TequilaNeat - Recipes

Because good tequila should be served "neat:"   No ice, no salt, no lime.   But not always. ;-)

Margaritas at El Agave, San Diego

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Sipping tequila is wonderful, but there is certainly room for margaritas. Below you'll see some of my favorite recipes for not only cocktails, but also related concoctions.

Generally I prefer my margaritas shaken and served over ice ("on the rocks"), not blended into an adult snow-cone. If you prefer, you could adapt these for blending. It'd require more ingredients so that they're not washed-out by all the ice. One of the recipes below is for a pitcher of blended margaritas, so you'll get the idea of proportions of ingredients to ice. But back to the margaritas on the rocks:

To do this right, you'll first need some bar tools:

  • A shaker
  • A pint glass to use with the shaker (to be able to shake!)
  • A cocktail strainer
  • An ice bucket and scoop
  • An assortment of jiggers (measuring tools)
  • A rimmer (isn't necessary, but makes it easy to put salt on the rim of a glass)
  • A good quality lime squeezer
I have purchased a few of each- I can hold margarita-making classes at my house!
I prefer open 30 oz shakers. I'm not a fan of the self-straining kind with the integrated cap. They're messy, slower to pour, and harder to clean.
A great source of these tools is LionsDeal. The prices are extremely low, and they have every conceivable kitchen and bar tool. Whether you want to dabble a bit at home, or open your own full-service bar, this is the place to go.

How to use an open shaker: Put the ingredients into a shaker. Turn a pint glass or 15 oz shaker upside down, and use it as a lid for the 30 oz shaker. Give it a firm tap on top to seat it into the big shaker. Shake. A lot. When the metal shaker feels REALLY cold, you're done. Hit the shaker on the side, and the pint glass or small shaker will pop loose.

A note on the ingredients: To make a good drink, you need good ingredients. Tap water can be horrible, beet sugar doesn't have the pure taste of cane sugar, and the liquid that comes in those little plastic lime-shaped squeeze bottles isn't NEARLY as good as fresh-squeezed lime juice. It may sound like a lot of work to squeeze your own limes, but it's not that bad with a good lime squeezing tool and the results are MUCH better. There's really no substitute. Oh- A lime seems to provide around 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of juice.

You'll notice that agave syrup is used in many of the margaritas listed. There are a few kinds you can purchase. If you get it from a grocery store, it'll likely be full-strength, and the consistency of pancake syrup. If you get it from a liquor store, it'll be a little thinner than olive oil, and will "slosh" in the bottle. This is ready to be used in drinks. The grocery store variety needs to be thinned out a bit with water, or it'll be too intensely sweet in the cocktail.

"But what tequila should I use?" I hear you asking. Generally a blanco or reposado. An anejo may be a little too sweet for a margarita. Of course the better tequila, the better the margarita. But don't use your best sipping tequila. The lime and other ingredients will obliterate the delicate flavors of a really good tequila. That's a waste of money, a waste of a good tequila, an insult to the distillers of such a fine liquor, and a sin against nature.

Related Recipes

Margarita Mix (also called "sweet and sour" mix)
Generally I think of margarita mix as being a bad thing. It's the shortcut "easy" way to making a margarita. If you're looking for quality, pouring tequila and a mix into a glass doesn't really make a great cocktail. But it does have a benefit: If you're making margaritas for a lot of people, it can be the difference between a successful party and one everyone remembers as "I had the hardest time getting a drink!"

  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup filtered/purified water
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup agave syrup

An alternate mix:

  • 3 cups cane sugar
  • 3 cups filtered/purified water
  • 2 cups lime juice
  • 2 cups lemon juice

1. Boil the water, and remove from heat.
     (It may be easier to boil more water, and then use only what you need of it)
2. Dissove the sugar into the hot water.
3. Once the sugar's dissolved, add the agave syrup.
4. Stir well.
5. While still warm, add the juice and mix well.
6. Refrigerate.

