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Seeking the basis of an "Ultimate Margarita"

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So I began this search with two blind tastings of Triple Sec (/ orange liqueur), which frankly is more important to the quality of the margarita than the tequila is:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912408

SO, Gran Gala and DeKuyper 03 are the winners of the Triple Sec taste-off to this point.

NOW, I make 4 margaritas, 2 w/ Gran Gala, and 2 w/ DeK 03. One of each is Patron silver only, the other is half Patron silver, half Patron Reposado. Not that I'm a big fan of Patron tequila, but it's at least "okay". I will admit to frankly thinking that all tequila is sort of vile, just a question of how vile... but it does bring that tart edge to the drink, and I love a good margarita of any kind.

These 4 drinks were prepared with 1 part triple sec to 2 parts tequila, plus 60 drops of fresh lime juice, which equates to about half a part. Initially NO "sweetening" agent was added. Later Agave nectar was added to the "winner", again about half a part.

SO, here are the blind tasting notes:
1: Under-developed flavors… nothing really stands out… kind of blandish

2: Definitely tarter, more interesting than 1, but still not quite there

3: Bright. Good beginning, best of 3 so far

4: Didn't like it as much as 3

Now to reveal the drinks:
1: Gran Gala and half reposado, half silver Patron
2: Gran Gala and silver Patron
3: DeKuyper O3 and silver Patron
4: DeKuyper O3 and half reposado, half silver Patron.

The clear winner above was #3 for my palate. Very balanced... I would recommend STARTING with this combination, then increasing the tequila if you like it more tart, or increasing the Orange or Lime to dial them up.

Lastly, I added about a half part of Agave Nectar to #3 and that was a real nice addition... just really rounds out the drink. Not sure what my final part ratios will be, but this is an incredible combo to start from:

Pure 100% blue agave tequila
DeKuyper O3 triple sec (NOT the regular DeK !!!
)Agave nectar
Fresh squeezed lime juice.

Give it a try and see what you think.

  1. I'm curious to know - before you came to the conclusion that the tequila wasn't all that important, what other brands did you try? Because most others I have read have said the opposite, and to be honest neither Sauza or Patron are tequilas I would consider using if I were trying to make an excellent margarita.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ncyankee101

      NYC, thanks for the honesty... if you don't mind, why not list the tequilas you DO think are dramatically better for use in a margarita than Patron Silver, Patron Reposado, or Sauza silver (blue label)?

      you're suggesting that your choices will noticeably improve the flavor of the margarita, so I'm very interested...

      1. re: TombstoneShadow

        Speaking for myself only I like 1800 and Espolon in a margarita. I think it will depend on your definition of a good margarita. I still like some of the vegetal funkiness of tequila to come through. These days I have been adding a splash of mezcal to up the funk factor.

        I also usually add at least one part lime juice to my margs, though i usually desire all my drinks tarter than most

        1. re: TombstoneShadow

          To be honest, I have only made a few margs with my top-notch tequilas because I much prefer to sip them.

          I prefer to use ones that have a very strong agave presence, which can cut through the lime juice. IMO Patron is too mild in agave taste and way overpriced - Espolon is somewhat better and about half the price.

          I have never tried Sauza blue, but I have gone through a bottle of Hornitos and was not very impressed - I have had many better tequilas for less than the $22 I paid for it.

          El Ultimo agave runs around $15, though it is not particularly complex and runs a little on the sweet side, it makes excellent margs. I would say the same for Costco's Kirkland brand, which is my new go-to mixer at the amazing price of $20 for a 1.75 ltr. Other inexpensive brands I find make excellent mixers are 30-30, Corazon, Corralejo and Camarena. (The first three vary a lot in price but the silver can be found for under $20)

          A couple other brands with unusual flavor profiles that make for interesting margs are Herradura and Tenampa azul (from Gran centenario).

          I have made a marg with Casa Noble and it was outstanding, but I much prefer sipping that one.

          1. re: ncyankee101

            Good recommendations. Re. inexpensive brands, if you haven't had an opportunity to sample it, I've recently been very happy with Lunazul ($19 in my neck of the woods).

        2. re: ncyankee101

          And I think one needs to find a tequila they like in a margarita. Although I am a Conitreau over all others for my orange liqueur, I do think a decent 100 percent agave tequila is very important in a margarita. Outside of price, I would pick Sauza Hornitos all day long over Camarena [which is tasteless to my palate in a margarita] for example. My margarita tequila at present is a closeout 100 percent agave Anejo sold by Sam's Club called Calle Azul. At $10.91 a fifth, it has been my go to for margaritas for friends and family for a long time [and will continue to be until I run out of my final case of it as it is no longer carried by Sam's].

          1. re: hawkeyeui93

            Curious - what is the NOM on the calle azul? I also like the anejo at Costco for the price - $20 a liter - , NOM 1472 (same as KAH).

