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Want a taco with your margarita?
Margaritas are the mixed drink stars of the Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge, happening Thursday, May 4, from 4 to 9 p.m. in downtown Manchester. Check out the map on pages 36 and 37 to see which restaurants are serving up drink specials during the taco tour. For more information about the taco tour, go to hippodemayo.com, or read the story in the April 27 edition of the Hippo at hippopress.com (click on “past issues” and then click on the April 27 paper; the story starts on p. 40).
 
Breakfast Margarita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces Cabrito reposado tequila
1.5 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce agave nectar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
 
Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice and serve on the rocks with an orange peel garnish.
 
Hermanos Razborita
Courtesy of Hermanos Cocina Mexicana 
 
1 shot Sauza Gold Tequila 
½ shot Chambord raspberry liqueur 
1 shot Hermanos original margarita mix ($4.99 for 16 ounces, makes approximately six drinks)
 
Shake with ice and serve. 
 
Margarita’s Original Margarita 
Courtesy of Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant 
(Makes approximately 13 drinks)
 
1 liter of your favorite tequila
½ liter of triple sec
2 jars (64 ounces) of Margarita’s fresh Squeeze mix (available at any Margarita’s location for $8.99; comes in traditional lime, coconut, strawberry, raspberry, blood orange, mango, ginger and peach) 
 
Fill a pitcher with ice. Pour tequila, triple sec and Squeeze over the ice and stir vigorously.
Pour into salt-rimmed serving glasses and serve. 
 
Strawberry Senorita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces strawberry-infused Sauza blanco tequila*
1.5 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh key lime juice
 
Shake all ingredients with ice and serve on the rocks in a glass rimmed with a mixture of dark chile powder and granulated sugar.
 
* For the strawberry-infused tequila, simply hull one pint of strawberries per 750-mL bottle of silver tequila, and combine tequila and berries in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Let berries infuse for 24 to 72 hours, tasting intermittently to check the infusion’s progress. Strain the berries out when you like what you taste, and you’ll be left with a pale pink tequila with bright strawberry flavor.
 
Blood Orange Margarita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces Milagro reposado tequila
1 ounce Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 ounce triple sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce blood orange juice
 
Shake all ingredients with ice, and serve on the rocks in a glass with a salted rim.
 
Basic Margarita
Courtesy of Bar One 
 
2 ounces tequila
.75 ounce orange liqueur
1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
 
Shake, rim a glass with salt, pour and serve. 
 
Blueberry Margarita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce triple sec or Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
2 ounces blueberry juice
 
Add all ingredients to shaker with ice, shake thoroughly, serve straight up or strain over ice.
Coarse sea salt for the rim and fresh blueberries for garnish.
 
Cucumber-Jalapeno Margarita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces silver tequila
1.5 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh lime juice
.5 ounce agave nectar
1 ounce fresh cucumber puree
1 tablespoon chopped fresh jalapeños, seeds removed
 
Shake all ingredients with ice and serve on the rocks. 
 
Aztec Chocolate Margarita
Courtesy of Firefly American Bistro & Bar
 
3 ounces Tres Agaves anejo tequila
1 ounce Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
1 ounce vanilla bean syrup
5 dashes chocolate bitters
 
Stir all ingredients together, and serve on ice in a glass rimmed with chile salt.
 




Margaritas
The makings of a quintessential summer drink

05/04/17
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



Whether you’re on vacation or wishing you were, few things feel more like summer than sitting outside on a sunny day sipping an ice cold margarita. 
The margarita’s reputation as a refreshing, summertime drink may be attributed to its origins in Mexico, where the weather is warm, limes grow in abundance and tequila is produced from the native blue agave plant. 
“Its Mexican heritage makes people think of vacations and the sun and the South,” said Rachael Jones, manager and bartender at Firefly American Bistro & Bar in Manchester. “It makes you feel like you want to be sitting on a beach somewhere, or at least on a deck or patio or backyard — anywhere in the sun.” 
With just three ingredients — tequila, lime juice and orange-flavored liqueur — a margarita has the ability to transport, especially for those living in New England, where warm weather is a commodity for most of the year. 
“A lot of it is definitely nostalgic,” said Brandon Laws, co-owner and bartender of In the MIX Beverage Catering, based in Nashua. “It’s a vacation drink. People may have tried a margarita while they were on vacation, and while they can’t bring their vacation and that weather back with them to New Hampshire, they can at least have the drink that reminds them of it.” 
 
