The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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The cocktail corner: The Margarita

"Sour Mix! In my margarita? What is this, Auschwitz?!!" 

These are the words of animated secret agent Sterling Archer, voiced by comedian Jon Benjamin from the hilarious FX show, Archer.

"A margarita has 5 ingredients! Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, ice and kosher salt!!"

It's not my intention to make light of the ubiquitous use of bottled sour mix in cocktails in the New Orleans sour family, (margaritas, daiquiris, cosmos, etc). I'm assuming these offenders find it more convenient to twist open a bottle of this pre-bottled mix, pour in some tequila and call it a margarita... I get heart burn just watching these things made.

I guess it is just a tad bit less convenient for them to follow Archer's advice and use those five simple ingredients. 
You know what else isn't convenient, loading up the Escalade with four kids, snowboards, skis, poles, helmets, diaper bag, lap top and then sitting in traffic.

Yet you do it. Not because it's convenient, but because it's worth it.

When the trip is to the snowy mountains, you envision being at the top of the peak, seeing the Green Mountains in front of you, the Adirondack's to your left and the White Mountains to your right, and dropping in to an amazing run… at the end of the day, you may also look forward to "happy hour."

Let's make a margarita. 

There are many good reasonable priced tequilas out there. I like to try different brands when they are on sale. My current favorite is "Milagro" silver. Whatever tequila you use make sure it says "100% agave" on the label. I think silver or blanco is the way to go but if you like a more robust or smokey flavor you could use a "Resposado." These have been reposed or "rested" in a barrel for a short period and thus takes on some of it's flavors. Don't use anything that says "gold," that gold color does not come from a barrel.

To make this a balanced cocktail we'll add some sweet and then some sour flavor.

The sweet, as Archer tells us, is best derived from "Cointreau" (a proprietary orange-flavored liqueur). It is smooth as silk and doesn't have that weird aftertaste found in cheaper brands. If you want to save a few shekels try "Van Gogh O' Magnifique" or "Patron Citronage" instead. They are a little sweeter but not as sweet as "Grand Marnier."  GM has a bit too sweet with too much orange flavor for me, but you may like it, you'll just need less to keep it balanced.

Next is the sour part of your cocktail. Fresh squeezed lime juice (not Roses lime juice, that should be reserved only for Gimlets.) Instead of a reamer juicer I like to use a squeezer which gets the oils from the lime in there too. Warm fruit yields more juice than cold, and don't roll them on your kitchen table, you'll just lose your oil.

Salt the glass if you like. Start with warm glass and rub a wedge of lime on the outside of the glass, really let it have it, not just on the rim but an inch or so down the glass.  Next spoon some Kosher salt over it or roll the glass in a plate of salt. We are only interested in getting the salt on the outside of the glass. We don't want to add any salt to the drink.  Stay away form those disgusting foam salters you see at some bars, ugh, gross!

Now, throw the glass in the freezer and it will dry the salt on the glass.

Building your drink.
We'll shake this baby so let's build it in a mixing glass, sans ice. The ratio I like to use is:

3:2:1. 3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, 1 part lime juice.

So the exact amount doesn't matter as long as you keep the ratio the same. Let hope you are drinking with a friend. We'll make enough for two.

Let's assume you have one of those novelty shot glasses with the Statue of Liberty on it.  That guy is probably one ounce, so fill it three times with tequila, twice with Cointreau, once with lime.  If you are making one drink, the 3:2:1 ratio works out to 1.5 oz (45 ml) tequila, 1 oz (30 ml) Cointreau, 1/2 oz (15 ml) lime.

Shake it with some clean dry ice and stain it into your frozen glass, straight up.  The frozen glass will keep your libation cold and it will remain perfectly balanced right to the last sip.

Remember the longer you shake it the more water you are adding. The goal is about 25% of water added. The amount of time shaking will depend on the size of your ice, most home ice is large and will need a bit more time of vigorous shaking. Really let it have it.  I think Harry Craddock said, "Shake the shaker as hard as you can, you are trying to wake it up, not rock it to sleep."
When I turn people on to this ratio they either look at me with amazement or disgust. It can be a bit dry and strong for the uninitiated. A second sip will usually bring around the wary. If it's too strong and sour, simply add a little simple syrup to your drink. Adding more of our sweet liquor will probably throw the balance off.  (Simple syrup is simply equal parts sugar and water, stirred till dissolved, refrigerate.)

Warning: These are so good and so easy to drink you could get carried away. My goal when creating a cocktail is to make it so at your last sip you just want a little more. Take a breath, we have all night, this is not a race, have a glass of water. For every drink, have a small glass of ice water, it lengthens your night and you'll thank me in the morning.
Remember the road probably doesn't need one. Be safe, tipple don't topple.