Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Aug 15, 2013 09:53 PM

Ultimate Margarita Blind Taste Quest Phase 5: Key Limes or "Regular" Limes?

Continuing on in my quest for the Ultimate Margarita (for my palate of course), today I blind tasted two drinks using the tequila, triple sec, and ratios established in prior phases, and experimenting with use of fresh squeezed regular lime juice vs. that of key limes. Tasting notes follow, I knew the ingredients in both drinks except which glass held which lime juice.

Basic Ratio: 2 parts tequila, 1 triple sec, 1/2 agave, and 1 lime juice

Drink 1: Bright, lip-smacking, yummy… could play with the ratios here. Could stand a bit more tequila as this lime / agave / TS combo really balances the basic tequila…. Will try another 1/2 part tequila in this drink after sampling Drink 2.. [Note: did not do this b/c on the fly I decided to combine the remainder of the two drinks as you'll see].

Drink 2: A bit tarter than Drink 1. Awesome delayed tart lime backnote…. This is about dialed in, perhaps could use slightly more tequila.

NOTE: The KEY difference (no pun intended) is that Drink 1 is on the "sweet lime" side and Drink 2 is on the "tart lime" side… both imminently drinkable. My palate preference vacillates between the two… but it really is a tie…

Now what have I been drinking?
1: "Regular" lime
2: Key lime

NEXT Step before adding any tequila, is to combine the regular and Key lime drinks…. See if there's any combined effect creating more delicious flavor complexity…

WOW… this is really on the right track… the two limes maintain their character in a "sweet / sour" flavor battle of lime nuances, followed by that sharp key lime tart backnote… This is a Bingo here, highly recommended…

Further, note that several neo-classic Margarita recipes call for a squeeze of both fresh lime and fresh lemon… I think this may be a similar but more interesting approach, to combine both sweet lime and key lime! This way you stay with a singular lime flavor dimension, but with much more complexity. Just delicious.

This is more evidence of a tentative conclusion I reached yesterday, that the single most important flavor ingredient in a Margarita may not be EITHER the tequila or the triple sec... but really the fresh lime juice! This was so apparent when I added lime after sampling the tequila/triple sec combos for the ideal ratios yesterday (see ratio test thread). The drink was just completely transformed, sharpened, and truly defined by the lime.

With thanks to a poster who suggested key limes on one of my other threads on this topic.

The search will continue....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "This is more evidence of a tentative conclusion I reached yesterday, that the single most important flavor ingredient in a Margarita may not be EITHER the tequila or the triple sec... but really the fresh lime juice!"

    This is probably true in your case, and it makes a lot of sense. Let's consider the inputs to your experiment:

    - One of the least distinctive tequilas on the market
    - A very sweet orange liqueur known to lack nuance
    - An abnormally high ratio of sweet to strong (at least, in 2013 -- not necessarily that high for 1870)

    So you have a glass of sugary alcohol with a minor tequila bite and a bit of orange flavor. That lime juice is going to have a huge impact on the final result. How could it not? It's the ONLY thing providing much impact.

    Anyway, carry on. Suggest that in your next round of tests you experiment with ReaLime, True Lime, Rose's Lime Cordial, and of course Bud Light Lime. This way you can at least say that you were thorough.

    1 Reply
    1. re: davis_sq_pro

      Right Davis... I must be drinking the wrong tequila... how many times have I heard that one...

    2. My thought is that this is a margarita. Not a drink normally to be sipped and savored like a fine scotch or Bordeaux.

      Let's face it. If you cannot find the tequila in a 1.75 liter bottle, then you are probably spending too much. It is designed to be consumed by the gallon or out of a slushie machine. So I applaud your efforts on finding a recipe that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.

      Friends make a wonderful drink with a mix of sour orange and key lime. If you can get fresh sour oranges, I would recommend this.

      8 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        I disagree with everything you posted 100%

        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          Yeah, it's not akin to a fine wine. But seriously? The implication that the Margarita should be consumed by the gallon, mixed with the cheapest hooch available? I think that's an incredibly sad mode of thought.

          We all know that the Margarita had some bad years. It spent the '80s and much of the '90s frozen, flavored, overly sweetened, and served with fried food. In its slushy, strawberry-flavored guise it might have gotten me laid a few times -- and for that I'm eternally grateful -- but now that I'm older and wiser I can definitely see that the drink lost its way.

          A properly made Margarita is a classic drink. And it's a classic for a reason. Properly made, it's a damn good drink. It's also easy to go astray. Tequila's flavor can be difficult for some people to enjoy. And of course the market was mostly dominated by low-quality mixtos, until fairly recently. Some people don't like tart drinks -- and a well-made Margarita most definitely is. Good triple sec isn't cheap. And every convenience store carries bottles of mix that many people believe, when combined with ice in a blender, creates the absolute form of the drink.

          Of course none of this is correct.

          Properly made means quality ingredients; not the best money can buy, but certainly not a handle of swill nor a bottle of mix. Good blanco (or reposado) tequila, 100% agave. Cointreau or maybe Combier triple sec. And of course fresh squeezed lime juice.

          Properly made means properly balanced ratios. Not too sweet, not too sour, not too dry. The classic ratio is 3:2:1, strong:sweet:sour. That ratio was designed at a time when spirits were generally of a much rougher and lower quality than they tend to be today, and citrus juice less readily available. Many people who drink cocktails on a regular basis prefer 2:0.75:0.75 or something even drier.

          Properly made means shaken and strained. A hard shake, with plenty of ice, for at least 20 seconds. Tight-strained, if possible, through a tea strainer, to get rid of ice shards and any lime pulp that made it into the shaker. A deeply cold yet silky smooth cocktail is a fantastic, refreshing experience.

          And properly made probably doesn't mean consumed to excess. I'm not here to be preachy about drinking too much, so I won't belabor this point. But I've generally found that people who drink better quality stuff don't consume as much volume. Partially, probably, because it's more expensive to do so. And partially, I hope, because less is just as satisfying.

          Your mileage can and clearly does vary. But I hope you'll consider researching and trying a well-made Margarita and not condemning the drink, in your mind, to the image it received during the lean times.

          Here's a link to a video in which Robert Hess discusses the drink. Hopefully it will provide some food for thought:

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            "the Margarita had some bad years."

            Are you old enough to remember when Cuervo Gold was considered a good, "premium" tequila???????

            1. re: Alcachofa

              Would that have been around the time Steely Dan released "Hey Nineteen?"

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                As I recall, song also mentioned "the fine Colombian"....would've made even Cuervo Gold taste good.

                1. re: Sam Spade

                  In defense, i think (or at least have been told) that cuervo gold was closer to 100% agave back when that tune came out than it is now. Of course i could be wrong, i was barely 19 myself.

              2. re: Alcachofa

                I remember those days. It took me decades to approach tequila and mezcal again.

            2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

              Not quite sure what being able to find things in 1.75 ltr bottles has to do with anything. I have seen Johnnie Walker Blue in 1.75 ltr size for around $500.

            3. Try using Cointreau. tastes better than using triple sec in my opinion.

              I found the recipe on and loved it ever since. I will not make a margarita with triple sec even again.


              1 Reply
              1. Is Margarita Salt the next test?