5 Easy Ways to Ruin a Margarita

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We’ve all had bad Margaritas—and we’ve probably all been guilty of serving bad Margaritas. Let’s make a vow, here and now, to never do so again. Here, five easy mistakes you can make when shaking up a Margarita, and how to avoid them.

Problem: You’re Not Shaking Long Enough—or at All

A Margarita is not a cocktail that you can build in the glass and stir with those tiny little sippy straws. It needs to be shaken—preferably with nice, large-format cubes—so that all the ingredients are fully incorporated, aerated, chilled and diluted. If you’re not shaking your Margarita, your cocktail is going to be flat, limp and one dimensional.

Problem: You’re Using Too Much Sweetener

There are two classic ways of making a Margarita: with triple sec or with agave syrup (the Tommy’s Margarita). If you use both agave and triple sec in your Margarita—rather than one in place of the other—your cocktail is going to be an overly sweet mess. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep your sweetener at or below three-quarters of an ounce; the two most important flavors in a Margarita are sour citrus and grassy tequila—not sugar.

Problem: You’re Using Sour Mix

If you didn’t already know, bottled sour mix is a blend of artificial lime juice, citric acid and corn syrup. In a Margarita, it makes the drink much sweeter than it needs to be and less acidic. If you really want your Margarita to shine, squeeze a lime with a hand press straight into your jigger. It will prevent any oxidation within the juice, and result in the freshest, liveliest Margarita possible.

Problem: You’re Using Bottom Shelf Tequilas

Believe it or not, a Margarita should taste like tequila—and good tequila at that. Our philosophy with making a Margarita (and any bartender worth their salt will agree) is that the tequila should be the star of the show, with the other ingredients boosting it up. Using lower quality tequilas will result in a crappy drink because you’re naturally going to want to hide the liquor’s taste with sweetners to make it more palatable. When you use a good tequila made from 100-percent agave, it gives the Margarita a vegetal pepperiness that perfectly contrasts the brightness of fresh lime.

Problem: You’re Rimming with Bad Salt

Yes, there is such a thing as “bad salt” for a Margarita rim. Stay away from salt with added iodine as well as curing salts that have crystals the size of small boulders. Instead, opt for a fine grain sea salt or any salt sold specifically for Margaritas (or make your own). If you’re more adventurous, you can even rim your cocktail with sal de gusano, a piquant salt mixed with dehydrated and crushed larvae traditionally served with mezcals. While it sounds strange, it is the perfect accompaniment to the vegetal flavors inherent in good tequila (or mezcal), and it will definitely impress your pals.