Making classic cocktail starts with fresh ingredients

By Maura Wery

Is there anything better than a well made margarita alongside a spicy Mexican meal? I don’t happen to think so. Let’s be honest, most of us have had a really badly made margarita before and, unfortunately, many of mine have been consumed at the backyard barbecues of my friends and family members. The key to a really well made margarita at home isn’t necessarily time-based, but ingredient-based. If you make a margarita out of a plastic container, in the words of Slate Magazine, you are doing it wrong. I’ve never been a fan of the margarita mix. The color to me is so off-putting. It’s unnatural and so is the sweetness. Margaritas can be sweet, don’t get me wrong on that. I love a strawberry or pomegranate margarita, both of which should use fruit or juices that are naturally sweet. A lime margarita? It shouldn’t be sweet. Tart? Yes. The flavors of a fresh lime margarita should resonate on the tongue and make your day fantastic.

A good margarita should be a nice shade of green. How do you get that color? Use fresh lime juice. I know, I hate squeezing those little suckers too, but it’s worth it. I suggest finding a strong-handed person to do it for you, or getting a fruit juicer. But if you absolutely will not squeeze them, then buy some lime juice from the store. Try to get the natural, unsweetened variety. I don’t think it tastes the same, but it works in a pinch.

The next must-have is a good quality tequila. None of that cheap stuff, either. I know sometimes budgets won’t allow for really high-end bottles, but I would rather have just one large bottle of good tequila than five of the cheap. I prefer Patron Silver, but Jose Cuervo works as well. When you go to the liquor store, ask about the high-dollar stuff. Sometimes it even goes on sale.

The last two things I will suggest are for quality control. To make your fantastic margarita use a jigger or measuring cup. A jigger is that stainless steel small measuring cup bartenders use. It gives you exactly one and half or two ounces. You can free-pour, but margaritas are all about balance. You aren’t drinking a glass of tequila with a little bit of lime juice. You need everything to be harmonious.

The last thing is a martini shaker. I like my margaritas to be cold. Really, really cold. Especially if they are on the rocks. Using the shaker will make that happen. Then, if you are like me and detest liquor being watered down, you can have an ice-cold marg with no ice.

Also, don’t just think margaritas have to be lime-flavored. Keep your mind open to different fruit and veggie juices. I find grapefruit margaritas super refreshing on hot summer days.

A margarita that uses lime and a lavender simple syrup is also refreshing. And for those who get too hungover the night before, there is even a margarita for you! It’s called the Bloody Maria. Same concept as Bloody Mary, but with tequila instead of vodka. But let your mind wander and just stay away from those mixes in the gallon plastic tubs.

Top-Shelf Margarita


I used Patron for this recipe. Any 100-percent agave tequila will work. I also used Cointreau for my orange liqueur, but there are others out there.


Makes four margaritas



1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup Patron Silver

1/4 cup Cointreau


Lime wedges

Salt (for the rim)



Add ice to martini shaker.


Add lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur into shaker and place on the lid

Shake for about 30 seconds, or until cold


For the glass, take a lime wedge and rub the fruit side against the rim of the glass

Dip into a plate with coarse kosher or regular salt


Add margarita into glass without ice.


—Adapted from


Ruby Red Grapefruit Margarita


This is originally an Emeril Lagasse recipe, but I changed it from a frozen margarita to an on-the-rocks one. If you can’t find red grapefruit vodka, don’t sweat it. Just use another citrus-flavored vodka. The grapefruit juice packs the punch that it needs.


Also, for simple syrup: Combine one cup of water and one cup of sugar and bring it to a boil. Let it cool completely before using it in a beverage.



1 wedge red grapefruit

coarse kosher salt

3/4 cup of tequila

1/3 cup Ruby Red vodka (optional)

1/4 cup simple syrup

1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice



Use the wedge of the grapefruit to rub the rims of the glasses.


Dip the rims in kosher salt to coat and set aside.In a shaker, add vodka, tequila, simple syrup, grapefruit and lime juice with a few ice cubes.


Shake until cold, then pour into glasses.


For garnish, float a slice of grapefruit in the margarita


—Adapted from


Lavender Margarita


Lavender might seem like an odd ingredient to place into a margarita, but the mixture of the calming aromatic and lime juice is refreshing, especially on a warm afternoon.


Makes one margarita



2 ounces silver tequila

1/2 ounces Cointreau

1 ounces lavender simple syrup

1/2 fresh squeezed lime


Dried lavender buds



In a shaker, combine 2 ounces of silver tequila, 1/2 Cointreau, 1 ounce simple syrup and the juice of half a lime.


On a plate, combine sugar and dried lavender.


Use the mixture to rim the glass.Fill glass with ice. Shake and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.


—Recipe from


Bloody Maria


This recipe is adapted from a Brunch at Bobby’s episode I absolutely adore.


This drink uses a reconstituted guajillo pepper alongside tabasco which definitely gives this sucker some kick.


If you’re not into spicy things, you can leave the pepper out and just use tabasco, but I really liked the flavor it gives the cocktail.

This is great for a Cinco de Mayo themed brunch or just for a really bad hangover.


Makes 4 to 6 cocktails



32 ounces tomato juice

2 cups fresh orange juice

1 cup tequila

1 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup agave juice

5 dashes Tabasco

2 dashes Worcestershire

1 guajillo chile, stemmed, seeded, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes and finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Lime wedged and sliced, for garnish and moistening glass rim



Combine into a pitcher the tomato juice, orange juice, tequila, lime juice, agave, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce,  chile, and pepper.


Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate.


In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the smoked paprika and salt.


Moisten the rim of the glass with a lime wedge, and dip into the paprika-salt mixture.


Put ice into a glass, and pour the mixture over and garnish with a lime slice.

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