In addition, you can replace part of the tequila with mezcal, the smoky agave spirit of which tequila is a specific subset. Start by adding ½ oz. and feel it from there. They can get really wild and subtle even in non-agave spirits like gin or bourbon.
Sweet or dry, strong or weak?
For a drier margarita, omit the agave syrup; or, on the other end of the spectrum, make your drink sweeter by increasing the agave syrup to ½ or even ¾ oz. For something less potent, try equal parts tequila, lime, and triple sec (1½ oz. Each). It’s always worth playing around with moderation and finding out what your personal preferences are. Remember, just because someone else wrote it down in a recipe doesn’t mean you have to like it.
Orange liquor counter
For a fresh, lively margarita, use a triple sec like Cointreau, a French liqueur made from bitter and aromatic orange peel. For something richer, perhaps with a more autumnal flair, use Grand Marnier, a cognac-based liqueur. Blue Curacao is also an extremely valid option.
To salt or not to salt?
Salt makes everything taste better. However, if you don’t feel like salting the brim (it’s agony for a large crowd or if you use disposable cups), you can just add a pinch of salt to your shaker before shaking it. One of the wonderful properties of salt is that it can balance out some bitterness in the orange liqueur and lime juice to enhance the sweet, fruity notes of the drink.
Up or on the rocks?
Most of the time, the weather is my guideline: when it’s hot outside, I go ice cream, otherwise I pull straight up. Ultimately, it is a very personal choice and neither is wrong.
Bubbles make everything better. Sparkling wine, seltzer, even beer are great additions, especially if you want to be more refreshing than strong. Margarita recipes are relatively forgiving and won’t be unbalanced if you add an ounce or two of something sparkling, but do want to add another ¼ ounce. of agave syrup to make up for the extra dilution and add some body back to the drink, continue.
More tequila please:
John deBary is a retired / retired bartender, author of Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails, creator of a line of zero-proof botanical beverages, Proteau, and co-founder and chairman of Community Foundation for Restaurant Workers.
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