For year and years, we pursued a noble quest, traipsing throughout our good lands, to find the best Margarita in the country. Particularly, on our road trips down and back to the Everglades, we haunted bars and restaurants in pursuit of this elusive quarry. Sure, plenty of places had okay margaritas – gussied up in fancy curved glasses rimmed in salt and garnished with (too often limp and gray-around-the-edges) limes. Most were made with some kind of high fructose corn syrup-enhanced drink mix, a few splashes of tequila and some kind of orange liqueur – adequate to supplement an appetizer of nachos or a meal of enchiladas, but more ho-hum in taste than the shock and awe and reverence we were pursuing.
We thought we’d come pretty close to Margarita perfection a few years ago in Las Vegas when, after too many 99 cent Mediocre Margaritas (and why should you expect more than “mediocre” for 99 cents?) around town, we found our way into Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill for lunch. We started the outstanding meal with, of course, a Margarita. It was eye-openingly divine, and you could taste freshly-squeezed lime juice. Here is his recipe. As you can see, it’s simple, simple, simple! But that fresh juice makes all the difference.
That became our standard recipe until a few months ago when we went to Ted’s Montana Grill in Bozeman, and tried their Margarita. Even better than Bobby Flay’s! It had the taste (and pulp) of freshly-squeezed lime juice, but there were other layers of citrusy flavor to it, as well. After lots of exploration on the internet and experimentation of our own, we’ve come up with the following recipe for our favorite-so-far Margarita:
Start by making a simple syrup of 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Place in a pan and heat the mixture, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside while you squeeze some citrus fruits, as follows:
1-1/2 cups + 5 teaspoons of freshly-squeezed lime juice
5 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon of freshly-squeezed orange juice*
Add the simple syrup to the citrus mixture. For two drinks, use four parts mix, 2 parts tequila, and 1 part triple sec. Shake in a drink tumbler, with ice, and pour over ice in tequila glasses (salt-rimmed if that’s what you like).
*We’ve recently been able to get blood oranges in Montana! So, when they’re available, that’s what we use. As you can see from the photo above, it makes for a very pretty – as well as tasty – Margarita. We’ve also taken to soaking a cut-open jalapeno in a bottle of tequila for about 4 hours, to add a pleasantly-warm kick to the drink.
We’ve found, surprisingly, that the crucial ingredients seem to be the fresh juices, rather than the quality of the tequila and triple sec. In fact, a series of blind taste tests seemed to verify this, too. In other words, don’t waste your money on top-quality liquors if they’re going to be mixed into a Margarita.
Now we’re wondering, Barbara, if Mexicans and/or ex-pats in Mexico actually drink Margaritas, or is this strictly an American invention?
P.S. The enchiladas pictured above have become a new favorite recipe. They came from a recent Food and Wine. I never would have thought a carrot/tomato salsa-like topping would be good, but it’s very tasty. (We don’t bother with the hour and a half bake of the carrot sofrito. It’s probably even better doing that, though.)