Those loving hot weather with a cool beverage in hand may find a margarita an irresistible temptation. Forget about clunky glasses rimmed with salt and sickly sweet mixes that detract from the delights of the real thing.
The original ingredients are quite simple: 2 parts tequila, 1 part lime juice and 1 part Cointreau (i.e. 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz. Cointreau and 2 oz. of tequila. Splashed over crushed ice, this mix will help chase away the melting heat. However, if you’re seeking perfection, there are a few things to bear in mind.
1) Never, never use a substitute for the Cointreau – Triple-Sec is a poor alternative.
2) Use ripe key limes for the juice. If you are lucky enough to have a key lime tree growing nearby, you’ll know that these little lovelies turn yellow when they’re ripe. Alas, it’s not always easy to find key limes in the store, and when you do, they are all too often green – meaning not quite ripe for this variety. Still, any fresh squeezed key lime will be better than the other varieties and both will be better than juices from a jar, but the perfect margarita demands ripe and yellow key limes.
3) When you’re mixing a cocktail, it doesn’t make sense to use astonishingly expensive tequila. On the other hand, you won’t enjoy the stuff that tastes like recycled turpentine. Find a reasonable ‘reposada’ (the amber color) as it gives a more traditional taste than the ‘blanco’ (white).
4) When I was in the southern Baja, Mexico, I discovered the secret ingredient that moves the ordinary margarita into the magical realm. It is a liqueur made from the damiana plant. Unfortunately, Damiana liqueur is difficult to find outside of Mexico or some of the southern U.S. states. The real Damiana comes in a bottle shaped like a ‘Buddha babe’ – the liqueur has a reputation as an aphrodisiac… But beware! When in Arizona, I came across one other variety of Damiana in a more traditional bottle and it was awful – tasting nothing like stuff in the traditional bottle.
So, if you can find the right bottle of Damiana, a nice splash of the liqueur is added to the other three ingredients in a glass of your choice. Forget the salt! Now take the drink outside and find just the right spot. Lay back and watch the sunlight sparkle off the ripples on the surface of the water and sip. Ah! The perfect margarita!