            Honestly, Hornitos was one of the first "premium" brands I tried long ago. I remember thinking it was very bland, and it didn't even come close to Corazon at around the same price so I have never considered it again. I did get a bottle of the anejo on closeout for $25 and it wasn't bad though seemed awfully sweet, as do most inexpensive mass-produced anejos (including Costco's).

            I bought my last bottle of Camarena a while back for $15, about the same time I bought the Costco brand - it still sits almost full, while I have gone through more than a 1.75 of the Costco, so I guess it is not really one of my favorite mixers. It is rated 89 at tequila.net while Hornitos plata is 77, so I am not the only one who doesn't like it much.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              The NOM on the Calle Azul is 1143. Sauza Hornitos was one of the the first 100 percent agave tequilas I tried back when I first moved to Texas in the early 1990's [and used to be a great bargain long before tequila got hot and Sauza started advertising]. For the current price in my market [$25-plus in North Central Iowa], there are several other choices to make that are more interesting and cheaper. I have yet to try Sauza Plata, so I will reserve judgment on it.

        3. I can't say that I agree that the quality of triple sec is more important to a Margarita than the quality of the tequila. Or that the Margarita is a triple sec drink that uses tequila as a complement. And I'm certainly am not of the opinion that tequila is vile.

          So I have some questions. Why did you use the ratios you did for the two tests? Why 3:1 tequila to orange liqueur and then 10 drops of lime juice? What were the amounts in the ratio? Unless they were very small, you were basically testing the orange liqueurs in a tequila heavy Margarita.

          And then you changed to a more conventional ratio for this test. Why not use this ratio to test triple sec? Especially if you don't like tequila and consider the Margarita to be triple sec drink.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ultramagnetic

            I would answer all that, but it's a bunch of questions with cynical overtones, and you say nothing of your own preferences...

            Instead I would respectfully request you say what you DO believe, rather than questioning my palate preferences... what tequila do you think is so special that it makes a transcendent margarita? What silver tequila is so luscious to drink straight that you don't find it (honestly) shudderingly vile? Frankly any silver tequila reminds me of one-off from aguardiente if you've ever been to Colombia...

            I've given you my opinion based on the blind tastings as presented, reciprocal tasting opinion is much appreciated.

            1. re: TombstoneShadow

              I don't think UM was in the slightest cynical and was just asking some valid questions.

              A typical Margarita recipe is:
              1 1/2 - 2 oz. Blanco tequila
              1 oz. Cointreau / high end orange curacao / triple sec
              3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
              1/4-3/4 oz. Simple syrup

              Quality Tequila, quality orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup if the orange liqueur isn't that sweet are what makes a Margarita. I've made them with all types of orange liqueurs and tequila, and mezcal as well. A friend throws a party every year and puts out 25-50 tequila/mezcal ad 10+ orange liqueurs and we makes custom Margaritas to order.

              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                Oh boy. JMF is correct.

                I don't look for lusciousness in silver tequila. I don't know if I've had a 100% agave silver that I would consider vile. And the Margarita isn't a drink that would be transcendent to me.

                I wondered before my first post if I should bother based on your opinion of tequila. Your defensive responses to me and others in this thread tells me my hesitation was warranted.

                1. re: ultramagnetic

                  UM: well that's two posts where you haven't suggested any ratios, suggested any particular brand of tequila, any brand of triple sec... nor have you offered any of your own tasting impressions...

                  .... so not sure what kind of response you expect, sorry.

            2. If you don't mind me asking, why do you say triple sec is more important to the quality of a Margarita than tequila?

              It just seems surprising, since it's the base of the cocktail/main ingredient, and has the strongest flavor presence.

              That is, if you made a drink that used sugar or agave nectar instead of triple sec, but kept the tequila in and gave it to someone, you wouldn't have a Margarita, but you'd have a drink that tastes kind of like a Margarita. Under the right circumstances, you might be able to fool someone.

              If you did the opposite, and replaced the tequila with vodka, or gin, or rum, and kept everything else the same, you'd have a drink that wouldn't make someone think of a Margarita. :/

              62 Replies
              1. re: A_Gonzalez

                AG: At one level I do agree with you that tequila imparts a certain unique "alcohol blast", that is truly different than vodka or gin... but still...

                Does tequila truly have much of a flavor beyond it's unique alcohol blast? If you sip a margarita, are you really and truly tasting tequila, OR are you tasting: Lime, Triple Sec, and whatever sweetener they use? (i.e. sweet and sour mix, or agave nectar)...

                Surprise!!! At the end of the day, all tequila brings to a margarita is some shuddering (AGREED UNIQUE) tartness... truth be told.

                Ditto for a tequila sunrise, anyone dispute that?? what do you taste more... tequila or orange juice??

                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                  If you don't enjoy tequila I suggest that you make yourself a Cosmopolitan instead of a Margarita. Drink something that you enjoy, not something that you find to be disgusting.