Fun with flavors 
A true margarita is made with a tequila base, lime juice and a splash of triple sec or other orange-flavored liqueur, but the simplicity of the recipe leaves room for all kinds of variations using different types of tequila, flavored liqueurs and fruit juices. 
Some restaurants, like Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant (which has locations in Concord, Dover, Exeter, Keene, Lebanon, Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem), feature whole menus of flavored margaritas. 
“The variety is pretty expansive,” said Margarita’s Director of Training Jill Kuntz, who also manages Margarita’s beverage program. “Going a little extreme with different flavors and fresh fruits and herbs has become really trendy, and many [restaurants] have been getting more adventurous with their libations. Being called Margarita’s, we’re really at the forefront of that with our creative and unique margaritas.” 
Along with its Original Margarita, the restaurant features margaritas with a variety of added flavors such as strawberry, raspberry, ginger-peach, melon, pomegranate, coconut, pineapple, mango and acai; and margaritas made with flavored tequilas, such as The Naked Jalapeno, made with jalapeno tequila, and The Naked Coconut, made with coconut tequila. It also has specialty margaritas like the Pepino, made with muddled mint, cucumber and lime; the Heavens to Margatroid, made with an exclusive blend of seven liqueurs; the Prickly Cactus, made with prickly pear and habanero lime; and the popular Russelrita, made with cream tequila and raspberry and strawberry flavors. 
“There is a margarita for everyone, from the really unique ones you’d never think to try like the Prickly Cactus, to spicy ones like the Naked Jalapeno, to the Russelrita, which is like an adult smoothie for people who don’t really like the flavor of tequila,” Kuntz said. 
To achieve a simple flavored tequila, fruit juices or flavored liqueurs can be added in with the standard three ingredients or, most commonly, used in lieu of the orange liqueur. 
“Fundamentally, if you want it to remain a margarita, you have to have the tequila and lime juice,” Laws said. “The triple sec is usually the thing that you can swap out because it’s the ingredient with the lowest quantity. It’s just a splash.” 
Firefly also has a wide selection of margaritas, including the cucumber-jalapeno, made with cucumber puree, fresh jalapenos and agave nectar; the blood orange, made with blood orange liqueur and blood orange juice; the Harvest Margarita, made with elderflower liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice and cinnamon; and the ginger-pear, made with ginger liqueur, key lime juice, pear nectar and Sprite. It has also featured margarita specials like Aztec chocolate, peach habanero, pina colada and even a margarita with maple syrup.   
“Lime is ubiquitous in cocktails because it’s so blendable, and tequila itself has a sweet, earthy flavor and is pretty fruit-friendly and mixable with almost anything, so that means margaritas can be really versatile,” Jones said. “It’s fun to take liberties with it. We like to play around and push the limits with our margaritas.” 
 
A world of tequila
Flavored liqueurs and juices aren’t the only ways to switch up a margarita. The type of tequila used can also play a big part in the drink’s flavor. 
According to Kuntz, there are four main types of tequilas used in margaritas. Blanco, or silver, tequila is aged for less than 60 days, usually in steel barrels, and has a “clean-tasting” authentic tequila flavor. Blanco tequila is often used for light, fruity margaritas. Reposado tequila is aged in oak barrels for at least 60 days, sometimes up to a year, and brings a slightly stronger, more full-bodied flavor to the margarita. Añejo tequila, aged for one to three years, and extra añejo tequila, aged for more than three years, are often distilled in whiskey barrels and give the margarita a “smoky, heavy bourbon flavor.” The añejos are generally used in spicy and savory margarita variations. 
Some restaurants, like Hermanos Cocina Mexicana in Concord, make tequila styles and brands the focus of their margaritas rather than added flavors. Hermanos’ margarita list highlights a variety of tequilas including Cuervo Gold Especial, El Charro Reposado, Patron Silver and Platinum, 1800 and Sauza Extra Gold, Conmemorativo and Hornitos; which are paired with several different kinds of orange liqueurs and amaretto, raspberry and elderflower liqueurs.   
“If I had to give a rough estimate, I’d say only 20 percent of our customers come in to get a flavored margarita,” Hermanos General Manager Melissa Thompson said. “We have about 30 types of tequila, so most people are looking at margaritas with different kinds of tequila, and if they don’t know what kind of tequila they want, they go with a staff recommendation.” 
 
