Jennifer Osborn

How to Make the Perfect Margarita

Jennifer Osborn

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Mainers seem partial to rum-based drinks, from hot toddies to dark and stormys.

But, it’s July. We implore you to put down the rum and try a margarita, the queen of tequila cocktails.

“It’s a good summertime drink,” said Robert Hoyt, who owns XYZ restaurant in Southwest Harbor with Janet Strong.

The couple have been making margaritas at XYZ for 20 years and sampling the cocktail for even longer.

“We’ve been traveling to Mexico for about 30 years,” Hoyt said.

The couple agreed to share their knowledge about how to make the perfect margarita at home.

Keep in mind the importance of using quality products.

With just a few ingredients in a margarita, tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and ice, each needs to hold up its part of the cocktail.

First things first: tequila.

When it comes to margaritas, the gold standard for tequila is actually silver or white.

“In Mexico there’s no such thing as gold tequila,” Hoyt said. “Gold tequila is just for Americans. It’s a marketing scam. They just put caramel color in it.”

“We make them the way they make them in Mexico,” White said. “We prefer Sausa Hornitos tequila, which is 100 percent blue agave.”

The agave tequilana azul (Weber’s Blue Agave) comes from the variety of agave plant from which tequila is made.

You can purchase Hornitos tequila pretty much anywhere liquor is sold (Hannaford, Shaw’s, Global Beverage Warehouse, Tradewinds Marketplace, Merrill & Hinckley’s.)

XYZ offers other, more expensive brands of tequila, but they’re best left out of a margarita.

“Occasionally, people will ask us to make a margarita with a higher-end tequila,” Strong said. “It’s kind of wasting the tequila because it’s a cocktail. A lot of these tequilas are very well constructed and they’re for sipping not for mixing.”

The next ingredient for the shaker is Cointreau, which is 80-proof orange liqueur.

The couple do not condone the use of triple sec, which is a lesser expensive orange liqueur.

Hoyt explains that triple sec is around 38 or 40 percent alcohol and has a much higher sugar content, which leads to hangovers.

“The triple sec is a sweet orange flavor, but it doesn’t have the alcohol content,” he explained. “That’s going to give you a different drink entirely.”

“Cointreau is quite expensive, but it’s the best product,” Hoyt said. “It’s sweet and fruity. The lime juice cuts that.”

Also critical, use fresh lime juice, no bottled stuff, no mixes.

“Where people get into trouble is when they us a substitute for fresh lime juice,” Hoyt said. “You have to use the fresh lime juice.”

Now consider the ice.

XYZ does not serve blended drinks.

“Our facility is strictly on the rocks or straight up,” Strong said. “We have nice ice cubes. We’re not using block ice cubes. The machine here makes very shardy ice cubes. At home you might not be able to do that, but it might be worth banging away on some blocks.”

“Some people prefer straight up, which in case it’s shaken with ice and strained then into a chilled glass,” Strong said.

XYZ serves margaritas in a martini glass, either 6 ounces. or 9.5 ounces.

The couple say a stemmed glass is important so that you don’t warm up the drink with your hands.

Before pouring the cocktail into the glass, rub a wedge of lime around the rim then stick the rim in a little saucer of kosher salt.

Hoyt said sometimes, at an upscale restaurant in Mexico, crushed red pepper will be used instead of kosher salt.

Don’t forget about margaritas come fall.

“Margaritas are awfully good all the time,” Strong said.

And National Margarita Day is Feb. 22.

Just remember this saying of unknown origin: ‘one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.’

Margarita for One

Recipe courtesy of XYZ Restaurant, Southwest Harbor


Three oz. Sauza Hornitos Tequila

1.5 oz. Cointreau

1.5 oz. fresh lime juice

Measure ingredients and pour into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously about 10 seconds. Rub a lime wedge around rim of a martini glass or other stemmed glass then dip into a saucer of kosher salt. Pour margarita into glass with ice or without.

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Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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