                  Many of us absolutely do enjoy quality tequila for its earthiness, minerality, smokiness, and other traits. I don't find it to be tart in any sense of the word, nor do I shudder when I sip it -- often straight.

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    I don't enjoy the taste of raw cocoa by itself either... so does that mean I should not eat chocolate?

                    I do enjoy what cocoa does for the taste of chocolate, just like I enjoy what tequila does for the taste of a margarita... the culinary world is full of these ironies.

                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                      "I enjoy what tequila does for the taste of a margarita"

                      Based on your other posts I'm not so sure. You've said, for example, that "on the bottom line a Margarita really is a Triple Sec drink 'powered up' by tequila." [1]

                      I think you'd be hard pressed to find many others who agree with that statement. A more common opinion might be that a Margarita is a tequila drink balanced by triple sec.

                      It seems to me that when you say "powered up," you're referring to the tequila increasing the proof of the drink. (This would be the "alcohol blast" that you've mentioned previously in this thread.) Alcohol is alcohol, whether provided by tequila, vodka, or GNS, and I suspect that you'll be much happier with a neutrally flavored spirit.

                      [1] http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9124...

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        Do you really think tequila tastes like a margarita?... i.e all the other ingredients that we douse the tequila with just "balance" the flavor?

                        Another way of looking at it is that a "strawberry Margarita" tastes very different than a "classic margarita"... if tequila was the true underlying taste note, they would be much more similar in flavor. Fact is the mixers are very dominant in the drink.

                        My palate senses an amazing difference between straight tequila and any margarita, surprised that to your palate they are very similar, but that's what palates are: different.

                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                          No I don't think tequila tastes like a Margarita. I do think a Margarita tastes like tequila. At least, properly made. You can cover anything with strongly flavored mixers, but that doesn't mean that you're honoring the base spirit (nor, naturally, are you probably creating a great drink).

                          A strawberry Margarita is generally made with a lightly flavored tequila because the kinds of people who drink strawberry Margaritas don't want to taste tequila. They would be just as happy if the drink were prepared with vodka, rum, or something else. These same people would not be able to tell you the difference between a Margarita and a Daiquiri. "They're both frozen umbrella drinks -- right?"

                          It's funny to consider the question of palate sensitivity. Have you, perhaps, been sampling your Margaritas from styrofoam cups?

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            Fact is.... a margarita is one of the MOST altered drinks out there when it's "properly made", sorry...Far more altered than a cuba libre or a scotch and water or gin and tonic, martini, bourbon & coke... you name it.

                            Anytime you take the "base spirit" and adulterate it with more parts of other strongly-flavored (and strongly scented) liqueurs, fruit juice, and sweet/sour or nectar you are just getting away from the base spirit, sorry.

                            If I'm going to "honor" tequila, then I'm going to have it straight or with a splash of fresh lime. Otherwise, it's just one more ingredient, hence the term "cocktail".

                            It's great that you have the opportunity to learn that singular ingredients that by themselves aren't particularly interesting, can find their way into a cocktail (or any recipe) and create a very interesting culinary experience. When you get a chance I'd suggest you try the difference between raw cocoa (the tequila) and chocolate (the margarita)...

                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                              "When you get a chance I'd suggest you try the difference between raw cocoa (the tequila) and chocolate (the margarita)..."

                              I have eaten raw cocoa, partially processed cocoa and finished chocolate. I've also eaten raw agave, cooked agave, agave in food and in 3 different distillations...pulque, tequila and mezcal.

                              I think your analogy is off the mark. Processing chocolate substantially alters the chemical properties and flavor. Processing agave may change the chemical properties as well, but it enhances, not changes the flavor.

                              Dude, if you don't like tequila, that's fine, dont' drink it. It's pretty clear your mind is closed to any comment that doesn't support your assumptions....

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Uhh... I like MARGARITAS.... That doesn't mean I have to love tequila straight sorry.... if you love it straight, have my share...

                                I know it may seem like an impossible contradiction... how could someone not be a fan of straight tequila but still like Margarita... how could that possibly be??

                                LM ask you this... ever have BBQ brisket and fresh horseradish sauce? It's yummy... but horseradish by itself, sorry, not for me...

                                In the culinary world you'll find that often flavors which by themselves aren't that interesting are fantastic in the proper combination.

                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                  Been in the food business and commercial kitchens for 35+ years! Well aware of the effect of combining flavors, compatible or not :-)

                                  So you drink Margaritas for the lime juice and orange flavor?

                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    Nope... drink them for the "margarita" flavor... which is a marriage of the cocktail ingredients...

                            2. re: davis_sq_pro

                              "They're both frozen umbrella drinks -- right?" had me chuckling. As for the other thing...

                            3. re: TombstoneShadow

                              TS...you need to come taste my margarita. It does, indeed, taste of tequila. I don't use mixers to mask the taste of tequila. As DSQ has indicated, some of us do like the flavor of it.

