I had some people over for cinco de mayo last night for margaritas and nachos. If you know me (which I assume most of you do), you know that I'm a big fan of "everything from scratch." Which isn't to say I don't buy pre-made things. I do. All the time. But when I'm entertaining, I like to show off a little. I whipped up some salsa (which is extremely easy to make if you have a food processor or blender) and margaritas.
For salsa you need:
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/3 large white onion, cut into smallish pieces
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep the seeds!)
5 cloves of garlic
juice of one lime (I prefer to section limes for salsa because you get the most juice that way, but it's fine to just juice it)
3 Tbsp white vinegar (give or take)
handful of cilantro (I remove the leaves from the stems and just use the leaves, but if you're really lazy, you can throw the stems in there too, it'll be fine!)
salt to taste (probably you'll need as much as 1 Tbsp, but add it slowly to be careful!)
Put everything except the vinegar and salt in a food processor. Pulse until it's at the consistency you want. Add the vinegar one tablespoon at a time and the salt one large pinch at a time until you like the flavor. And remember, this is salsa. Everyone likes it different. One jalapeno with seeds gives it a kick but shouldn't send you running for milk. If you want it hotter, add another pepper. If you don't want it hot, remove the seeds and ribs (the RIBS are where most of the heat is, so remember that!). If you like it very sour, add more lime or vinegar, etc.
4 parts tequila (blanco or reposado)
1 part triple sec
2 parts fresh lime juice
0.5-1 part agave syrup
A good margarita is all about ingredients. First, you need the right tequila. I am against anything that calls itself "gold" because gold tequila isn't actually aged like reposado or anejo tequila, it has extra flavors and colors added. You absolutely want something that is "100% agave" (which "gold" tequilas are not) and use blanco/silver or reposado (anejo is for sipping!) and use a bottle that costs around $20-25 for a fifth. You don't want to spend too much on tequila because a lot of the flavor will be covered anyway. Hornitos, Milagro, and 1800 are good options. You can use cheap triple sec (a fifth costs less than $10) or something fancier like Grand Marnier. You will notice the flavor difference (also Grand Marnier is 80 proof, while most cheap triple secs are around 30 proof) and I think if you're making a small batch, then go for the better stuff. If you're making a big pitcher, cheap triple sec is fine. You want to use fresh lime juice. The amount of juice in a lime varies a lot, but a good, average sized lime will give you about an ounce of juice if you squeeze it all out. Before juicing, roll the lime on the counter to break apart the insides a little. You'll feel it get softer. Finally, you want to use agave syrup instead of simple syrup. Tequila is made from agave so it's natural that the flavors of tequila and agave syrup would complement each other. You can usually find agave syrup next to honey in the grocery store. Truth be told, agave syrup will make your margaritas less pretty. It's brown and and margaritas made with it are not as bright green as you might like. BUT I promise it tastes better!
Proportion wise, you can change things a little. The dominant flavors in a margarita should be tequila and lime. The orange and sweetness should be minor. I strongly recommend that about half of your cocktail should be tequila. You also don't want to lose the sourness of lime by covering it up with too much sweetener. Use 1 part or less sweetener per 2 parts lime. You can even cut it down to about a teaspoon per ounce of lime juice (which is 1 part agave to 6 parts lime juice) but taste it to make sure you like it.
You can make as large or small a batch as you'd like. For a small serving, put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold. For a large batch, pour all ingredients into a pitcher and stir, making sure the agave syrup gets mixed in. Add ice and stir again. You'll want to serve these fairly quickly (like within 30 minutes) so the ice doesn't melt too much and water everything down. If you suspect the pitcher will be around for a while, only add a little ice, and then encourage the drinkers to put lots of ice in their glass. Serve up (my preference) or over ice in a salt-rimmed glass (mandatory).
Woah. That was way more than I expected to write about margaritas. Happy Friday!