Fresca, Sprite, blue curacao, or fresh fruit.
  3. Have the right equipment: a cocktail shaker, a saucer for salt, ice. No blender in sight.

For 2 drinks

Lime wedge, plus 2 lime wheels for garnish

2 Tbsp. coarse salt for rims

4 ounces tequila

2 ounces Cointreau

1 ½ ounces fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

squeeze of agave

The reasons:

The glass: Use a stemmed glass with a small to medium bowl. The stem is so the drink stays cold without using ice which would dilute it. The small bowl is because you aren’t using ice so this drink is extremely potent and should be drunk in small, chilled doses.

The rim: Coarse salt sticks more sparingly—if you use table salt you’ll end up with a heavily coated rim and a mouth full of salt.

The tequila: If you like cactus flavor, use a silver tequila; if you prefer things more mellow, use a reposada. In any case, use a good-quality tequila. The point of a margarita is to show off the taste of the tequila, not mask it.

The orange liqueur: Just as vermouth separates us from the savages when it comes to martinis, orange liqueur is what makes it a margarita, not a tequila shot.

Lime juice: Do not under any circumstances use anything but fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Instructions: Rub the rim of the glasses with a cut lime wedge; set aside. Put the tequila, liqueur, lime juice and agave into a cocktail shaker and shake it until it’s frosty. Pour into glasses. Hold one in the right hand, the other in the left and clink.


Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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