                              In fact, Iike the flavor so much, I quit adding in the extra "stuff" as I enjoy it much more up than mixed.

                              And as for strawberry...I've been into infusing tequilas this year and one of the infusions I did was with fresh strawberries. It's good, we like it...but it still tastes primarily of tequila with subtle strawberry notes on the finish. Makes a hell of a maggie, tho'.

                        2. re: davis_sq_pro

                          Not to take sides, but I don't consider a "strawberry margarita" a margarita, but instead a tequila daiquiri. It is like when my wife used to think that everything was a martini if it was served in a martini glass ... :)

                          1. re: hawkeyeui93

                            Okay... so a margarita made with strawberry instead of orange essence isn't really a margarita... so here are 15 other margarita recipes... are all of these also "not margaritas"?

                            http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recip...

                            And there's dozens of others where those came from...

                            That said, I get your point that there is such a thing as a "classic" margarita, just as there is a classic martini. But IMO that doesn't invalidate the other varieties that mixologists have come up with in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

                            The bottom-line point is that in NONE of these drinks, whether you call them "margaritas" or "tequila daiquiris", is the tequila itself the dominant flavor. If you have ANY margarita side-by-side of straight tequila you will notice a world of flavor and scent differences.

                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                              I don't consider any of those Margarita's. They are tequila based cocktails. Some of them very tasty and some not. But a Margarita is pretty specific. Tequila, orange liqueur, lime, optional sugar. Calling something a "fill in the blank" Margarita is on line with calling something a "fill in the blank" Martini. Laziness in creation, laziness in naming.

                              1. re: JMF

                                Well JMF, you're at odds with mixologists from all over the world attending one Margarita championship event after the other.... in their eyes, these variations on the classic formula are indeed "margaritas"... otherwise are we going to give each one a separate name??

                                What shouldn't be lost in all this is that tequila at best is one of a number of flavors in these cocktails, no matter what you call them, and they are very distinguishable from raw tequila itself, just as a fruity chocolate concoction is very distinguishable from raw cocoa.

                                1: Tamarind Margarita wins 2011 World Margarita Championship attended by mixologists: http://blog.womenshealthmag.com/dish/...

                                2: Pomegranate Margarita wins 2012 World Margarita Championship:
                                http://www.nightclub.com/blog/ncb-new...

                                3: Chili-Mango Margarita wins People's Choice: The Pomegranate margarita recipe was from an American mixologist... Note that the "people's choice" winner in 2012 was a spicy cocktail from a Mexican mixologist containing: Chamoy hot sauce, Tajin chili powder, dried mango slices, tamarind syrup, fresh lime juice, Cointreau and Tequila Penasco Tequila.

                                .... it's revealing that the LAST ingredient listed is the tequila :

                                )

                                Now I love rotary dial phones, black and white TV's, and the abacus. But I also appreciate smart phones, flat-screen color TVs, and computers. The "classic" margarita is a fantastic drink, but so are it's more modern variations.

                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                  It is indeed revealing, but put it into a martini glass in most establishments and it would be called a Tamarind Martini, a Pomegranate Martini, and a Hot Sauce Martini ....

                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                    Just because they call it the world's greatest margarita championship, doesn't mean they know what they are talking about. Or are a reliable source. There are many different levels of bartenders and mixologists. There are those who throw swill together. There are those who are careful about ingredients, but know nothing about balance. There are those who cater to the lowest common denominator. There are those with a fine palate and make creative and complex drinks. There are those who educate. There are those who are historians, researching cocktails and their history. There are ground breaking modernists, etc.

                                    Those were tequila based cocktails, not Margaritas. I guess we are on different pages when it comes to accuracy and history of cocktails, as well as what is really going on in premium cocktail bars worldwide.

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      So now you are saying that these mixologists don't know what they are talking about.... because "you don't consider those drinks to be margaritas"...

                                      Presumably then the tequila companies who sponsor these events also don't know what a margarita is...

                                      Ever hear of the Tahona Society? Major group of tequila aficionados... Tahona is sponsored by Olmeca Tequila, a high-end boutique super-premium tequila... certainly at home at anyplace that qualifies as a "premium cocktail bar worldwide"....

                                      From the Olmeca website:
                                      Jasmine Tea Margarita: http://www.tequilaolmeca.com/en/cockt... Won the chairman's award from their global mixologist competition

                                      Sweet Sage and Pineapple Margarita: http://www.tequilaolmeca.com/en/cockt...

                                      Mama's Apricot Jam Margarita:
                                      http://www.tequilaolmeca.com/en/cockt...

                                      Sorry, the evidence is overwhelming....

                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                        What is overwhelming in this evidence is that a tequila company wants to sell its product and will use verbiage appropriate to its target market. Rightly so. The vast majority of tequila consumers are not well educated on the topic of cocktail history. (And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.)

