IN PURSUIT: THE PERFECT MARGARITA
by Celso Oliveira
February 22, 2020
Today we meet Josue Romero, The Garnish Guy from Instagram, to deconstruct one of our favorite drinks: The Margarita. Josue joined us to talk a bit about how to create the perfect version of this popular tequila-based drink, and in this case, using fresh strawberries, brown sugar, and mint. And even though perfection in his world is usually synonymous with complexity and flawless execution, he helped break down a few simple concepts that anyone—from the cocktail novice to the seasoned mixologist— can put in practice to build the perfect margarita every single time.
No Ordinary Margarita
Many elaborate techniques to create complex margaritas exist out there. Yet, lots of folks prefer to keep things simple and stick to a basic calculation of frozen vs. rock and salt, no salt, which is absolutely okay. We, as cocktail enthusiasts, are just pleased people are starting to get comfortable experimenting at home, using garnished rims and playing with a variety of glassware.
The margarita Josue breaks down for us is no ordinary margarita, but then again, Josue is no ordinary bartender. Keep reading to learn the ins-and-outs of how to make his strawberry-mint recipe using Casa Mexico Tequila Blanco.
What’s in a Margarita, Anyways?
No tequila cocktail recipe has withstood time as well as the margarita, but some people can be a bit confused as to what goes in it. When someone asks what’s in a margarita, what follows is often an answer consisting of what it tastes like instead of the actual components.
— It’s a sweet and sour adult drink, with some savory flavors and some spice. Then you add tequila.
— Tequila, lime, and salt?
The answer is pretty basic. Tequila is at the center of a four-piece balancing act consisting of sweet, sour, salty, and heat. For many, these flavors— or dimensions, as we can call them— exist to mask the harshness found in many tequilas. This harshness can typically be gauged by looking at the drinker’s face, right before the sweetness and sourness of the other ingredients of the cocktail kick in upon first sip. The smoother the tequila, of course, the smoother the margarita.
To craft the perfect margarita, one must understand that it is imperative to get the proportions right. An imbalanced margarita will rob the other ingredients of a chance to shine. The cardinal rule is 2:1:1—two parts tequila, one part sweet and one part sour. Once you’ve achieved those three elements in these proportions, you are ready to add special touches.
Casa Mexico Blanco
For the tequila, we will be using our Silver, otherwise known as the Blanco expression. It’s categorized as such because it has not gone through an aging process in our American oak barrels; this allows it to boast a crisp, clean taste making it a fantastic base for any of margarita, be it fruity, sweet, or spicy.
Rather than highlighting the spirit itself, the Blanco expression grants a space for all other ingredients to shine and work as a symphony of flavors. Using a different expression would completely change the margarita. Take, for example, our Añejo: it is aged for a year and has notes of nuttiness and smoked oat, which would detract from the other flavors in this particular recipe.
The Strawberry Mint Syrup
Josue is a master at making syrups and shares with us how easy it is to make this one. Getting the syrup right is the most crucial part of this recipe and a bit time consuming, but it can be prepared in batches in advance to save time. We’ll use sugar, water, fresh mint, and strawberries for our ingredients and a muddler, saucepan, and strainer for our tools.
The strawberries need not be huge, and a handful goes a long way. Making syrup is less intimidating than a lot of people assume, think of is as actually just flavoring sugar. We’ll be using a technique called maceration, in which the sugars get dissolved in the fruit with the aid of a muddler and a little bit of boiling water. This technique creates an immediate strawberry mint simple syrup that can be strained and kept for use the next day or so.
Fresh fruit is always the best choice when creating cocktails. Choosing fruit that comes from a squeezable bottle is more costly, bad for the environment, and the taste is typically below standard. Having said that, though, most people struggle with extracting juices direct from the fruit by hand, but there are great tools out on the market to help with this, such as power juicers, citrus reamers, and squeezers.
In Southern California and México, where many of the Casa México Tequila familia reside, it’s a great privilege to have access to fresh citrus year-round. It’s no wonder we can enjoy quality, craft margaritas in all seasons.
For one drink, two limes should yield plenty of juice. If the limes are stubborn and dry, try cooking them a bit to make it easier to extract the juices.
Depending on personal preference, you will want to adjust the amount of pepper used. Having the pepper shaken over ice with the rest of your drink will cause it to shatter by the sharpness of the ice and will allow the powerful spicy notes to incorporate into your margarita. Keep in mind when you’re prepping your pepper that the seeds and the gills (a.k.a. the white parts of the pepper) will contribute to the intensity of the heat, so adjust accordingly.
Pro Tip: Try using a bell pepper to keep things on the milder side, or to try something new! Bell peppers yield an earthy tone that goes quite well with any margarita.
Shake, Pour, Serve
Shaking is the traditional way to mix a margarita so get ready by adding your ingredients proportionately into a vessel (such as a cocktail shaker), and have a salt-rimmed glass nearby for when you’re ready to pour. Be sure to add some large ice to chill your drink at the same time as you mix it, and use large cubes to prevent over-dilution as they will melt slower, keeping your drink fresh.
Shake your concoction intensely, and make your best Brian Flanagan impression. Once you feel the vessel is cold to the touch, you’ll know that the ingredients have mixed well enough and have chilled thoroughly. Next, add fresh ice cubes into your glass and pour in your cocktail, straining out the old ice cubes.
Don’t forget the garnish! Garnishing with aromatic sprigs of mint will help to play with the senses while releasing more of the flavors into the drink as it is consumed.
If you want to make a large batch, this recipe can be executed in stages which can easily be made up to a day before to save on time.
Enjoy responsibly. ¡Salud!
The Strawberry Mint Margarita
Yield Makes 2 servings
- 4 oz. Casa Mexico Blanco Tequila
- 2 oz. strawberry mint syrup
- 2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 1 pepper of choice, chopped (we used a serrano pepper)
- Run lime wedge around the outer rims of two rocks glasses and dip rims in salt. Set aside.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, strawberry mint syrup, lime juice, and pepper.
- Fill with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled, about 15 seconds (the bottom of a metal shaker should frost over).
- Fill glasses with fresh ice and strain margarita into both glasses. Garnish with fresh mint and strawberries if desired and serve.
For the syrup:
- 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 2 sprigs of fresh mint
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- Combine strawberries, fresh mint, brown sugar, and boiling water in a ceramic bowl and muddle slightly to mix.
- Steep for a few minutes, then muddle a bit more to incorporate the ingredients.
- Pour syrup into a jar through a mesh strainer and let cool.
- Add fresh mint. Slapping your herbs will release some of the aromatic appeals of the herb.
- Use Brown sugar rather than white sugar as it’s less processed.
- Adding the sugar to the fruit, douse the macerated fruit with another equal part of boiling water and let it steep for a bit.
- The hot water will act as a catalyst to releasing all the flavors from the strawberry, mint, and sugar.
- The sour component in margaritas typically comes from lime; mix it up by using grapefruit and lemon.
- Make the strawberry mint syrup in a large batch the night before a party or gathering.
- When it comes to the ratio of syrup to sour, equal parts is The Gold Standard. Start there, and adjust as needed as the sweetness of sugar and the sourness of fruit can vary.
- Add a spice dimension to your recipe with a poblano pepper.
- As a bartender, you may not be able to pour every drink yourself so stimulating more than one sense within your cocktail is essential; aromas and visuals should all be a part of the experience.