There’s no doubt that one of the best summer drinks ever invented is the margarita. It’s cool, tart, a little tangy — with a spicy tequila smack — and salty on the finish. My preferred version would be on the rocks, forged with reposado tequila (for a bolder flavor), with a salted rim.
While my described concoction may taste like a piece of heaven on earth, there’s always room for experimentation and exploration. Summer being the season of fruitful bounty, it’s only natural that folks began to try fruity variations on this timeless elixir.
Enter the flavored margarita.
Many people, especially bartenders, are divided in their opinions of the flavored margarita. Some refer to it as a bastardization of an immortal cocktail. Others have embraced the chance to play around with new taste combinations.
In the way that flavored daiquiris have been maligned, the flavored margarita has gotten a bad rap. Many people associate it with the premixed, preprocessed frozen version that resembles a 7-Eleven Slurpee or the tawdry variations served at places like TGI Fridays or Tex-Mex chain restaurants.
When prepared with quality ingredients (i.e., fresh fruit), flavored margaritas can provide a rainbow of exciting choices for refreshment, not just in summer, but all year round.
Some say that flavored margaritas go back to the birth of the margarita itself. The number of stories that exist about the origins of the margarita nearly equal the number of insults hurled at a Donald Trump rally.
One story with credibility is that the margarita evolved from an old cocktail called the daisy, which dates to the 1870s. In fact, margarita is the Spanish word for daisy.
Jerry Thomas’s 1876 daisy recipe consists of liquor shaken up with some lemon juice and “orange cordial,” then strained into a large cocktail glass and topped off with a little splash of soda. It was originally made with whiskey, but soon other versions popped up made with brandy and — perhaps the most popular version today — gin. Another notable diversion was the use of grenadine (pomegranate syrup).
According to Patrón tequila, at some point in the mid-1920s, a customer approached Henry Madden, bartender at the Turf Bar in Tijuana, and asked for a gin daisy. “In mixing [the] drink,” he told a reporter in 1936, “I grabbed the wrong bottle” — the tequila bottle. Result: “the customer was so delighted that he called for another and spread the news far and wide.” By the mid-1930s, the drink was all over Mexico.
What remains a mystery is whether this tequila daisy was made with orange liqueur or grenadine. Were it the latter, it could mean that the first margarita was essentially a flavored one.
The secret to a delicious flavored margarita is using fresh fruit. My preferred choices include pomegranate (which has an earthy quality) and mango (my favorite tropical fruit). The area’s best pomegranate margarita can be found at José Andrés’s Oyamel, one of D.C.’s most authentic Mexican restaurants. Also try their Oaxacan orange, made with sour orange and maraschino liqueur.
Hotspot El Chucho – Cocina Superior in Columbia Heights has a selection of margaritas including a blackberry poblano. The hibiscus margarita at Tico DC has been called “the best drink in the District” by reviewers on Foursquare.
Cuba Libre on 9th Street NW has mixed a mango margarita made with Patrón silver tequila. Another great option is El Centro D.F., in Georgetown or on 14th Street NW, for the restaurant’s signature strawberry and mango concoction or prickly pear margarita.
*Patrón Mango Margarita*
*Courtesy of Cuba Libre*
1.25 oz. Patrón Silver
.5 oz. Patrón Citrónge mango liqueur
1.5 oz. fresh mango puree
1.25 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
Combine ingredients in a dry shaker. Pour over ice and shake an additional six times. Serve over ice or straight up and garnish with lime.