                                        A lot of the regulars in this forum, however, happen to be pretty well versed on the topic. And we're having a discussion among those people, on what constitutes a properly made Margarita. This is not a marketing focus group. So it seems logical that we should stick with appropriate terminology.

                                        For what it's worth, Olmeca is not exactly boutique nor especially high end. It's a Pernod Ricard product with a mid-level price point. (Pernod Ricard is a $7bil company; Olmeca costs around $29 for a 750mL bottle.)

                                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                          So, here's what I'm learning from you....

                                          ....the Tahona Society doesn't know tequila or what a margarita is...

                                          Tequila companies don't know what a margarita is...

                                          The mixologists at the World Margarita Championship don't know what a margarita is...

                                          If Pernod owns controlling stock in a company, that company cannot produce premium tequila...

                                          If tequila is priced at $29 or less per bottle, it cannot be premium quality...

                                          Do I understand everything now, or is there more?

                                          1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                            Oh there's lots more for you to understand I think

                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                              If you replace "don't," "doesn't," or "cannot" with "may or may not," then you might be on to something ....

                                              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                You are placing a lot of weight on what sponsors, people, etc. call them selves. Not on what they actually are. Let's look at a few things.

                                                The word "premium" and "super-premium" for spirits is retail cost based terminology. It has no actual indication of quality. The premium category starts at a retail cost starting at around $20 a bottle. Ultra/super premium starts at around $35 retail.

                                                Most tequila companies don't CARE what a margarita is. They know that the general public associates the term with a popular cocktail. That's all many care about.

                                                The Tahona society was co-founded by the late Harry Besant, a successful and popular bartender from England, who if I remember correctly was also one of the co-founders of Olmeca Altos. But one has to realize that a group formed to back a brand, isn't impartial. It is a branding and marketing group. There are quite a few groups and societies that are similar. I belong to a handful myself. But I accept what their purpose is.

                                                In the spirits world one has to look at what group or agency is being sponsored by whom. Some are reputable, and some aren't. Some provide solid education, and include other brands besides ones in their portfolio.

                                                The bartenders competing in the world margarita championship may or may not know what a margarita is. It doesn't matter. They are competing in a competition working within the specific rules and language created by the competition sponsors. Who may or may not know what a margarita is, odds are may not, greater odds are definitely not.

                                                1. re: JMF

                                                  "You're putting alot of weight on what people call themselves"

                                                  Well, if General Motors calls itself a car company, I do put some weight on that.

                                                  Just as I would on a company that makes tequila and calls itself a tequila company.

                                                  Just as I would a group of mixologists from all over the world who compete locally and then internationally to make "the world's best margarita"... these are people who make drinks for a living, so yes I accept that they call themselves mixologists, and given their credentials I respect the drinks they have created in the "margarita" category...

                                                  Fact is there are so many dozens if not hundreds of cocktails out there properly labelled ______ Margarita. These names are well-established by bartenders, restaurants, tequila socities, tequila distillers, tasting competitions, etc.

                                                  If you don't accept those as versions of the margarita, fine, but too many professionals do for them to all be wrong, sorry. If you do know of any professionals who take the view that there is only one recipe for margarita, and that all these other versions are phony, fine, link me up. Interesting that in your first post you mention you and your friends make "custom margaritas"... I wonder what's in those?

                                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                    Custom margaritas where the proportions are the same, but the orange liqueur and tequila/mezcal are different.

                                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                      TS, you really are arguing out of your level of experience. Why not sit back and try to learn from those who are heavily involved in the spirits/cocktail industry? There are quite a few folks on here who are in the forefront of the spirits or cocktail trade. Ones who really know what is going on, not the scene as presented to the general public by the big liquor conglomerates. Who by the way I respect and support. They are all about the bottom line. Which means the same company can support real high levels of education and quality, as well as mediocrity. They all make money. If you don't believe any of the folks on here, then buy some books and educate yourself. Join the USBG (US Bartenders Guild) and go to educational and tasting events and learn from undisputed experts in the field. Anyone can join the USBG for $100 a year.

                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                        Oh yeah, like the citations I gave you are from neo-phytes in the industry, not heavy-hitters like you.

                                                        For someone who professes to be a leader of the spirits industry, you haven't cited one tequila you think is transcendent, one triple sec, you haven't shared any tasting notes... yet you want me to sit back and learn from... what?

                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                          Why should I waste my time with someone who has already made up their mind, just like all else here. We don't want to waste our time.

                                    2. re: hawkeyeui93

                                      I don't understand what you mean by tequila daiquiri. The names are more based on the base spirit, the recipes other than that are the same or similar with maybe one additional or changed ingredient. Rum = Daiquiri, Tequila=Margarita, Cosmo=Citron vodka plus cranberry, Sidecar=Brandy and lemon, Gimlet=Gin. All are forms of the class Sour, and some say more defined as a Daisy.

                                      1. re: JMF

                                        I was using the words "tequila daiquiri" loosely ...

