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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Cocktail Hour - Classic Margarita

Have a drink with us! (video)

After the week is over, the work week has finish, and the chores are done, we like to spend some time on Sunday afternoon to just relax with a drink on the patio while we watch for birds and wildlife in the hills behind our house...this is our "cocktail hour."

This will be a new feature on the blog, occasionally showing you what we're drinking this week and how to make it yourself.  We'll start off with one of the classics - the margarita.

There are a few stories of how the margarita was invented.  Myself, I like to think this is the true story...Rita Hayworth, who originally went by the name of Margarita Cansino, was drinking with friends down in Mexico at the Halfway House bar.  It is called the Halfway House because it is halfway between Tijuana and Ensenada.  She asked the bartender to make her something with tequila so she wouldn't have to put up with the harshness of the shot so he made up the drink with lime juice, triple sec, and tequila with salt on the rim of the glass and named the drink after her.  We used to have drinks at the Halfway House and hear the bartender tell us the story (another local invention is the Cesar Salad, created at the Hotel Cesar in Tijuana) but we haven't been there in over 25 years.  The restaurant dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is still there, still serving margaritas and more.

Here is our version of this classic drink.  Note that we serve it on the intended.   This is not the travesty that is a blended (or frozen) margarita.

Ingredients (for two drinks)
2 oz. Tequlia (get a good tequila that's labeled "100% puro de agave")
1 oz. Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or triple sec (the first two will have a very positive effect on the taste)
splash of brandy or cognac
1 lime
4-5 oz. sweet and sour mix (our two favorite brands are Tavern and Finest Call)
kosher salt.

Put salt in shallow bowl or spread out on plate.  Slice the lime into two halves.  Run the open lime around the rim of the glass so that there is a fine sheen of lime juice on it (use a margarita glass, a cocktail glass, or an old fashioned glass if you have nothing else).  Fill a cocktail shaker about 1/3 full with ice, crushed would be preferable.  We use half liter glass shaker.  Take one of the lime halves and squeeze the juice into the shaker.  Put in the rest of your liquid ingredients, putting in the sweet and sour last and filling to the top.  Put the lid on the shaker and shake.  Fill the glasses about 2/3 full with ice and strain the drink into them.



  1. Forgive the intrusion, Darryl, but Mexico is subjected to a lot of misinterpretation. (Why, your people actually say we live in a violent, backward country!) A few notes are in order.

    It is fairly settled that the Caesar salad was invented by one of the Cardini brothers a couple of blocks north of the Hotel Caesar in Tijuana. They ran only a little cafe at the time and the invention was most likely called the "Aviators' Salad" to begin with.

    As for the margarita, there are at least five origins for it -- the Rosarito Hotel, the former hotel in La Gloria, someplace in Avenida Revolución, a bartender in Ciudad Juárez, and a bartender in San Francisco. According to the stories, Rita Hayworth was a bar girl in La Gloria, located halfway between downtown Tijuana and the Hotel Rosarito.

    For the recipe, and speaking as a bartender, do not waste good liquor on a mixed drink. They're mixed for a very good reason. Also use fresh fruit in preference to sweet-and-sour mix, the juice of one lime per drink. (Use the round limes called bar limes, Mexican limes, or Key limes, *not* the green lemons that pass for limes in the U.S.)

    Grand Marnier is a proprietary liqueur made of Cognac, oranges, spices, and sugar. Cointreau is a proprietary liqueur made of alcohol, Seville oranges, and sugar. Triple-sec is a generic liqueur made of alcohol, bitter oranges, and sugar. Triple-sec was probably the liqueur first used in margaritas.

    Margaritas were first served "up" in martini glasses frosted with salt. Try one this way and you'll see why. They went on the rocks in the '60s and got turned into a Slurpee in the mid-'70s.

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  4. Thanks for the information. As for the Caesar salad, I'm basing my information fromt the hotel itself where I used to eat it all the time...that's the claim they made (didn't the hotel spell it "cesar"? It's been awhile, I can't remember). For the margarita origin, I acknowledge there are several stories, this is the story I heard from the bartender at the old Halfway House about 25 years ago. I will try your recipe. I've tried many, the one presented is just the one that I liked the best, which I learned from Rudy Castrellon from Zacatecas.

    And I, for one, do not think Mexico is a backward country. It has its joys and flaws, as does every coutnry, and I enjoy it very much.

  5. Almost forgot, as for the wasting good tequila, I'm not going for the high-end tequilas such as Partida, Asombroso, Patron, etc. I'm just saying you can use a fairly good quality tequila that will make your drink taste much better than the bargain tequilas you usually find in the stores. You can usually get a decent 100% agave, reposado even, for just a couple of dollars more than the generics. I think it's worth it to upgrade.