Archive for the ‘The Perfect Margarita’ Category

Perfect Margarita Search Continues   2 comments

We used Sol de Mexico Reposado with this recipe. It's one of my favorites ... but the family prefers Don Celso Reposado.

We used Sol de Mexico Reposado with this recipe. It’s one of my favorites … but the family prefers Don Celso Reposado.

We’re still in search of The Perfect Margarita. And we have a renewed sense of purpose. We recently found The Best Margarita in Los Angeles … at Money Pancho’s in Camarillo. Go there and have the Cadillac Margarita with Marquez de Valencia Reposado tequila … and then you’ll understand how important it is that we achieve our goal of making The Perfect Margarita.

I’d hoped to finish this honorable quest last year, but we ran out of steam. It’s work to squeeze all of those limes! Yesterday, however, I flexed the muscles, got out the old reamer, and had at it. Velda cooked carnitas, and we had a great meal.

At the end, Little Girl asked, “Am I making English?” Methinks the Margaritas were good enough to do their job! Here’s our amended recipe, still a work in progress, but definitely the current state of the art.

Margarita Mix

  • 3 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar (to taste; we went slightly heavier than 3/4 cup)

Make a large quantity of mix to these proportions. Blend. Make sure the agave nectar has gone into solution; it’s a very slow pour out of the measuring cup.

Cadillac Margarita

  • 3-1/2 oz Reposado tequila
  • 2 oz Margarita Mix
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier

Serve on the rocks after shaken, or blended. Salt the rim of your glass, garnish with a lime wedge.

The BerryRitas used Lunazul Blanco, which is very good ... and less expensive than a good Reposado. Great for well drinks.

The BerryRitas used Lunazul Blanco, which is very good … and less expensive than a good Reposado tequila. Great for well drinks & blends like a BerryRita.

Add frozen raspberries instead of ice if you’d prefer a BerryRita. Sugar the rim of your glass.



Results: The First Big Taste Test

Orange Liqueur Taste Test

Better Ingredients = Better Margaritas   1 comment

This artisan tequila tastes as good as its hand-blown bottle looks!

When we were visiting Old Town Liquor in San Diego, we learned about a highly recommended tequila: Sin Rival.  This new Reposado had to be worked into our search for the Perfect Margarita!

Another discovery in San Diego was this organic margarita mix. It is NOT FRESH, but it’s the best bottled mix we’ve found. When you don’t have time to make fresh margarita mix, this is not awful; it’s better than many bars serve!

Also on the agenda:  checking out the idea that agave nectar is superior to simple sugar in margarita mix.  Seems like a simple idea, right?  But until you actually check it out, you just don’t know.  Happy to do that for you!

Four of us did some quick little taste tests.  In a word, YES, agave nectar makes a big difference.  It’s clear that’s going to be our new standard in our search for the Perfect Margarita!

We used a slight variation of this Agave Nectar Margarita Recipe from

1-1/2 oz reposado tequila

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz agave nectar

1/2 oz Grand Marnier

The first thing we did was make 2 versions of this recipe with Don Celso Reposado.  We put agave nectar in one mix, and simple sugar in the other.  All 4 tasters agreed:  no contest.  Agave nectar is the clear winner!

We then continued with a couple of other taste tests, using agave nectar but with different tequilas.

1.  Don Celso Reposado again bested Sol de Mexico Reposado.

2.  Don Celso Reposado bested Sin Rival Reposado.

Don Celso, you may recall, was the top-ranked tequila from our original taste test of 15 tequilas.  It’s the undefeated champion so far. It must be noted, however, that each tequila brings a unique flavor to its Margaritas.  As we continue in our search for the Perfect Margarita, we’re going to need to tweak the final recipe to match the flavor profile of the winning tequila.

Tough, tough work ahead of us.

A great tasting tequila, and with its undefeated record in taste tests so far, it’s going to be hard to replace Don Celso Reposado in our Perfect Margaritas!

Posted August 18, 2012 by henrymowry in Recipes, The Perfect Margarita

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Orange Liqueur Taste Test   10 comments

A Cadillac Margarita has 3 main ingredients.  Previous posts have discussed the best tequilas, and a recipe for all fresh margarita mix.  But what’s the best orange liqueur?  Velda and I happily accepted the assignment.

The taste test was done with a standard 6/4/3 recipe (tequila/mix/orange liqueur).  All margaritas were made with Marquez de Valencia reposado and fresh margarita mix.

