A classic, textbook margarita is a perfect summer drink. It’s tart and boozy and just sweet enough — a true ride or die cocktail if there ever was one. But I cannot help but futz with things, even perfect things, because that is my nature. I fiddle and tweak and fuck about, because heaven forbid I experience the same thing twice (or, even worse, get bored).
It’s probably annoying to live with — you’ll never eat the same spaghetti sauce more than once! — but my aversion to predictability and consistency makes me good at this particular job, if trying in romantic relationships. Here are three ways to futz with the classic margarita if, like me, you can’t leave well enough alone.
Salt the drink, not the glass
Imagine serving someone a fried egg, with a rim of salt around the edge of the plate, or a cup of coffee with sugar on the rim of the mug. No one would accept this.
A salt rim on a margarita certainly looks the part, but it’s an inefficient way to season your drink. Salt tastes good in summery drinks — even drinks that aren’t margs — but having to lick your glass before each sip is inefficient and a little silly. Just season your drink for real and put the salt right in the shaker.
A healthy pinch is usually plenty for one drink, but you can also get super precise with a saline solution of 50 grams salt (Eater recommends Maldon) to 200 grams boiling water, so you can add it drop by drop. You’ll get all the flavorful benefits of a salted rim, without the awkwardness that comes along with licking things.
Swirl some spiciness in there
Some people like their margs spicy, and I get it. There’s something invigorating and dangerous about pairing capsaicin with booze.
There are a few ways to get some heat into your cocktail. You can muddle pepper slices into your shaker, you can make a chilli-infused syrup, or you can finely grate a jalapeño and swirl the microplane around in your glass (or pitcher). You’ll get all those spicy, aromatic oils in there, along with pretty little flecks of jalapeño (or any other fresh pepper you desire), but you’ll also be able to control the spice levels with ease. Grate a little, grate a lot, then swirl — you’re done. (Just be sure to wash your hands after grating. No pepper oils in peepers.)
Do a simple swap
The margarita is a basic sour without too many ingredients, usually three or four. They’re pretty optimised, but a lot of seemingly perfect arrangements are reinvigorated with a little swapping.
Changing out the tequila for smokey mezcal is the most obvious tweak, but one I usually deploy during the winter months. For a more summery swap, I like to mess with the liqueur and citrus, swapping out cointreau for Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and lime juice for lemon. Luxardo has a lovely dry, almost almond-y, cherry flavour, and it is of favourite of mine, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, you should feel free to play around with it:
You could use banana liqueur, limoncello (pair with lime juice for double citrus action), or even a fruit brandy. For the citrus, lime is never bad, but lemon, Meyer lemon, and grapefruit (when paired with an appropriate liqueur) are all delightful.
As with any experiment, try not change more than one or two variables at a time, otherwise your palate could get flummoxed. (You should really only change one variable at a time, but this isn’t real science, so we’ll allow a couple.)