This article was originally published on April 30, 2013.
It's a simple thing — limes, liquor, and salt. Yet, the margarita has the power to turn an otherwise ordinary evening into an occasion. As soon as the temperature goes up, this fresh, tart quaff is all we want, all the time. But for such a bar basic, there is endless debate over what makes a good one. Ask any bartender, and they'll deliver an epic monologue on the margarita, complete with story arc and lighting effects. People care about crafting this drink, and we get it. So with Cinco de Mayo upon us, we want you to be prepared. We reached out to international mixology pro Marshall Altier, gathered all his must-know tips, and took them in to the R29 test kitchen to do some serious research. It was a long day at work (we think?), but you can thank us later.
Tip #1: Always use fresh lime juice. ALWAYS. If you're making a party-sized portion, a simple citrus press (under $10 at any kitchen or home store) will save you a lot of time (and hand-strain).
Tip #2: Instead of a generic Triple Sec, invest in a quality liqueur (like Cointreau or Combier). Even a smaller bottle will last you a while, since this element is used in small portions.
Tip #3: As for tequila, you don't need to go fancy, but 100% Agave Blanco Tequila is mandatory. There are a million reasons why this is true, but you have a drink to make, so just trust us on this one.
Tip #4: To salt or not to salt is entirely up to you — "it's an option, not the rule," says Altier. Don't let the salt/no-salt bullies tell you otherwise!
The Perfect Margarita
2 oz Tequila
1 oz fresh lime
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1 tsp simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
If you're salting the rims, pour lime juice (bottled actually works well here!) onto one small plate, and fill another one with kosher salt. Dip the top of each glass into the juice and then into the salt. (Note: this won't work with water, you need the stickiness of juice to hold the salt.)
Shake up all ingredients in a shaker with ice, then strain into glasses over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wedge, and serve.
Food styled by Rhoda Boone
Photographed by Janelle Jones