There have been, in the past week, two days at work that were teetering dangerously close to nightmarish. By the end of the day, I was ready to go home and curl up in the fetal position, then sleep for about three days. Seeing as Rip van Winkle-ing it isn’t an option, I opted instead to come home and unwind with a cocktail. Usually when I get home I reach for a book and try something new; there is, after all, an entire world of drinks out there. But, just like an old pair of jeans, there are times when it just feels so much better to stick with something old and comfortable.
For me, being that I’m from Southern California, the margarita is an institution. Every Mexican restaurant in the state makes them—some great, some good, some painful. By the time you hit twenty-one in the Golden State, you’ve probably had at least ten different margaritas. Despite the prevalence of the blended, sweetened version, I think the margarita has survived because it’s a beautiful example of simplicity. Lime juice, tequila, Cointreau and (if you’re into that sort of thing) a little bit of salt and you’re on your way to an elegantly simple, delightful end to a complicated day.
1 1/3 oz Cointreau
2 oz tequila
¾ oz lime juice
splash of Grand Marnier
Shake first three ingredients together with plenty of ice. Strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice and, if desired, rimmed with salt. Garnish with a wheel of lime.
The margarita has many variations. Sometimes I mix it up and use agave nectar to replace part of the Cointreau. Some people go crazy and use other liqueurs or fruits to spice things up. I’m pretty straightforward in my tastes most of the time, though, so I stick with the basic format. Generally the ratio of lime to Cointreau hovers around 1:1, but I like mine just a wee bit on the sweet side. The essentials of this recipe were taken from the ever-knowledgable Robert Hess and adapted to fit my fussy tastes.
To be technical, I really should call this a Cadillac margarita, as I included Grand Marnier. I didn’t, however, because I a) added only a splash, as opposed to the ounce that most bars float and b) because the basic recipe outlined above makes a great margarita. Omit the Grand Marnier and it’s just as good—I was just overcompensating for a bad day.