                                  2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                    I think there's definitely more to tequila than an "alcohol blast" of some sort. Tequila has a definite flavor to it. It can be a sort of funky, rough around the edges flavor, but it's a distinct one.

                                    I don't think anyone is saying you have to like drinking tequila neat. But I think your cocoa example illustrates the important part: You don't have to like eating raw cocoa to enjoy chocolate, but we can still agree that cocoa is the most essential flavor of chocolate. It doesn't just add a little extra kick; it's what defines chocolate and separates it from every other confection.

                                    And I really don't think it's a question of a "dominant" flavor. A flavor doesn't have to be dominant to be essential. Look at a drink like a Negroni; it's equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, and each ingredient does as much heavy lifting as the next.

                                    But I think we've lost sight of what we were talking about here. I don't think anyone is trying to convince you that neat tequila tastes like Margaritas. I think the idea is that tequila quality affects a Margarita as much as any other ingredient. If you're saying tequila affects the taste of a Margarita as much as cocoa affects the taste of a chocolate bar, then I agree with that sentiment.

                                    1. re: A_Gonzalez

                                      This thread is so lengthy and rambling it is hard to keep up with. However, somebody, maybe the OP made the point that the triple sec is more important than the tequila. I don't know if i agree, as I don't drink margaritas very often. But, i do understand where he is coming from. Your example using the negroni illustrates this perfectly. I have made Negronis with Gordon's gin, tanqueray, Beefeater's, Bombay and brokers, and can't really tell enough of a difference to matter, except maybe the difference that a higher proof would make. I always use Campari of course, but i have used Martini and rossi vermouth as well as Dolin, and the vermouth used makes a bigger difference than the gin.
                                      Same for gin and tonics. I'd rather have a G&T with gordon's and Fever Tree tonic than one with Tanq. or Bombay with HEB tonic, or Canada Dry even. The tonic is more important to me than the gin, assuming a minimum acceptable gin.
                                      To segue a bit, I have friends that have had me over for G&T's and served Sapphire with the cheapest tonic available. I just think, what's the point?

                                      1. re: TroyTempest

                                        I certainly think it's fair to say one ingredient might have more of an important role than another. What I don't agree with is the suggestion OP made that in a Margarita, tequila doesn't "really have a flavor profile."

                                        Vermouth may well be more important than gin in shaping the flavor of a Negroni. I'll have to do some experimenting to see how I feel about that. I just brought it up because even if one flavor may be more important than another, they're still all important.

                                        (and on the subject of your G&T story, I feel your pain, though on the plus side, at least the cheapest tonic is nowhere near as bad as diet tonic...so at least that's something to be thankful for)

                                        1. re: A_Gonzalez

                                          I agree with you. Tequila does have a flavor profile.

                                          Yeah, i found out he diet tonic thing the hard way, too. At the local grocery store (HEB), I bought diet Schweppes when they were out of the regular. Should have got the HEB tonic instead. Now i know better.

                                        2. re: TroyTempest

                                          I just discovered Fever Tree's Ginger Beer and it is exceptional in my Gin Buck. Had to order it on Amazon, but well worth the extra effort.

                                      2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                        No offense, but I think everything the OP just said about the impact of tequila in a margarita is just astoundingly wrong. Tequila's flavor is nothing but an "alcohol blast"? Look, it's your palate, but how long have you been drinking decent booze and well made cocktails? Maybe you're just used to cheap margaritas, mixed poorly, with lousy tequila? Maybe you just don't like tequila? Are you sure you actually like a traditionally well made margarita? There's nothing wrong with not liking tequila or margaritas, but trying to make a huge deal over creating the perfect margarita while essentially suggesting that you don't much care for tequila seems odd.

                                        I know this is gonna sound preachy Tombstone Shadow, but you honestly don't sound like someone with a lot of experience with booze or the booze industry. There's nothing wrong with that, but the thing is, a lot of the folks here have decades of extensive experience in both these areas. Guys like JMF are serious fonts of knowledge in this area. Learn from them.

                                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                                          Actually BC he did mention in another thread that he found tequila vile and one step up from aguardiente. I had thought perhaps he just hadn't tried any good tequilas, I mean I have never heard of anyone being converted by Sauza blue.

                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                            Yank, just to update you, due to your protestations I decided to do an updated blind tasting of Pyrat... can't let you shame me with those rums that you assert are "infinitely better". So I picked out one that was rated 8 to 9 in rum ratings, had numerous reviews, and was highly recommended by experienced staff...

                                            Fact is... I liked it! You were right...

                                            But fact also is... I slightly prefered Pyrat..

                                            And this is tasting blind, no predjudice... I was doing a drum roll hoping that my blind tasting palate didn't let me down... but would have reported either way:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/913857

                                            Thanks sincerely for shaming me into this new rum tasting, every now and then I like to do an updated tasting because I always want to be drinking the best!

