The Margarita Gospels

May 09, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Some cocktails are like mayonnaise. They’ve been around so long, and their origins are so speculative (or lost completely), that they are considered part of the community of recipes to which no one can lay claim. Despite the near codification of such recipes, there is a surprising amount of difference, and an authorial voice, to be found in published versions: the ratio of the key ingredients may be tinkered with; the use of a certain quality of ingredients stressed, even perhaps that of a particular brand, maker, or region; the instructions may given in a novel, personal, or unique manner; and, likewise, a personalized story about the recipe may be included.

The margarita is one of these cocktails. All recipes use tequila, something orange, and something lime, but within this triad you will find many possible variations.

Which version to use? The interpretation of this classic drink that I follow resolutely is the 3:2:1 ratio, as taught to me by Gary Regan. At the time of my first encounter with this ratio, in college, it seemed like a secret passcode to the margarita club. Back then my friend Sue made an excellent margarita using 1 part Rose’s, 2 parts triple sec, and 3 parts tequila—probably Cuervo Gold. She served her margaritas on the rocks with a wedge of lime and the rim salted or not, per your preference. (I took mine with salt because I mistakenly thought all good, hardcore tequila drinkers should do so—the others being pansies.) This good drink, far superior to those margaritas made with a premade margarita mix, was no fail. All you had to remember was 3:2:1.

Then I met Gary Regan, who upgraded my margarita experience. He serves his margarita up, in a chilled cocktail glass, personally eschews salt (see Notes), and does not add a lime garnish (if you’ve already worked out the ratio of sweet to sour, why skew it with extra lime?). He likes to use good quality, 100-percent blue agave, white tequila with a pronounced vegetal taste. For a drier and more elegant margarita, he prefers Cointreau (see Notes), and he uses fresh, absolutely fresh, lime juice.

Makes 1 cocktail

1½ ounces good quality white tequila, such as Herradura
1 ounce Cointreau
½ ounce fresh lime juice

Combine the ingredients in an iced shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Because Gary Regan is not only a good mixologist, but also a good bartender, he puts his customers first. That means his published recipes for margaritas make salt optional. Since I’m not a bartender, I haven’t made salt an option. (Salt is arguably a logical complement to the sweeter-style margaritas made with triple sec and Rose’s, but not with this drier version.) However, if you feel you must have salt, be sure to rim the glass by rotating the outside of the moistened rim in salt rather than dipping the glass face down into the salt—the latter approach will leave you with salt in the cocktail, which is not where you want it.

Tripe sec is a generic term for orange-flavored liqueur. Cointreau is a high-end triple sec, less sweet and more complex and subtle than the generic stuff.

1 Comments to “The Margarita Gospels”

  1. Best margarita ever. Dangerous but delicious!


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