October 13, 2009

In search of the best Margarita

The Margarita was invented perhaps as early as the 1930’s in Mexico; rumor has it in Tijuana—or Tasca, Juarez, Acapulco, Puebla, or La Jolla. The word Margarita means ‘Daisy’ and the drink was variously named after Marguerite Hemery (wife of the restaurant owner who invented the drink); Margarita, the fiancée of Danny Negrete’s brother (who is?); Margarita Cansino who later became actress Rita Hayworth; a showgirl named Marjorie King; or Margaret Sames, a rich young Texas socialite.

If you live in Mexico, you have no excuse for not knowing how to make the best Margarita. It has taken me 15 years to fine tune what I considered to be the best Margarita, but it is living in Mexico for the last year that has given me the access to all the right ingredients. When I was in college we would buy a can of Bacardi frozen Margarita mix, dump it and the required amount of Jose Cuervo Tradicional (always adding just a little more than the recipe required) and ice cubes into a blender, and voilá. I don’t remember going to the effort to salt the rim. Blended Margaritas—sublime perfection! In fact I remember having a meeting in the sorority house in one of the girl’s rooms and her blender sat out in plain view in front of an alumnus who felt impelled to comment that she hoped weren’t using that for blending drinks (she had to know we were). No, no, we all said, never! My, my, how my tastes have changed since then. This perfect Margarita I am talking about is not something I invented, it is uses the original 1947 recipe with certain premium ingredients. It is never blended, but always served on the rocks, the rim of the glass is rubbed with a cut limon and twisted in a dish of salt. I have always been a purist, so it is tequila, key lime juice and orange liqueur—none of these nouveau watermelon or raspberry concoctions for me.

In 1996 we discovered the tequila for making the best Margaritas. We were flying Esperando’s Cessna 205 from the US to Panama where we were living at the time. Along the way we stopped in Puerto Vallarta and stayed at the El Presidente Hotel. At the bar the bartender gave us lots of premium shots or as we call them down here, caballos, of tequila. The bartender included Cazadores Reposado among his choices and he recommended it as the best for Margaritas. After comparing it with the others we agreed with him and so that has been our choice ever since.

When I was organizing for our big party the other night, I went to look up my recipe in my little red book (which also lists all the clothes I have ever taken on any trip going back to when we were first married—anal, huh?—but that way I just pull out my list and I don’t have to rethink what kind of clothes to take again somewhere.) I knew I had it scribbled in there, but darned if I could find it. So I went to the internet and looked up ‘original 1947 Margarita’ and was rescued. At the party I got many compliments from the Mexicans on my Margaritas, the gringos not so much. That is probably because most gringos like really sweet Margaritas like I used to make with lots of Persian lime (big green limes that you find in the US grocery stores) juice and sugar. A long time ago in the USA I thought I made a terrific margarita and it was one of those kinds. Then every occasionally we would go to Juarez and the restaurant at the PRONOF Center (sadly now defunct) served an incredible Margarita, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it. About then we came across a newspaper column with what claimed to be the original recipe from Tijuana circa 1947. It was not a sugary limey Margarita but the real thing, like we would get in Juarez. I tried making it but it still didn’t taste right. What I didn’t know was that I needed lots more orange liqueur and key limes, not Persian limes. Once you cross the border into Mexico the Persian lime does not exist.

#1 The “original’ 1947 recipe I found on the internet was this:
2 jiggers tequila,
1 jigger orange liqueur
1 jigger fresh key lime juice

#2 Then I found it in my little red book, and the ‘original’ recipe was this:
2 jiggers Cazadores Reposado tequila,
1 jigger Controy (the Mexican cousin of cointreau)
1/2 jigger key lime juice.

Hmm, we had to know the truth, which was best? Last night we prepared one of both kinds of the ‘original’ recipes. The first was tarter as you would expect with the greater amount of key lime juice, and the second was a bit too strong so we poured the two together and felt it was perfect. You can't really go wrong with either one, but they are quite strong so make sure you put in lots and lots of ice—and try not to drink more than one. Its dangerous.

Margarita #1 on the left is a little more yellow colored and tarter

Margarita #2 is stronger tasting, no so tart

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