Five liqueurs were tasted, and here are their rankings:

  1. Grand Marnier – Every premium margarita recipe specifies it, and they are correct.  Best orange flavor.
  2. Cointreau – Not as intense as Grand Marnier, but it’s still a good orange flavor.  Not as much depth in my opinion.
  3. Grand Imperial – Interesting alternative flavor.  Not as smooth, but good for a change of pace.
  4. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur – Nice citrus flavor, but a bit sharp for my taste.  Probably good in some recipes … we improved the drink with a dash of blood orange syrup.  Velda enjoyed this with a Chinese Chicken Salad; the citrus was very complementary.
  5. Triple Sec – Almost flavorless!  Not a part of a good margarita.

I had people tell me that Cointreau was the best of a “classic” margarita taste, and it was definitely part of a good drink.  I’m finding Cointreau at the same price as Grand Marnier, though, go for the Grand Marnier, every time.

Posted July 11, 2012 by henrymowry in The Perfect Margarita

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Results: The First Big Taste Test   2 comments

  1. Don Celso Reposado  **
  2. Lunazul Blanco **
  3. 3 Amigos Reposado **
  4. El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado  **
  5. Marquez de Valencia Reposado  **
  6. Herradura Reposado
  7. 7 Leguas Reposado
  8. Muchote Reposado
  9. Sol de Mexico Tequila Reposado   **
  10. Gran Centenario
  11. KAH Tequila Reposado
  12. Casa Noble Reposado
  13. 1800 Reserva Reposado


  • Jose Cuervo Gold
  • Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond
  • Pueblo Viejo Reposado

Remember our goal is to find the perfect tequila for the perfect margarita.  Three of the tequilas in the bottom half of the ratings are very highly recommended:  Muchote, KAH and Casa Noble are all tasty.  My working theory is they just don’t play well with others.

The surprise of the First Big Taste Test was the dark horse winner, Don Celso Reposado.  Not only did Don Celso have the best rating over all, it also got 4 clear first place votes from the 11 judges.  No other tequila got more than 1 first place vote.

Another clear winner was Lunazul (I love visual puns the best).  Lunazul is relatively inexpensive, so this tequila is the obvious early favorite to take the crown for “Recommended for Big Parties!”  It did get 1 first place vote.

3 Amigos (1 first place vote) and El Tesoro were small surprises; neither had impressed in the preliminary tastings, but they did rise to the top when they needed to!

Two tequilas surprised that they were not rated higher.

Marquez de Valencia Reposado is very  highly recommended, and we had to drive many miles just to buy it.  I expected more!

Sol de Mexico was distinguished in the early tastings … I wholly expected that this would be my favorite in the taste test.  ‘twas not to be, but I’m keeping it in the competition to see if our initial tastings were right or wrong.

Our taste test, our rules.

After some discussions, we’ve decided to take those 6 tequilas (marked with **) on to the next round as we search for the perfect ingredients, the perfect recipe … the perfect margarita.

The First Big Taste Test   Leave a comment

The goal is to craft the ultimate Margarita … not find the best tasting tequila.  Therefore, we followed the suggestion first seen on The Goodist, and created a taste test to showcase tequilas in a standard Margarita recipe.

The classic Margarita recipe was just too tart for the family members that were tasked to sample some of the preliminary mixes.  The classic margarita recipe has a proportion of 3:2:1

  • 3 parts, tequila
  • 2 parts, lime juice
  • 1 part, orange liqueur

The Goodist suggested a “tequila forward” recipe of 4:1:1, but that was similarly unacceptable to our palates.  We settled on a 6:5:4 recipe, as follows:

  • 1-1/2 oz, tequila
  • 1-1/4 oz, margarita mix
  • 1 oz, Grand Marnier

Further, we decided that we would not put ice in the samples, as that would dilute the recipe based on when the sample was drunk.  Therefore, we addded a cup of water to the Margarita Mix recipe, (hopefully) simulating the melting of ice.  Hey, it’s our taste test; we made up the rules.

We then had to choose 13 tequilas to go into the final test.  In the weeks leading up to the first big taste test, we had “pre-gamed” with almost all of the tequilas, and there were already strong opinions on those that just wouldn’t do.  Therefore, we excluded 3 tequilas from the first formal tasting.  Excluded:

  1. Jose Cuervo Gold … In our first preliminary and blind taste test with 4 tequilas, all 4 judges rated this tequila the worst sampled.  “It tasted like fish.”  I advocated keeping this in, as it is the # 1 selling tequila in the world, but I was overuled.  Excluded.
  2. Pueblo Viejo Reposado … A relatively inexpensive reposado, it also didn’t make it out of the preliminary tastings.  Cheap, but no good.
  3. Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond Reposado … an expensive artisan tequila that had a too bright, perhaps over-filtered flavor.  I’m not a brewmaster, but I’ll tell you this tequila tasted awful.  I bought it at BevMo, where another tequila buyer commented on what a lovely bottle the tequila came in; that’s true.  They should have invested in the product, not the packaging, IMHO.

