Margaritas – Beloved and Misunderstood

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 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 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



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