Blended, on the rocks or made with muddled jalapeño, the margarita has come a long way.
This classic drink is a favorite of those looking for an intoxicating mixture of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It doesn’t hurt that margaritas get their punch from the potent and smoky flavor of tequila.
And while the drink’s origin may be a bit hazy – some say it was the brainchild of a Tijuana restaurant owner in the 1930s – the margarita has not lost its popularity.
“Who doesn’t love a margarita?” asked Gaby Dalkin, cookbook author and Los Angeles-based food blogger. “It’s one of the best cocktails out there because it’s so simple yet it can be jazzed up in any number of ways. Plus it’s the perfect drink for spring and summer.”
Dalkin, who writes whatsgabycooking.com, said it’s the ever-increasing combination of flavors that continues to win people over. In some bars it isn’t unusual to find as many flavors of margaritas as Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors.
There’s even a margarita for those trying to watch their calories, called the Skinny margarita. While recipes differ, Dalkin uses fresh lime juice, a touch of agave nectar, tequila and a splash of sparkling water.
“It’s simple, easy and delicious,” she says.
Alisa Manjarrez of Fresno is a fan of the classic-style margarita. One of her favorites is called the Border and it’s served at Plaza Ventana in Fresno. It includes tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and Grand Marnier. The drink is put into a shaker and poured at your table into an ice-filled glass rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime.
“I really like that flavor of sweet, salty and tart,” she says. “And I especially like it on the rocks because you can taste all those flavors.”
David Borunda, owner of the Plaza Ventana, says the key to a good margarita is the tequila. The restaurant uses several different types of tequila, including Dobel, a crystal-clear aged tequila.
“The better the tequila the better the margarita,” Borunda says.
Like other restaurants, Borunda serves several types of margaritas, including some new flavors: prickly pear and jalapeño. The prickly pear is a red, light-bulb-shaped fruit that grows on cactus and tastes a little like watermelon and raspberries. The drink has a refreshing and fruity taste.
The jalapeño margarita is like fire and ice. Your mouth gets a good dose of heat from the mashed hot pepper, only to be cooled off by the rest of the icy drink.
“It definitely has a little kick to it,” says Plaza Ventana bartender Gabriel Sandoval. “But the overall flavor is really good.”
Also expanding the margarita boundaries are the owners of Casa Corona in Fresno and Salsa’s Cantina in Clovis.
At Salsa’s, there are 31 different flavors of margaritas, including strawberry mango, peach and the house special, which includes several fresh fruits.
“People tell us that they really like all the flavors, and once they try one, they get hooked,” says Jesse Mendoza, manager of Salsa’s.
Elsa Rodriguez Killion, co-owner of Casa Corona, says one of the new trends in margaritas is adding a 7-ounce Coronita beer to the drink. At Casa Corona they have dubbed the drink the Mendozer. The drink looks like a regular margarita but has an open bottle of Corona tipped into the side of the glass. A clip keeps the top of the bottle submerged in the glass.
As you drink, the flavor of the beer slowly seeps into the drink, giving it that distinct Corona flavor.
“It really has become popular,” Killion says. “It is like two drinks in one. And it has that wow factor.”