February 22nd is National Margarita Day
Once Upon A Time…. Just about every fairy tale or made up story begins this way. But for the Margarita cocktail, it may very well be the truth. Once upon a time someone invented it, but nobody knows absolutely for certain who and where the popular beverage was invented. There are as many stories as there are variations on the drink. But we can celebrate this fabulous drink every day, especially on National Margarita Day on February 22nd.
Wikipedia has about eight different stories of its origin; including one that it was invented for a Ziegfeld dancer who was allergic to other alcohol. Who knows what the accurate story is, but there’s one thing these stories have in common; the cocktail was invented in Mexico, which sounds reasonable since Tequila itself originated there.
If you like margaritas, you probably have your favorite flavor; plain, strawberry, peach, etc. For me, I prefer the classic flavor, on the rocks with a salted rim. Further down the page I’ll provide the recipe I use for you to try and it can be modified to make the other flavors. I hope you enjoy it.
What is Tequila? How Is It Made?
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which grows plentifully in the Mexico climate and its first known production was in the 16th century. During the cultivation of the agave workers prevent it from sending up the flowering spike, to keep it from dying early. The core of the plant is the only part of the agave that is used in the production of tequila. After slowly roasting in a large brick oven (see photo below) to release the fructose and flavor it contains, the cores are then mashed under a large grinding stone and the juice is extracted. Then the juice is fermented in large vats for several days, resulting in a product of low alcohol content called a wort or mosto. This fermented product is then distilled, once for regular tequila, twice for “silver” tequila. Some believe in even a third distillation, but others say it removes the tequila flavor. It is then aged for a period of time up to more than three years, depending on the type of flavor desired. More about that below.
Three Aged Types
There are three aged types of tequila: Reposado, which is aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year, in oak barrels of any size; Anejo, aged a minimum of one year but less than three years in small oak barrels, and Anejo Extra, aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. Just as for bourbon, aging gives tequila a greater, mellower flavor.
What About The Worm?
For years there was a misconception that every bottle of tequila held a worm, the larva of a moth that lives on the agave. This was a marketing device used in the 1940s in mezcal, a lower quality beverage made from many types of agave, as opposed to tequila which is made from only blue agave. There aren’t any worms in upscale tequila.
My Favorite Margarita Recipe
As I promised, here is my favorite Margarita recipe. The recipe shown is for an on-the-rocks margarita only. But if you prefer the blended one with shaved ice, you can adapt this recipe by using a blender or ice shaver such as the one shown here, to pulverize the ice cubes, then pour the mixture over the slush.
First, make sure you have good cocktail shakers on hand. You will need one for each guest unless you want to pour a single drink for each. To quote Ian Fleming’s character, James Bond, “shaken, not stirred.” If possible use a metal shaker, because it retains the cold far longer than plastic. This is important because ideally, each serving goes to the drinker in the shaker with the glass on the side, so that each may pour their own refill. If you only have one shaker, and you’re pouring the individual drinks, the metal shaker helps to retain the iciness.
Prepare the glasses first.
Chill the glasses and the shaker(s) for at least an hour before using, taking each one out of the refrigerator just before serving. Rub the rim of each glass with cut lime, dip the glass into the margarita salt, and slip a slice of cut lime on the rim. Always use special margarita salt for the rim because its large grains won’t melt quickly when they touch the bit of liquid from the lime. You can buy flavored margarita salts such as the one shown below which is lime.
This recipe makes one margarita and is served in the prepared glass, with the metal shaker alongside, if you aren’t pouring individual drinks. Combine the following ingredients in the cocktail shaker:
Ice cubes (4 or so)
1 ounce Cointreau
1 and 1/2 ounce tequila of your choice
1 ounce Gran Marnier
4 ounces your favorite Margarita mix
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Put the top on the shaker and shake vigorously several times.
If you have chosen, serve in the container alongside the margarita glass for each person, allowing them to serve their own refill. Or you may pour each serving. Be festive, serve your Perfect Margarita in special glasses such as the one shown below or others you may like.