The 13 remaining tequilas were all mixed about 3 hours before the taste test, and refrigerated until they were poured into the tasting cups.

Each drink was rated in 4 categories: Aroma/Nose, Initial Taste, Finish and Smoothness. Perfect rating would be a 20 from each judge, and we had 11 judges.

This was a blind taste test; the only person who knew which tequila was in which bottle, initially, was me. By the time the tasting began hours later, I only remembered the number of one of the tequilas. After the tasting, I didn’t know which was which and I didn’t care.

All tasting cups were put in a tray with crushed ice to keep the samples cool.

We mixed the equivalent of 5 cocktails for each tequila. We then poured 11 samples, which were roughly the equivalent of 2-1/2 cocktails total of each. If you consumed all of each sample … which most did not … then you were drinking 2-1/2 cocktails. Too much for a taste test? Probably. But everyone filled out their ballot after drinking perhaps half of each sample. No one thought their judgement was impaired. Later on … when all of the excess samples were dumped into the “number 14 Margarita” … well, it was a good night.

When the tasting began, the 11 judges were seated around the dining room table.  Everyone had water to drink, as well as access to tortilla chips (salt!) and guacamole.

The results?  I was surprised.

Tequila   7 comments

There are literally hundreds of tequilas on the market today. Even if you limit your selections to Reposados … hundreds. I researched tequilas, chose some of the best sounding and best reviewed, and then bought the best I could find.  We started the taste test with the 16 tequilas that I could find.

Most were purchased from two Southern California chains: BevMo and Total Wine. A few came from other sources … the Marquez de Valencia is difficult to find, as this tequila is rather rare in our area. Here are the initial contenders for the best of the best, along with local pricing that I found and some ratings that you’ll find on the ‘net:

3 Amigos Reposado

  • $24.99
  • Editors: 92
  • Readers: 92

7 Leguas Reposado

  • $38.99
  • Readers: 92

1800 Reserva Reposado

  • $15.99
  • Readers: 83

Casa Noble Reposado

  • $43.99
  • Readers: 93
  • This tequila has a big brand presence

Don Celso Reposado

  • $29.99
  • Editors: 94

El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado

  • $37.99
  • Editors: 94
  • Readers: 92

Gran Centenario Reposado

  • $23.99
  • Editors: 94
  • Readers: 91

Herradura Reposado

  • $32.99
  • Readers: 85
  • 2011 Awards – “Best of the Best” Best Lowland Reposado Tequila

Jose Cuervo Gold

  • $13.99
  • Readers: 61
  • # 1 selling tequila in the world

KAH Tequila Reposado

  • $47.99
  • Editors: 92
  • Readers: 92
  • 2011 Awards – “Best of the Best” Best High-Proof Tequila
  • Day of the Dead-themed Skull makes this one of the most attractive bottles on the shelf!

Lunazul Blanco

  • $15.99
  • Readers: 82

Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond

  • $39.99
  • Editors: 93
  • Readers: 92

Marquez de Valencia Reposado

  • $47.99
  • Editors: 94
  • 2011 Awards – “Best of the Best” Best Highland Reposado Tequila Judge Favorite
  • 2010 Awards – Gold Medal
  • “Best Tequila for Margaritas according to

Muchote Reposado

  • $24.99
  • Editors: 94
  • Readers: 94
  • 2008 Agave Spirits Challenge Gold Medal & Judge Favorite

Pueblo Viejo Reposado

  • $18.99
  • Readers: 88

Sol de Mexico Tequila Reposado

  • $39.99
  • Editors: 91

The Nuts & Bolts of Margaritas   1 comment

Classic Margaritas have 3 ingredients:

  • Tequila
  • Lime juice
  • Orange liqueur

The selection of the best of the best will be controversial in every case.


There are several grades of tequila, but they are not gold and silver!  Jose Cuervo may be the #1 selling tequila in the world … Patron may currently be the most popular top shelf tequila.  However, they must deliver the best-tasting Margarita to be the best of the best!

