When it comes to tequila drinks, one can’t go wrong with a margarita on the rocks; its timeless flavor knows no season. But we’d argue that the frozen margarita has its time and place, too, and with Cinco de Mayo around the corner and Memorial Day cookouts on the horizon, that time is now.
Should you find yourself out of practice after a long winter and a wet spring, just remember this: A margarita is nothing if not the sum of all its parts. In order to make the best possible drink, you’ll need to start with the very best of everything. Read on to learn more about what should (and shouldn’t!) go into your next blended margarita.
A good drink starts with the right glass—in this case, a traditional margarita glass. The stepped-diameter glass, which some say resembles an upside-down sombrero, maximizes the rim area, which is important in a drink where a salted rim is so important. We’d suggest opting for a version that’s shatterproof, to go along with all those active occasions—on the beach, by the pool, at a barbecue—when a blended cocktail feels just right.
Since the margarita is a tequila cocktail, it’s essential that the base spirit be top-notch. Trust us when we say this: Your margarita should be made using nothing other than 100 percent agave tequila. If the label doesn’t clearly state this, then your tequila could contain as much as 49 percent fermented cane sugar (not a good thing).
It’s worth it to spend a bit more for a quality tequila; our go-to comes from our friends at Casamigos. Use a blanco tequila, which is barely aged or not aged at all. It has a clean, assertive flavor, and is more affordable than its aged (and pricier) reposado and añejo counterparts.
Orange liqueur is a contentious subject in margarita land: some use triple sec, a 30- to 60-proof liqueur that’s made from the skins of oranges. Others insist upon Grand Marnier, an 80-proof liqueur with a brandy base that’s also infused with the flavor of orange skins. Still others use agave nectar in place of either one. For margaritas served on the rocks, we actually prefer this method; we think it leads to a margarita that’s less harsh and smoother in flavor. For blended margaritas, triple sec adds a nice citrusy boost, helps the cocktail taste less watered-down even when the ice melts, and won’t knock you dead like some of the other liqueurs we’ve tried.
As with any fruit-based cocktail, you want your produce—in this case, limes—to be as fresh as possible. Use freshly-squeezed lime juice if you can (either Key limes or Persian limes will do). Since fruit varies in ripeness and sugar levels, though, it’s important to taste your lime juice and sweeten it as needed.
Fresh fruit will always be ideal, but if you’re pressed for time, lacking in prep space or simply want a frozen one stat, another option is to use our Classic Key Lime Margarita Mix. It’s made by blending tangy Key limes with a splash of ripe California tangerine juice and a hint of agave syrup, and has the right ratio of sweetness to tanginess.
Ice may sound like a small detail, but when half of your cocktail is composed of ice, the ingredient shouldn’t be overlooked. Opt for freshly-made ice cubes—the smaller the better, as they incorporate more quickly into the drink when blended.
A salt rim helps enhance the sweet and sour flavors that are signature to a margarita. There’s an art to getting that pretty salt rim—nothing’s worse than salt that won’t stay on a glass!—and it calls for dipping the top of each glass into lime juice before coating it in salt. The stickiness in the juice helps the salt rim stay intact.
Stay away from any fine salt, including table salt, which is too salty and lacks a satisfyingly crunchy texture. For a fresh, clean mineral flavor, we use Jacobsen Salt Co.’s margarita salt, a flake sea salt harvested from the pristine waters of Oregon’s Netarts Bay and packaged in a container that’s wide enough to accommodate a margarita glass.