The Ingredient You Should Leave Out of Margaritas

By Matt Duckor, Epicurious

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For a cocktail more associated with Club Med than craft cocktail bars, the margarita seems to inspire a lot of debate.

Some people think that a margarita contains three ingredients: Tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Others think that a margarita isn’t a margarita unless it contains Triple Sec, a generic, deplorable, sticky-sweet liqueur made from dried orange peels.

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I agree that a margarita contains three ingredients. But Cointreau or Triple Sec aren’t among them—neither has a place in a Margarita.

Instead, I mix up tequila and lime juice with agave syrup.

Hear me out: The thinking behind Cointreau is that it adds sugar to balance out the heat of the tequila and the acid that comes with freshly squeezed lime juice. But in the process, the stuff ends up obscuring those very two ingredients that define the margarita. The sweetness that the agave brings to the equation is clean and delicate, letting the rest of the drink shine through. Plus, tequila is made from the agave plant anyway—this match is practically destiny.

What you’re left with is a truly balanced cocktail—the perfect mix of sweet, tart, and bracingly boozy.

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I referenced this idea in a piece earlier this month about The Mosé—my June House Cocktail—and it started a, er, spirited discussion on Twitter.

Let me point out that I’m not the only one who feels like this, by the way! My line of thinking is based on the margarita that’s been served at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant for nearly a quarter century, whose version of the drink is heralded as a modern classic.

So, is my Margarita actually an authentic, true Margarita? Maybe not—you can read more about the drink’s much-debated historical origins if you’d like.

But that’s the way I make mine at home and it’s absolutely delicious.

Get the recipe here

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PHOTO BY JAMIE CHUNG