Have you ever wanted to learn how to make the perfect margarita? It's not that difficult when you know the right ratio -- most bartenders, like Gary Regan, rely on a 3:2:1 ratio, which translates to 3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau and 1 part lime juice. But what if you want it a bit sweeter? Some mixologists add a little simple syrup to sweeten the cocktail, but many don't find it necessary at all. So what makes the perfect margarita?
The Three Main Liquids
First, a good-quality silver (blanco) tequila is key and it should be made with 100 percent agave (see our taste test to know what's good). Next, Cointreau (which is a brand of orange liqueur categorized as a triple sec) is the best -- you should not be trying to go upscale by using Grand Marnier (orange-infused Cognac) because the flavor is too heavy for cocktails. Instead you want the light and bright flavor of a good-quality triple sec. Finally, lime juice is the crowning touch to the perfect margarita -- the acidity helps balance out all the flavors.
Many bartenders make their margaritas without sweeteners -- the Cointreau is usually sweet enough so no additional sugar is needed. But that doesn't mean the margarita recipe is set in stone. In his book "The Craft of the Cocktail," famous bartender Dale Degroff makes his margarita without simple syrup, but it's not his be-all and end-all recipe. In his follow-up book "The Essential Cocktail," Degroff offers tips on adjusting the cocktail for personal taste by using anywhere between 1/4 to 1/2 parts simple syrup (the complete ratios are adjusted to fit). So really, sweetness is a decision entirely up to the drinker (with some communication made to the individual making the cocktail). And if you've ever had a store-bought margarita mix, you know those are loaded with tons of sweetener.
Some people like their margaritas with a salted rim and others without, but salt is actually a necessary ingredient in the perfect margarita. We all know salt is used in cooking because it heightens flavor. Well that's exactly what it does in the margarita. The salt balances the drink by toning down the lime juice's acidity and bumping up the noticeability of sweetness. It's a good idea to salt only half the cocktail glass so that the drinker can test the flavor from each side.
Check out this handy infographic from RSVLTS.com for a visual guide on the perfect margarita ratio (without simple syrup).