Margarita. Heavenly, fresh, you-made-it-yourself Greatness.

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Margaritas are a summer must, but they are still welcome in my house any time of the year. These are the best you can imagine. Fresh, citrusy, tequila-e. Yummy. The instructions seem long, but there are parts that can be made ahead and really should be anyway. We will start with the basics. First we will make the simple syrup. And what a great ingredient to have on hand for almost any purpose. Lemonade, iced tea, smoothies, drizzled over fruits or berries, to add to your evening cocktail. You can use it in your cooking where you need a bit of sweetness, too.  By turning your sugar into a liquid, you will always avoid that gritty, undissolved sugar mess at the bottom of your glass. Once you are accustomed to using simple syrup you will have a quart on hand at all times.  You can also flavor your syrup.  Add chopped mint after your remove it from heat, and you have a terrific ingredient for juleps, add orange or lemon for your summer drinks, or ginger and use in with whiskey based drinks…you get the idea.  But I digress. For now, we will make about 2 cups. Let’s get this party started.

Ingredients:

A good tequila. I like Cuervo Gold, but use whatever you like best. (See Note below)
Orange Liquor (Patron Citronage is my suggestion – or take it up a notch and use Solerno, a blood orange liquor it is fantastic)
1 c. White sugar
1 c. Fresh squeezed lime juice
1 orange
coarse salt

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In a small pot, add equal parts water and white sugar, 1 cup of each. Give a stir and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. This is a fun process, so don’t rush your syrup. Enjoy the light rolling boil and let your syrup reduce slowly to half of its original volume. You should end with about 1 cup of syrup. Whatever you do, do not rapidly boil this mixture. Allow to cool.

While your syrup is doing its slow dance on the stove, start squeezing your limes. Be sure the fruit is at room temperature. If you don’t have a juicer (I don’t), you have many options but you definitely want to get every bit of juice out of each of your limes that you can. No matter how you squeeze, start by rolling the lime with a fair amount of force on a cutting board with the heel of your palm. This begins to release the juice in the fruit and break the membranes. Then, cut your fruit in half and squeeze as hard as you can. If you have a pair of kitchen tongs, use them to squeeze your fruit.

When you have a cup of lime juice, squeeze your orange into the lime juice. The orange will add flavor and counter the tartness of the lime a bit. You will have a slightly more than a cup of liquid, that’s okay, this doesn’t have to be exact.

When the simple syrup is cooled, add it to your lime/orange juice. Do you know what you’re just done? You just made Sours Mix. Ha – slipped that in on you! Never again do you have to buy that awful heart-burn producing swill from the grocery store! Of course, now you can also adjust the sweetness/tartness to your own liking. I generally use a 50/50 proportion.

We like our margarita’s served “up” or “neat” meaning only “no ice” so I use a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice. Add 1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) of tequila, 1 shot of Citronage and about 4 oz. of sours. Voila! Goodness.

Some folks (myself included) like to salt the rim of the glass. The added salt to each sip of margarita adds a lovely little bite. To make the salt stick, run the inside of one of the squeezed limes around the edge, and dip the glass on a plate with a nice thick layer of coarse salt. Mmmm.

Nothing better. Seriously, there’s nothing better. Pat yourself on the back, grab a few chips and a nice fresh salsa and enjoy the sunset. Or sunrise, whatever.

NOTES:

So I have some thoughts on alcohol used in mixed drinks.  That thought being, “Don’t break the bank.”  Yes, flavor matters. Always and a lot.  But, when you are adding additional flavors to your cocktails, there is no need, or really use, in going top shelf because you’re changing the flavor anyway.  Instead, I like to go full flavor middle-of-the-road, like the Cuervo Gold. It has depth of flavor so you actually taste the tequila, but isn’t so smooth that you overpower it and lose the main ingredient flavor.  Now for shots, go top shelf best you can buy and the tequila will be so smooth there’s no burn.  Never, never, never, however, use the stuff from the bottom shelf of the liquor store.  You will have burn and an awful flavor trying to be tequila, but no amount of sugar or citrus will give you a good drink.  If you go through the effort to make a great margarita, do it well.  Of course, these are just my thoughts.

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