Go infused   
A growing number of restaurants are also introducing margaritas with infused tequilas, such as the Strawberry Señorita at Firefly, made with house-infused strawberry blanco tequila and served on the rocks with a chili sugar rim. Fresh strawberries are left to sit in the tequila for a couple days before they are drained out and the tequila is ready to serve. 
“It leaves a light pink color and a natural fruit flavor that isn’t that syrupy kind of sweet but has a real fresh strawberry taste to it. It’s been very popular,” Jones said, adding that tequila could be infused with a variety of fruits including pineapple, raspberry, blueberry and watermelon. 
Bar One in Milford also offers house infused-tequila drinks like the San Diego Summer, featuring a jalapeno- and blackberry- infused silver tequila, and its signature drink, the smoked blackberry sage margarita, made with blackberry- and sage-infused mezcal (a liquor similar to tequila). The restaurant has also offered seasonal margaritas like the apple cinnamon margarita, featured last fall, which was made with apple cider and tequila infused with cinnamon. 
 
More than tequila 
Though not as common as margaritas with a tequila base, there are some variations that blend another kind of hard liquor, such as vodka or rum, with the tequila, or replace the tequila with another liquor entirely. 
Hermanos has margaritas like this on its menu, including the Citrata and the Aligarita, both made with Skyy Citrus Vodka; the Limonrita, made with Bacardi Limon Rum; and the Key Lime margarita, made with Stoli Vanil Vodka. 
“Tequila has a very specific flavor to it, and a lot of people don’t love it, but you can play on the basic margarita recipe and usually achieve a similar product with a neutral spirit like vodka,” Jones said. “It’s not really a margarita anymore at that point, but it’s like an homage to a margarita.” 
Blending the tequila with wine or beer has been a growing trend in the margarita world. For example, Margarita’s features a Coronarita, an original margarita topped with a Corona beer; and a Proseccorita, a margarita mixed with Prosecco sparkling wine, available in coconut, mango and raspberry flavors. 
“I’ve been seeing more of those around recently,” Kuntz said. “I’ve seen people do it with sangrias, too.” 
 
Serve it up  
A margarita can be served with ice, also known as “on the rocks;” frozen, meaning it was put in a blender with ice; or “straight up,” in which the margarita was chilled and shaken with ice but is served with no ice. 
With the margarita being by nature a refreshing, warm-weather drink, it’s no wonder that having it frozen is a popular choice. 
“It’s a huge thing,” Laws said. “People like having a frozen drink because it’s like having a milkshake or a snow cone or ice cream cone, but for adults.” 
While there are glasses designed specifically for margaritas, the type of glassware used does not affect the margarita’s taste, aroma or practicality as it does for many non-mixed drinks like wine or whiskey. 
“The traditional way to drink it is in the heavy top margarita glass, but that can be really awkward to drink out of,” said Jillian Bernat, a bartender at Bar One. “It’s really your preference. You can drink it out of a pint glass if you want. It can be a casual drink or a fancy drink or whatever you feel.” 
Margaritas can be served with or without coarse salt or sugar on the rim — usually sugar for the sweeter, fruity margaritas and salt for the more sour or bitter ones — and a garnish, which could be a lime for a standard margarita or another kind of fruit to complement a flavored margarita. 
“[The rim] is certainly not necessary. In fact, a lot of people prefer it without, or they’ll get it but only have it on the first sip, then they keep sipping from that same spot,” Laws said. “I think many times it’s more of a tactile thing. People just like to see it and feel it, and it acts more as a garnish.” 
 
