Is there a cocktail more synonymous with summer than the margarita? The ingredients are basically simple: tequila and fresh lime juice are shaken into a coupe glass with a salty rim, but don’t let its simplicity fool you: there’s some debate over whether the drink should include a sweetener like agave or an orange liqueur like Cointreau.
Like any great cocktail, its origins are shrouded in mystery and folklore. Of the stories I’ve heard, my favorite concerns the Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana in the midst of prohibition in the United States. The destination south of the border has become a paradise for Americans who indulge in alcohol and horse racing betting.
They say: there was a cocktail on the menu called the Daisy, made with a spirit, a citrus and orange liqueur. (Daisy just so happens to literally translate to margarita in Spanish.)
Either way, it still reigns supreme in the tequila-based cocktail genre and its popularity has only grown.
A 2020 Nielsen report found that tequila sales increased 55.5% in 2020, so I couldn’t have been the only one shuffling the markups at home or ordering takeout from my favorite restaurants. during the pandemic shutdown.
“When people were getting take-out-only cocktails, we found out very quickly that ‘comforting’ cocktails were what people wanted the most,” said Evan Bucholz, co-owner and mixologist at Brix & Rye in Greenport, adding that drinks like dark-and-stormies and margaritas top the list. “People wanted to tap into a sense of normalcy through a recognizable drink.”
Bucholz prefers to keep things traditional, mixing in what’s called “Tommy’s Margarita,” which became popular in the ’90s and was developed by Julio Bermejo at his parents’ Mexican restaurant Tommy’s in San Francisco.
“It was a very tequila-focused bar when it was still a ‘bold hit,'” Bucholz explained. “It’s truly become the mecca of tequila in the United States.”
The tried-and-true recipe calls for 2 ounces of a quality tequila blanco or reposado, ¾ oz. agave syrup and 1 oz. fresh lime juice. “It’s super fresh, super concentrated and doesn’t use orange liqueur, but you don’t feel like you’re missing a component,” Bucholz said.
But margaritas also provide a simple canvas that’s ripe for interpretation.
An easy way to elevate the cocktail is to use fresh, local produce. At Brix & Rye, they infuse the tequila in batches with halved strawberries from Sep’s Farm, letting it steep for 10 days before serving it either cold on its own or as part of their margarita. “It’s our only adaptation that we do seasonally and we go through it very quickly,” Bucholz said, adding that they usually sell out tequila in August. (They also stock the sea bass with habanero and jalapeño tinctures which can add heat to the order.)
The dealbreaker, Bucholz said, doesn’t use fresh citrus. “The fresh lime is what makes it sing,” he said.
At Little Lucharitos in Aquebogue, you can choose from a colorful range of fresh fruit purées – strawberry, pomegranate, blackberry, mango – for an added twist on the cocktail, with variations changing seasonally.
“We sell tacos, but people mostly come here because they want to have a margarita,” manager Sarah Perry said.
The popular taco spot bills itself as the home of 16 oz. margarita, made with half an ounce more tequila than your average drink. “It packs a punch,” Perry said.
Strawberry is their bestseller, though Perry recommends the “sweet heat” margarita, a strawberry and jalapeno combination that’s served with a spicy tajine rim.
Margarita growlers were a best seller amid the pandemic while take-out cocktails were allowed. They’re keeping their fingers crossed that a decision to legalize the pandemic measure becomes permanent, but there’s still a way to enjoy a margin of Lucharitos at home. Perry said they still sell margarita mixes and take-out purees on demand, describing it as a “hidden menu item.”
Behind the Windamere bar in Mattituck, Aterahme Lawrence can often be found shaking a blood orange margarita which she says is hugely popular at Sunday brunch.
It’s made with Milagro silver tequila, fresh lime juice, blood orange juice, triple sec, and agave, shaken and strained over ice.
“It’s a nice, layered, colorful drink for the summer,” Lawrence said. “I’m always in an endless summer mood here.”
The drink is poured into a glass rimmed with black lava salt, which drips into the drink for visual effect, like fallen ash, and adds a dark smoky note.
Whether you prefer yours chilled or on ice, sweet and sour or sweet, it’s a refreshing drink best sipped poolside. Mix one up at home using this recipe:
2 ounces of tequila
1 ounce of Cointreau
1 oz lime juice
Optional: Kosher salt and lime wheel for garnish
1. Run a wedge of lime around the outer rim of a rocks glass, then dip the rims in salt and set aside.
2. In a shaker, add the tequila, Cointreau and lime juice as well as a few ice cubes. Shake it quickly and hard and strain the liquid over fresh ice. You can also opt for a dry shake without ice, which will result in a frothier mix.
3. Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy!
FIVE MORE PLACES TO GET YOUR MARG FIX:
WATERMELON & CILANTRO MARGARITA The dashing oyster, Greenport
Teremana tequila, watermelon juice infused with cilantro, lime, agave, and sea salt is an elegant take on the classic margarita.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE Craft’d, Riverhead
Casamigos blanco tequila is infused with habanero peppers, mixed with Cointreau, passion fruit juice, lime juice and orange bitters and served with a rim of chili lime salt in this tropical margarita with a hint of spice.
PRICKLY PEAR MARGARITA Legends, New Suffolk
Channel all the desert vibes with the Fruity and Bright Prickly Pear Margarita made with Casamigos Blanco tequila, Cointreau, prickly pear syrup, fresh lime juice and a splash of tangy blend.
CUCUMBER-RITA Casa Amigos Restaurante, Greenport
You can’t go wrong with the super refreshing cucumber-rita made with Olmeca Altos silver, Grand Marnier, cucumber and fresh lime juice.
MARGARITA PEACH Mattitaco, Mattituck
The peach margarita with a tagine rim is unique and pairs perfectly with any of the creative tacos on the menu.