Expert Tips For Making Margaritas Like A Pro

Salty, sharp, tart, and bright, margaritas are perfect for sipping on a patio or toasting with a "Salud!" But you don't have to wait for a trip to your favorite Mexican restaurant to enjoy one. Food Republic spoke to David Ortiz, Corporate Beverage Director at the Florida Mexican restaurant chain Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar, to get his tips on how to whip up a great margarita at home.

"KISS," Ortiz advises: "Keep it simple." The secret lies in paying attention to the balance of flavors. Too much lime juice, and the drink will taste unpleasantly acidic. A heavy hand on the sweetener will make your adult beverage taste like candy, and an overly hefty pour of tequila may bring back some bad college memories. However, when all the components are in the right proportions, there really is no cocktail quite as craveable. Ortiz's recipe includes two ounces of tequila, ¾ ounce of agave syrup, and one ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice. You can also cut back on the tequila somewhat, and incorporate orangey triple sec to double down on the citrus flavors. In that case, use 1 ¾ ounces of tequila and ¾ ounce of orange liqueur.

All the ingredients are measured into a cocktail shaker with eight ounces of ice. A good, hard shake instantly upgrades margaritas, so don't skimp on this step. About 15 seconds is a good rule of thumb. To serve, strain into a glass — rimmed with salt, please!

The booze matters

When you invest in good ingredients, a simple margarita definitely becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Let's start with the alcohol — the fastest way to make a homemade margarita taste expensive is by using a good tequila. For starters, David Ortiz notes that the best tequila to use when making a margarita is 100% blue Weber agave tequila. All true tequila can only be made with blue Weber agave, but many lower-end products are cut with additives and other random spirits, which muddy the flavor. Read the label carefully! Blanco or silver tequila is typical in margaritas for its fresh, bright, and peppery flavor, but feel free to experiment with reposado or añejo tequilas — they see oak barrel aging that imparts deeper, caramelized notes.

You can also play with the flavor profile by considering which orange liqueur, if any, you want to use. For example, Cointreau is bright; Grand Marnier is spicy and warm; and Curaçao is bittersweet.

Spice it up!

Firing up a simple margarita base is easy. David Ortiz suggests incorporating a couple of slices of fresh jalapeño for a spicy margarita. Simply muddle the pepper pieces in the bottom of the cocktail shaker before adding everything else. Those who want great flavor but a milder taste should remove the white ribs and seeds from the pepper first. On the other hand, for more heat and a similar flavor, use serrano chilies instead. Rocco's Tacos also serves spicy margaritas made with smoky chipotles or fiery habaneros.

Another way to incorporate a bit of heat is with the rim. Salt is classic, but Ortiz also likes Tajín — a brand of seasoning mixes that include dehydrated lime, dried chilies, and salt. Spicy sal de gusano (also known as worm salt) is another great option for its savory, smoky, umami notes. For an extra kick, rim your glass with tangy, sticky, sweet chamoy before rolling it in your seasoning of choice.