Margarita eats 
Since margaritas come in all kinds of flavors, they can also be paired with a variety of foods. The natural tendency is to pair them with Mexican cuisine, which also spans a wide range of flavors, making for endless margarita-food pairing possibilities.
“There are a lot of bold, vibrant flavors in Mexican [cuisine], which is why [margaritas and Mexican cuisine] go so well together,” Kuntz said. “It gives you a nice balance on your taste buds.” 
When it comes to pairing food to the type of tequila used in the margarita, Kuntz said blanco tequila should be paired with lighter fare, such as a summer salad, fish tacos or a chicken dish, and the full-bodied, smoky añejo tequila should be paired with a richer food, like a dessert. 
Jones said a traditional margarita can go with just about anything, but for flavored margaritas the key is to contrast flavors. 
“If you’re changing the formula of the margarita to something sweeter or spicier, you need to balance that out. You don’t want to have a spicy margarita with spicy food,” she said. “If you’re having a sweet margarita, pair it with something salty or a spicy Mexican dish. If it’s a spicy  margarita, pair it with something sweet and light.” 
 
Make it yourself  
There are a few things to keep in mind when making your own margaritas at home. 
First, choose a tequila that suits your taste, not necessarily based on the cost. An aged tequila will almost always be more expensive than a blanco, but you may not want that full-bodied smoky flavor in your margarita. As for quality, you may taste a difference between bottom-shelf and mid-range tequilas, but you probably won’t taste a difference between mid-range and top-shelf, at least when it’s mixed into a margarita. 
“You don’t have to get a top-notch tequila to make a good margarita,” Bernat said. “Tequila is one of those things where it’s possible to get a good one while still staying within your budget.” 
Same goes for the orange liqueur, she said. 
Most bartenders agree that if you’re going to splurge on any ingredient, it should be the lime juice or sour mix, and that the buckets of powdered sour mix you can find at the grocery store are a big no-no if you want to make a quality margarita. Lime juice in a bottle will taste better than a cheap mix, but for the best possible taste, you should squeeze the fresh lime juice by hand, or get a mix that has freshly squeezed juice. 
Restaurants like Hermanos and Margarita’s have their own signature margarita mixes made with fresh lime juice, lemon juice and sugar, which you can buy for making margaritas at home. 
“It’s definitely worth your time to squeeze the fruit or to get a mix that you know has been freshly squeezed,” Thompson said. “You can taste the difference between a mix like ours, which is homemade and has everything fresh, and the pre-made mixes in a bucket. That powdered mix is just gross.” 
No matter what kind of tequila, liqueur and juice you use for your margaritas, the most important thing, Jones said, is to put some thought into the ingredients and get creative.
“For a while, when you thought of a margarita you thought of this big bowl of lime green slushy, but we’re headed back into this craft cocktail age where there’s a lot more focus on ingredients and how they’re all put together,” she said. “When it comes to a simple drink like a margarita, you can really showcase those ingredients.” 
Both Jones and Thompson agree that the key to a good margarita is that the ingredients are blended properly. Since the lime and tequila each have a strong, distinct flavor, it doesn’t take much to make the margarita too strong, too sweet or too sour. 
“You really want a nice balance between the flavor of the mix and the flavor of the tequila,” Thompson said. “You want it to be strong enough so that you know there’s alcohol in it, but you don’t want to be wincing with every sip.” 
That’s why it’s also crucial to mix the ingredients thoroughly before serving. Pouring the ingredients into a glass and stirring does not cut it; the only way to ensure that the drink is completely mixed is to pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. 
“Shaking it is really important,” Laws said. “I shake a margarita more than I shake any other drink.” 
Finally, don’t expect to get a margarita perfect the first time. It may be a trial-and-error process, Laws said, but the nice thing about making drinks is that you can add more of a certain ingredient to balance it out and make it taste better. Worst-case scenario, you still get a drink out of the deal, and you can always try again for the next round. 
“If you’ve ever wondered how to make a margarita, find an excuse to make one and do it,” he said. “It’s supposed to be something that’s fun and social, so just have fun making it and enjoy it.” 





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