You’ve probably heard a bartender say ‘there is no Negroni without Campari’. But the Negroni isn’† the only cocktail whose variations are dependant on a particular liqueur.
In the same vein, we’d argue that that principle also exists when you talk about a Margarita – and in that case, the expression would be ‘there is no Margarita without Cointreau’.
Adding that nice, clean orange flavour, with a stronger orange oil aroma, Cointreau is just as vital as Tequila when it comes to making this classic sour what it is.
With Margarita Day last Monday, we spent the week shaking our way through 7 Margarita variations and they all required the addition of this refined triple sec. Sure Tequila is the backbone of the drink but it takes Cointreau to liven it up.
While the origins of the Margarita are a little murky (as David Wondrich says the history of cocktails is one told by drunk people), we do know that the combination of Tequila, Cointreau and Lime was recorded long before the Margarita was officially written down in 1948.
The key to a Margarita is the balance between salt and sweet and that specific combination of flavours that makes the drink stand out. And with so few ingredients, it all about making sure each element counts, whereas any attempt to cut corners will definitely stand out.
So while you can easily use different styles of Tequila to make a Margarita (although it could be said to be overkill to use an Anejo expression), the use of Cointreau should always be constant.
Made using a mix of sweet and bitter orange peels and sugar beet alcohol, the flavours in Cointreau are perfectly balanced between the bitter and the sweet, while the warm spices lend a certain complexity.
While it doesn’t matter what other elements you add to create your Margarita riff, always keep in mind the words of Margaret “margarita” Sames, a wealthy American socialite who is one of the many credited with inventing the drink, “A margarita without Cointreau is not worth it’s salt.”