When you think of Texas, you probably think of three things immediately: barbecue, pecan pie, and the margarita. Though Shiner Bock and Lone Star are the beers of choice for many Texans, when it comes to cocktails, the margarita takes home the prize. Palomas may be the most searched cocktail in Texas, but the margarita (and the Texas-born frozen margarita) has deep roots in these parts. For National Margarita Day on February 22, we're looking into how to make the best margarita you've ever made.
So before you can make a true Texas-style margarita, you have to know where they come from. There are many origin stories of the margarita, each dating back to 1937 or 1941 in Mexico. The first places the invention halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito by Carlos "Danny" Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria. The second places it in Ensensada, Mexico, in 1941 as an invention from Don Carlos Orozco. No matter how it began, the margarita became a classic cocktail mainstay, especially in the Southwest.
Meet Dulce Vida Spirits
So how do you know which tequila to choose for the perfect cocktail? I recently spoke to Adam Kost, the vice president of marketing at Dulce Vida Spirits, the largest independent tequila producer in the United States and based in Austin, Texas, to learn more about organic tequila and what to look for when shopping around.
An organic tequila doesn't become organic in the process, as Kost mentioned during our conversation. He elaborated, saying, "It's really in the agave plant that we purchased from agave farmers. So the commitment from the agave farmers, and it's tested and validated through regulatory means in Mexico, is that none of our plants have pesticides or chemicals that have been introduced to the plant through the growing process."
In comparison, while other tequila makers might use fertilizers or the like on their plants, Dulce Vida "gets a higher quality, cleaner, and purer agave plant" and that is their commitment to sourcing the finest.
Additionally, the brand uses 100 percent blue weber agave, which as Adam put it, is "the highest quality agave plant you can get. [Dulce Vida] doesn't add any other adjuncts or sugar additives to get alcohol during the distillation process."
While other companies across a variety of distilling industries, from bourbon to tequila, might add a few flavor-enhancing additives in, Dulce Vida remains pure to the true agave flavor that they gently coax out through distillation.
How to Make the Best Margarita
I asked Adam for tips on buying the best tequila off the shelf. When it comes to searching for quality tequila, he had two simple tips.
1. "You want to look for anything that communicates 100 percent pure agave. The reason is that... when other tequilas may be mixing their tequila with different sugars and even different spirits, that's called mixto and the trouble with that is it can give you a nasty hangover."
2. "You also want to read the label and make sure that there's no caramel coloring or additives in the products... Some brands add color to give the look that it's aged in wood... A lot of people want to give the impression that it's aged when it's not."
When I asked which margarita recipes he's been enjoying recently, Adam had two recipes: both the Organic Margarita, with the recipe provided below, and the Paloma with Dulce Vida Grapefruit. This twist on a margarita cocktail has one very important tip from Adam.
"I would use a standard Paloma recipe, but I like to add a little smoked salt into the liquid and it gives this kind of fun, interesting profile. It matches up well with the citrusy notes. It's just something easy to do at home, really anyone could do it. It's just a dash of smoked salt and stir it in."
And as I thought, every good Texan has a smoked salt in their pantry so stir that baby in the next time you whip up a Paloma cocktail.
Dulce Vida's Tasty Suggestions
1. Dulce Vida Perfect Organic Margarita
- 1.5 ounce Dulce Vida Blanco
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. agave nectar
- 1/4 oz. fresh orange juice
Pour Dulca Vida Blanco, lime juice, agaze nectar, and orange juice in a cocktail shaker. Close and shake. Pour and enjoy.
Wide Open Eats Note: For this classic cocktail, keep it simple with fresh fruit juice, as Adam Kopt from Dulce Vida mentioned. You can also make a salt rim with kosher salt or coarse salt if the flakes are smaller. To do so, simply dip the rim in water or simple syrup and dip into a small plate of salt or even sugar.
Add ice cubes as necessary, but be wary that they'll dilute this margarita recipe, so adjust as necessary for a classic margarita.
2. Dulce Vida Skinny Margarita
- 1.5 oz. Dulce Vida Lime
- 3 oz. club soda
- Lime for garnish
Pour Dulce Vida Lime and club soda into a glass. Stir to mix well and garnish with fresh lime. Enjoy!
Wide Open Eats Note: Your taste buds might be shocked that you're sipping on tequila in this smooth drink and when it comes to tequila cocktails, it doesn't get simpler than this.
If you're not interested in a skinny variety, simply add 1/2 oz. agave nectar or agave syrup and shake well to combine. I preferred this drink in a rocks glass as opposed to a classic cocktail glass, like margarita glasses.
3. The Perfect Paloma
- 1.5 oz. Dulce Vida Grapefruit
- 3 oz. club soda
- Smoked sea salt, optional
- Lime for garnish
Mix Dulce Vida Grapefruit, club soda, and a a small dash of smoked sea salt to a glass. Mix well to combine and serve with a lime.
Wide Open Eats Note: We included Adam's tip of smoked sea salt because after trying it at home, we found the flavor to be undeniably citrusy and smoky, just like every Texan loves.
Watch: What Do Bats Have to Do with Tequila?