                                          2. re: The Big Crunch

                                            Yeah well crunch you don't impress me either, so we're even. Fact is the two most prominent flavors in a margarita are triple sec and lime... sorry to break the bad news to you.

                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                              It's your sense of taste, but it does seem that in contrast to your claims that a margarita us a drink dominated by triple sec and lime juice, every person who has replied to this thread disagrees with you.

                                              1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                And not a single person disagreeing has posted one blind tasting to document their conjecture. You see I might also have held that opinion prior to this tasting... that tequila is the vital ingredient. But that hypothesis just hasn't held up in repeat blind tastings.... Doesn't mean it wouldn't for another person's palate; they won't know until they try.

                                                FWIW, there was a poster who listed something like 10 great tequilas they've used in many years of margarita making. They gave an example where he or she ran out of their go-to tequila and had to substitute one they don't normally use and it worked just as well. They also suggested using key lime instead of reg lime for a real flavor difference; a suggestion that definitely proved true to me in blind tasting on that topic.

                                                You can also read the wide difference of opinion on what the best triple sec is. If triple sec wasn't a vital flavor ingredient, would anyone make a big deal about which is used?

                                                Lastly you can refer to any number of links I've posted to true experts on these beverages. Here's another from Kyle Ford who is no less than the master mixologist of Cointreau... who is making a "strawberry presidente" margarita... something some detractors on this thread say is definitely not a margarita. Now, who am I to listen to, the naysayers or the master mixologist of Cointreau? http://www.ehow.com/video_12248926_ma...

                                                Here's a list of drinks from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, which I lost count of the number of Margarita variations at over 10... if I believe the naysayers, then JB doesn't know margaritas, hello: http://www.margaritaville.com/parroth...

                                                Lastly, here's a list of 13 margarita recipes for "National Margarita Day" (Feb 22): http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                So to say that "everyone disagrees with the Shadow", that's just selective reading.

                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                  Why does one have to perform a blind taste test if they have been experimenting with the drink's ingredients for years [and actually like the drink's ingredients in the first place]? Frankly, I don't know how you learned much from a taste test when you used 3x the tequila and miniscule amounts of lime juice when testing triple secs, for example. Instead of being the voice of dissent to the brink of absurdity, why don't you instead try to respectfully share you insights like the majority of others on here? There is a lot of experience on here that has improved my spirits game over the past few years ....

                                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                    "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

                                                    - Abraham Maslow

                                                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                      3 to 1 was not the only ratio tested, and wasn't the final ratio selected. That was just the starting point of a long experiment.

                                                      The reason blind tastings are needed are for exactly what they discover time and again... when people bring their "favorite" drink to a blind tasting, they often find that in fact it's not their favorite, it's just something they are familiar with and have been drinking for a long time. This happens ALL the time in these tastings.

                                                    2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                      Like hawkeye said, what is the big deal with this obsessive blind taste test? I've made margaritas for years, every now and then adjusting the ratios when I feel like it to see what happens, and I've always come back to thinking 2 oz. tequila, .75 oz cointreau, .75 oz fresh lime juice, and approximately an eighth of an ounce of of agave syrup tastes great. I've played around with various tequilas and for price and quality, basically just use el Ultimo. I never needed to put on a blindfold to "truly" taste these drinks. I also never once said, "Wow, this is great, I can barely taste the tequila! What a great triple sec sour!"

                                                      Also, no one has said triple sec is NOT important, but this odd assertion that it is both the most important ingredient, and the dominant flavor in a margarita is just odd.

                                                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                        Well the theory of relativity was odd when it came out. So was the suggestion that the earth isn't flat.

                                                        I'm comfortable making discoveries that some others who haven't conducted those experiments find odd.

                                                        Since you don't conduct blind tastings to confirm whether what you're drinking is truly best to your palate in a non- predjudiced objective test, then it doesn't surprise me that you find such an experiment odd.

                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                          And I think it is just as invalid to suggest that one has to do a blind taste test to discover what they personally like to make the best margarita ....

                                                      2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                        Well your taste test was kinda lame. Where was Luxardo Triplum? Combier triple sec? Marie Brizzard?

                                                        Not to mention that Grand Marnier and Gran Gala are very different from triple sec. I mean, yeah, you said "orange liqueur", but they're so different you should have done a triple sec taste test, then a Grand Marnier-style liqueur taste test separately.

                                                        Similarly, you maintain that tequila is not the vital ingredient, but you haven't really used many tequilas, and the ones you've chosen are among the "plainest" around.

                                                        And, as JMF has said, the so-called "master mixologist" is paid BY COINTREAU. He will call the drink whatever Cointreau thinks will result in more sales. Yeesh, wake up on this point already.

                                                        EDIT: You weren't actually serious when you cited Margaritaville as an authority, were you?

