Mexico or London (1930s – 1940s)
No singular cocktail has more people claiming its invention than the Margarita. Seems they all want to grab some family blood from America’s most popular cocktail. And, if you ask me, America’s most abused cocktail.
But there’s some strong evidence the cocktail originated in London, of all places – as the “Picador” cocktail, a spin on the classic 2:1:1 Sour template, in a variation known as a Daisy (just a Sour with a liqueur instead of simple syrup). Funny coincidence, “margarita” is Spanish for “daisy”.
You might have to hit five or six bars and restaurants to find one that isn’t made with that god-awful sour mix, even in recipes calling themselves “Cadillac.” How hard can it be to squeeze some fresh citrus, people? Sheesh.
Many people are surprised when I tell them a Margarita (done properly) is one of my favorite cocktails. Many people are also surprised when they taste a proper one for the first time – far different from the frozen, blended version that came out of Dallas in 1971 and came to be the standard for the next forty years. With the rise of fine tequilas since 2000 or so, many bartenders have come to embrace the perfect balance of a well-crafted Margarita, and an appreciation for this fragile and misunderstood spirit. An unusual minor tweak to the standard sour template is the addition of just a teaspoon of rich simple syrup – the drink simply is not the same without it. The syrup adds body and cuts through a strange bitterness that can sometimes linger between the tequila and Cointreau, bringing perfect balance.
Done like a Sidecar, this beauty needs no Slurpee, no salt. Some prefer this one on the rocks instead of served up; Either way works. Sabor es lo primero.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or Old Fashioned glass
Spirits: Tequila (blanco or reposado – recommended: El Jimador, Espolón)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Triple sec (recommended: Cointreau)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Lime wheel, Kosher salt (optional)
Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.
If you choose to salt the rim, sprinkle some kosher salt on a plate and moisten either the full rim or just half with your lime wheel garnish and lightly press the glass rim into the salt. Try to avoid getting salt on the interior glass surface.
In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
2 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec
3/4 oz lime juice
1 tsp rich simple syrup
Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. (As an option, serve over ice cubes in an Old Fashioned glass.) Garnish with a lime wheel.
New York or Los Angeles (1950ish)
Really just a Scotch on the rocks with a bit of Drambuie, the Rusty Nail is an Atomic Age classic I’ve found even more satisfying when made along the lines of an Old Fashioned.
The natural combination of Scotch and Drambuie had been around since Prohibition, operating under a couple different names (some stupid names, too: D & S, Knucklehead, MIG-21, Little Club #1, B.I.F), until it received official christening as a “Rusty Nail” at some point in the ’50s.
I’ve seen ratios as high as half-Scotch and half-Drambuie – way too sweet. Dry it out some and round it up with lemon oil and orange bitters; you’ll want to take your time sipping it that way. The recipe below is not an “according to Hoyle” 2:1 Rusty Nail – it’s my minor spin on the drink that suits my palate.
Drambuie (from the Scottish Gaelic an dram buidheach, “the drink that satisfies”) is an herbal spiced heather-honey liqueur with a Scotch whiskey base. It was originally made exclusively by the Broadford Hotel on the Isle of Skye in the 1870s, then the recipe was sold to commercial producers in the early 20th century. Rat-Packers looking for a slightly softer impact from the blast of straight Scotch whiskey embraced the Rusty Nail as their preferred sip, most likely holding a cigarette in the same hand (keeping the other hand free for snapping fingers). Cue up some Sinatra and kick back, baby.
Hardware: Jigger, Barspoon, Vegetable peeler or sharp knife
Ice: Ice chunk or ice cubes
Glassware: Old Fashioned glass
Spirits: Scotch whisky (Speyside or blended – recommended: Glenfiddich 12, The Glenlivet 12, The Famous Grouse)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Drambuie
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange bitters, Lemon twist
Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, cut a strip of lemon peel to make:
1 lemon twist
Don’t include too much of the bitter white pith, if any. Holding the twist with the outside facing down over an Old Fashioned glass, pinch to express lemon oil into the glass. Reserve the twist for a garnish. Into the glass, add:
1 dash orange bitters
1/2 oz Drambuie
Add an ice rock or two to three ice cubes then add:
2 oz Scotch whiskey
Stir briskly to blend and chill. Insert the lemon twist as a garnish.