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May 3, 201710:16 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Margaritas – Beloved and Misunderstood

Liquor.com, 2005

Is it May 5 again already? I have not done any shopping, nor have I decorated the house, and we’ve not even planned the annual Cinco de Mayo Road Trip. I wonder where we will go this year. How about Mexico Beach in Florida?

Okay, so May 5 does not generate the same level of interest and support as other holidays of note, but for us Americans, it is a great day, especially if you enjoy a good cocktail. Sort of like St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish, which is not really much of a holiday for those on the Emerald Isle, but for us Irish ex-pats in the New World, we are ready to party-on.

Cinco de Mayo is on a par with those kinds of celebratory days.  

I don’t want to rehash history, covering territory previously covered in this column, so I will just refer you to the Happy Hour column of May 4, 2016, "Cinco de Mayo – The Legend and the Myth," where a lot of viewpoints and history were covered. Piñatas and sombreros not required for the reading, but wear’em if you got’em.

This year we are going to deal with the makings of a proper margarita, a simple drink that we Americans have positively ruined to the point of “nah, let’s just order a French 75.”

I think/hope that after much preaching, cajoling and being threatened with bodily harm, most of us have embraced the idea of fresh ingredients all the time when it comes to constructing cocktails – no pre-mixes, no packaged lime juice, no over-reliance on simple syrup. And using only the best quality spirits available at the moment.

So, if we all are apostles of the Gospel of Fresh, why are many of you acolytes still using or tolerating something called Sweet and Sour Mix from a plastic bottle to make margaritas? To my knowledge, dispensation from the Doctrine of Fresh was not extended.

Let’s begin again.

The margarita is not the most popular cocktail in America, despite rumor to the contrary. But it is in the Top 7 most popular cocktails in the world, according to Business Insider.

And it is an incredibly simple drink: tequila, silver grade; fresh just-squeezed lime juice; and one of the following, in descending order: Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec.  Each ingredient is present in equal parts, but you may prefer a different level of citrus and sweet. Experiment just a little bit off the recipe with the lime and the sweet spirit.

I might also mention that when I give my preferences to some bartenders, they go off on their own in a different direction (too sweet) because they “cannot believe I would enjoy the drink as I described it.”

But what I enjoy is very close to, according to legend, the original recipe for the drink. An orange liqueur, Naranja, was used in lieu of Cointreau or Grand Marnier, but all offer a definite orange aspect.

For me, I am no fan of rimming spices and salt is particularly hard for me to digest in pure form. I like the drink with ice, not placed into a blender and crushed.

You probably have your own preferences and therefore you should have the drink your way. Importantly, be certain there is not a better version out there calling your name. I fear we humans miss out on so much just because we do not possess an open mind or a sense of adventure.

The real answer to the ongoing debate of the Best Margarita in New Orleans: whatever bar makes them the way you like them. Who brought the chips and salsa? Let the party begin.




Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life.



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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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