There are two categories of tequila:  mixto and 100% blue agave.  The best tequilas are made from blue agave, and will always say “100% Blue Agave” on the label.  If that isn’t on the label, then the tequila you’re looking at is a mixto, made from a blend of different sugar syrups.  Avoid these tequilas!

A field of Blue Agave. Picture from Don Julio tequila, which harvests after 7-13 years of growth.

You’ll commonly see 4 kinds of tequila on the shelf:

  1. Blanco, taken straight from the still, or aged under 2 months in stainless steel
  2. Reposado, aged in oak barrels from 3 to 12 months
  3. Anejo, aged in oak barrels for 1 to 3 years
  4. Extra Anejo, aged in oak barrels over 3 years

Jose Cuervo is a mixto.  The price is often low … and the quality matches that.  Jose is not my friend.

Reposado tequilas offer a good compromise between price and depth of flavor.  Some people prefer Margaritas made with blancos, but reposados are generally recommended for Cadillac Margaritas.

Lime Juice & Margarita Mix

Many, many margarita recipes use pure lime juice.  Most bars, however, use a sweet & sour mix instead.  Go to the store, and you can buy margarita mix which is a mix of juices, sugars and colorings.  After you make home-made sweet & sour, you’ll never buy another bottle from the store.

Using pure lime juice produced a drink much too tart for my palate.  We then began to investigate a sweet & sour mix with a strong lime component.  Here’s the Margarita Mix recipe Velda settled on:

  • 3 cups water, heated
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups, fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup, fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons, lemon zest

This green depression glass antique lemon reamer is ideal for squeezing lemons & limes. Check out your local antique mall for this affordable collectable that will be very useful in your kitchen.

Use a lemon reamer to juice the limes and lemons.  After reaming the fruit, using a citrus squeezer will maximize yield from the limes (you may find this step unnecessary for the lemons).

Heat the water until it boils.  Stir in sugar, and then cool to room temperature.  Add the juices and zest.  Refrigerate overnight.  Strain out the pulp and zest before use – unless you like your Margaritas chewy.

Orange Liqueur

Most of the literature I’ve reviewed says that Grand Marnier is the right choice for a Cadillac Margarita.  We’ve now got 5 kinds of orange liqueur that we’ll be sampling.  Tough, tough work ahead of us!

Posted June 25, 2012 by henrymowry in Recipes, The Perfect Margarita

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How do you make a margarita?   Leave a comment

I remember the night very well.  We were celebrating summer in our back yard, and the party was rocking.  The pizza oven had been hot as blazes (literally), and I needed a cool drink.  Alley brought me a Cadillac Margarita that she’d mixed up … and I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, she’s never been able to re-make that wonderful drink, which is why I’ve encouraged the family to search for the perfect margarita!  Most people seem to think that a Cadillac Margarita is the best of the best, so that’s what we’re going to create:  the ultimate Cadillac Margarita.

I googled the key words in various combinations, consulted Velda’s drink recipes, and have found that there’s no easy path.  You can find bloggers that talk about favorite drinks at favorite restaurants … you can find countless recipes as well.  But is there someone out there that’s actually compared ingredients and recipes head to head?  Not so much.

I found a 2009 post on The Goodist, but it was a fragment of an idea that was never taken to fulfillment.  Over the next several weeks, we’re going to fulfill the promise of an ultimate Cadillac Margarita.  The ingredients will be top notch, and the results will be worthy of your sampling.  Note that I expect to find several “best” results … the best on the rocks, the best blended, the best (affordable) party drink, etc.  Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Investigate different tequilas, and have a blind taste test.
  • Identify the best Margarita Mix recipe.
  • Develop different presentations and recipes for the best tequilas.
  • Identify the best liqueur to use:  Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec….

As you can see, there are many steps on the path … but just as they say about the road to Hana, it’s all about the journey!

By the way, I’ve trolled around some tequila websites, and have found a couple of fun facts:

The Margarita is a relatively young drink.  The origin is in dispute, but Wikipedia believes the drink was crafted after prohibition in honor of a Margarita.  Or a Peggy.  Or maybe a Daisy.  Good reading, and you’ll find the International Bartender Association’s recipe here.

The Margarita is the most popular tequila drink in America, and is of course served in Mexico as well.  According to a tequila blog I read, however, Margaritas are sometimes viewed as “girly drinks” south of the border.  Men drink their tequila straight, apparently, or perhaps with a sangrita back, as it’s often served.

Serious business, yes?  And just to show you how serious….

15 tequilas enter the initial competition to be named the best tequila for the best margarita!

Posted June 24, 2012 by henrymowry in The Perfect Margarita

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