Will the real Margarita please stand up?  Cherry Margarita (photo courtesy Created By Diane).  Grape Margarita (photo courtesy California Table Grape Commission.  Guava Margarita (photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann).  and  The real deal, from Casa Noble Tequila: a classic Margarita and the classic with a smoked salt rim.  A Margarita made with GranGala orange liqueur in a Margarita glass.
Around this time of year, we get bombarded with every imaginable recipe for National Margarita Day (February 22nd).
In fact, most of these drinks are Margarita in name only.
Because Margarita and Martini are the two most popular cocktails in America, some tequila companies (who know better) and establishments (who should) call too many concoctions by one of these names. Grape Margarita? Avocado Margarita? Seriously?
Here are just a few of the oh-so-wrong Margarita recipes we’ve received in recent weeks:
Avocado Margarita: blanco tequila, triple sec, lime, avocado (one entire avocado per drink!), fresh cilantro, cayenne pepper.
Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita: tequila tequila, lime juice, 3 slices of scotch bonnet pepper, diced mango, mango jam.
Raspberry Margarita: oro tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, black raspberry syrup, fresh raspberries.
Spicy Raspberry Margarita: reposado tequila, Chambord, Sprite, sour mix, Tabasco.
When did this all begin? In our experience, it was the mid 1980s, when we first saw a “Peach-arita” featured on a menu in East Hampton. It substituted peach schnapps for the Cointreau.
It was delicious—we had two—and the name was delightfully catchy. Many variations have appeared all over the ensuing 30 years. But in retrospect, they aren’t Margaritas at all; just cocktails riding on Margarita’s coattails, appropriating the name.
We are complicit: We’ve published numerous poseur Margarita recipes, because they were really good cocktails. But the madness (at least ours) stops today.
We’ll still publish good cocktail recipes, but any faux Margarita will be linked to this conscious-raising rant.
WHAT IS A MARGARITA?
The original Margarita combined tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice: a orange-flavored tequila cocktail with a salt rim, served with a lime wheel (here’s the Margarita history).
Unless you’re talking Frozen Margarita—where any flavor can be added via fruit purée—Margarita is an orange drink, not a cherry, grape or pineapple one.
Once you take great license with ingredients, you create a different cocktail.
Would you make a Pineapple Cosmo, substituting the standard cranberry juice with pineapple juice? Create a Grapefruit Screwdriver?
A Screwdriver combines orange juice and vodka. Grapefruit juice and vodka is a Greyhound.
Adding cranberry juice to a Greyhound produces a Sea Breeze.
And that’s how it should be. Cocktails should observe a nomenclature, like everything else.
That being said, there is license to slightly vary the original ingredients. Each change marginally alters the original flavor profile, but the drink is still recognizable.
Tequila: You can use reposado or anejo tequila instead of the original blanco (silver). But you can’t make a “Mezcal Margarita,” any more than you can make a Vodka Margarita. Call those drinks something else!
Cointreau: You can use a different orange liqueur. Many bartenders quickly adopted the less expensive triple sec (generic orange liqueur); Grand Marnier promoted the “Grand” Margarita, making it seem a better choice (although Cointreau is the most expensive of the orange liqueurs—$10 more per bottle than Grand Marnier). GranGala did the same, calling a Margarita made with its liqueur the Ultra Margarita. We received an Orange Blossom Margarita recipe that included both Grand Marnier and Pavan Orange Blossom Liqueur—all right—but further added agave and club soda. We’d call that an Orange Blossom Fizz.
Lime juice: You could substitute or add a different citrus juice, creating a Blood Orange Margarita, a Grapefruit Margarita, a Lemon Margarita.
Rim: Instead of plain salt, use flavored salt (chipotle, smoked, whatever) or a seasoning blend like Tajin, a blend of chile, lime and salt.
Garnish: This is where you can express creativity without altering the integrity of the drink. You can add to, or substitute, the lime wheel with a wedge, and with something decorative (a red chile on a pick), or tossed into/onto the drink: jalapeño slices, berries, a sprig of cilantro or tarragon.
Glass: The original Margarita was served in a rocks (Old Fashioned) glass. Over time, bartenders chose whatever they had on hand, such as a Martini glass or a coupe. A “Margarita glass†” was invented in Mexico, and can be found in use at Mexican restaurants in the U.S.Use whatever you like.
If you want to add a fruit flavor (guava, mango, strawberry, whatever), add purée to the original recipe. We’d even grant passage to a something like a Mango Basil Margarita, with the purée and torn basil leaves in the shaker.
But a recipe of tequila, lime juice, spicy mango syrup, grapefruit bitters and basil leaves? Call it something else—even if that’s Margarita’s Sister.
Ditto, an Apple Cider Margarita, tequila, apple cider, lemon juice and a cinnamon-sugar for rim.
Ditto, tequila and lime juice with muddled cilantro.
If you get rid of the orange liqueur and lime, it’s not a Margarita.
Give your raspberry-tequila cocktail another name—or look it up: There aren’t many combinations that haven’t been otherwise named.
(That said, We just looked up “raspberry tequila cocktail” and got the usual slew of Raspberry Margarita recipes, although Deliciously Organic forthrightly called it a Raspberry, Lime and Tequila Cocktail. Right on!)
The Margarita is the most popular† drink in the country.
Give it the respect it deserves.
Create a new name for your cocktail—just like every other drink recipe has done.