Keeping it Classic: Margarita magic is easy—don’t over-think.

written by: Mary Brown Malouf

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 see you through the common missteps, mistakes and misunderstandings.

1. Choose a glass:

2. Gather ingredients—what chefs call your mise en place:

3. Have the right equipment:

The reasons:

  • The glass: Use a stemmed glass with a small-to-medium bowl. The stem keeps the drink cold without using ice, which would dilute it. The small bowl lets you drink this extremely potent libation 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 use anything but fresh-squeezed lime juice.
  • Instructions: Rub the rim of the glasses with a cut lime wedge and rotate in salt; set aside. Put the tequila, liqueur, lime juice and agave into a cocktail shaker and shake it until it’s frosty. Pour into glasses. Put the leftovers into an insulated container until the second round.

For Two drinks

  • Lime wedge, plus 2 lime wheels for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. coarse salt for rims
  • 4 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 1½ ounces fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • Squeeze of agave

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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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