                                                        1. re: Alcachofa

                                                          Let's see the variety of tequilas I've tasted in these experiments: Milagro, Don Julio Reposado, Sauza Blue silver, Patron Silver, Don Julio Anejo, Patron Reposado, Tres Generaciones, and Patron Anejo. That's EIGHT tequilas... sorry but you can't dismiss them with "some of the 'plainest' around"... After tasting these 8 I have absolutely no basis for believing that if I just buy this MIRACLE tequila everything is going to be different... and BTW, these tequilas were chosen because they came so highly recommended by multiple tasting links that have been previously posted....

                                                          What JMF forgets is that JMF HIMSELF declared that Cointreau is the essential orange liqueur of a margarita!!!!! Now he claims that their own mixologist doesn't know what a margarita is. And I'm supposed to buy into such double-talk? JMF: cointreau is the essential expert on the one hand and on the other hand they don't know what they're talking about, sorry that's not very convincing logic.

                                                          And why wouldn't margaritaville be an authority on margaritas? Have you ever visited south florida or the keys? You don't think they take margaritas seriously there? That one venue probably cranks out more margaritas per square foot of bar space than any other location on earth. Okay, let's say they don't know what they're doing... well does cointreau, considering JMF says they are the essential orange liqueur in a margarita.... oops I forgot they don't know what they are talking about either...

                                                          What about the tasting kitchen of the LA Times and their 13 margarita recipes for National Margarita Day?? I suppose you don't think they know margaritas in LA either, correct?

                                                          I'll ask you the same question: are YOU serious when you claim that cointreau, margaritaville, and the folks at National Margarita Day don't know margaritas?

                                                          1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                            I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Margaritas at Margaritaville restaurants are mostly artificially flavored neon green sweet and sour mix.

                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                              I don't remember saying that Cointreau was "the essential orange liqueur in a margarita." Orange liqueur is. If I did indeed say that I probably had too many Margarita's.

                                                  2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                    First off, why would anyone drink a Tequila Sunrise? What are we in, the 1980's? And yes, of course OJ is a more dominant flavor in that rather awful drink...it makes up the bulk of a Tequila Sunrise, often in a 3:1 or 4:1 proportion to the tequila. Unsurprisingly, the dominant taste in a Cuba is Coca-Cola, because in a typical highball glass with a traditional 2 oz pour of rum, you're again looking out around 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of mixer to booze.

                                                    Second...tequila...basically just making a margarita tart? That's just not right, at all. I don't think I've ever tasted a tequila and immediately thought, "Wow! That's tart!" Sweet, vegetal, sometimes oaky, sometimes floral and earthy, sometimes peppery...but never just "tart". You do know that lime juice, which is about as tart a liquid as you'll find is in a Margarita, and that is basically what makes a Margarita tart. Tequila gives it the tequila flavor.

                                                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                      "Tart" is the lip-smacking quality of a margarita. If you've never sipped a margarita and found it has a lip-smacking quality to it, you haven't been drinking margaritas, sorry.

                                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                        Silly me. I always thought tartness came from the lime juice. Similarly I thought citrus juice provided the "sour" in all drinks in the sour family. Guess it was the alcohol all that time and not the lemon or lime juice.

                                                      2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                        Ah, but don't you know, according to TS, the Margarita isn't supposed to taste like tequila ;-)

                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                          You all have convinced me !! Tequila is the most luscious, complex, evolving beverage I've ever tasted. A mouthful of delicious initial flavors which waft into these lingering backnotes that go on for minutes.... pepper, citrus, minerals... giving way to mint, and tart cherries... then opening up with lemon...

                                                          NOT.

                                                          If you want to try a truly complex drink, have a sauternes sometime, a great port, even a well-made imperial stout or great imperial IPA, a barleywine, not to mention a dessert riesling, any great wine...

                                                          But trying to sell tequila as this symphony of exploding flavors that I just don't appreciate because I haven't bought the right brand... is a joke.

                                                    2. re: A_Gonzalez

                                                      obliquely related:
                                                      there is a restaurant in my area that makes tequilas using NO triple sec.
                                                      instead they use agave and very concentrated fresh orange juice as an "improvement" over triple sec.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        Out of curiosity, what exactly is "concentrated fresh orange juice"?

                                                        1. re: A_Gonzalez

                                                          I'm assuming the frozen concentrate used to make reconstituted OJ versus the pasteurized never frozen stuff that is filtered clear and flavorless for storage and then has "flavor packs" added back to it before packaging. Nether one of which bear a resemblance to fresh squeezed OJ. By the way, if you drink commercial OJ on a regular basis, never read the book Squeezed!

                                                    3. When visiting Mexico for the first time in the mid-70s, an older Mexican gentleman informed me that "Margaritas were invented to keep gringos quiet."

                                                      I think he may have been pulling my leg.

                                                      1. This thread has motivated me to have margaritas tonight ...

                                                        1. We've had to remove a number of unfriendly responses from this discussion, and the discussion is just going around in circles at this point. We're going to lock this topic now.