If you're planning a party, make a large quantity of the mix and have it chilling before the party kicks off. This is essentially the ingredient list of the Classic Margarita- The water acts as what melts from the ice during shaking, and the sugar allows using less agave syrup. For a large-scale margarita mill, this reduces cost, and sugar is easier to come by than agave syrup.
But use cane sugar- It has a better flavor than beet sugar.

That's not a typo for "sangria." This isn't a wine and fruit cocktail. Sangrita is often used as a palate-cleanser in between tasting different tequilas. Many people think it's similar to the spicy tomato juice of a bloody mary. Personally, I've never liked bloody marys. I've always hated the mix. But sangrita is something much better- It's lighter and more flavorful than bloody mary mix. I like it so much that I even whip up a half gallon and keep it in the fridge as a beverage on its own. I'll drink a pint at a time. It's wonderful stuff. There are a number of different kinds, but the one below is fairly typical. It's my modification of the recipe used at La Pinata, Fremont, CA.

Some purists will say that tomato juice doesn't belong in sangrita. That may or may not be; I've seen many different kinds, and some are quite creative. Still, this is the one I learned first, and I still love it.

  • 48 oz orange juice
  • 32 oz tomato juice
  • 3 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 4 tsp Tabasco hot sauce
  • 4 tsp Tapatio hot sauce
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, and mix well. Keep refrigerated. I'll often pour it back into the plastic bottle the tomato juice comes in. It has a cap, and before serving it can be shaken to re-mix it again.

Chili-Infused Tequila
It can be a lot of fun to infuse tequila with chilis. I like spicy foods, and using spicy tequila in a margarita adds a dimension not often seen. Some use jalapeño peppers, some use habañeros. Me, I prefer serrano peppers. They have both good heat and good flavor.

  • 750ml Bottle of garden-variety tequila
  • 5 Serrano peppers
  • Needle and thread

The first thing is to use a low-cost, run-of-the-mill tequila. Do not use a good sipping tequila! While it's true that better ingredients make better drinks, this isn't the time to use the best. I had a half bottle of Patron Reposado laying around, and this seemed a good way to use it.

Wash the peppers, cut off the tops, slice each lengthwise once, and remove the seeds. Using the needle and thread, string the pepper halves on a long thread. This will enable you to easily REMOVE the peppers once the tequila has reached the level of spiciness you desire.

Once the peppers are strung, wash them again in clear water, then insert into the bottle, and cap it. Make sure to keep the ends of the threads out, as you would with a teabag. Shake gently, to swirl everything around.

After a couple hours, try a little of the tequila. If it's not spicy enough, let the peppers remain longer. If it's enough, remove and discard the peppers. (or, I suppose, you could dice them and use them in whatever you're cooking!)

Make a margarita, using 1/2 chili tequila, and 1/2 non-infused tequila. If it's not spicy enough, next time use more chili-infused tequila. This will involve some trial-and-error to find a heat level that suits your taste. But once you strike upon a method for what type and how many chilis to use, how long to let them infuse in the tequila, and how much to use in a margarita, you'll have something quite fun!


For drinks on the rocks, there's a standard technique for making the drink once the ingredients are specified:

  • Combine all ingredients and a scoop of crushed ice into a shaker.
  • Shake until it feels really cold, and frost forms on the shaker.
  • If desired, rim a glass with a lime, and dip into salt.
  • Strain into a glass over crushed ice.

The Classic, or "Skinny" Margarita
There are a lot of recipes, some more fancy than others, but this is the basic one that many say is still the best. Simple, straightforward.

  • 2 oz Premium Blanco or Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz agave syrup
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

The Perfect Margarita
In Old Town San Diego, there used to be a restaurant called "Rancho El Nopal." They served what they called the "perfect margarita," and I have to say it was aptly named. Luckily I was able to get them to teach me how to make it before the restaurant closed for good. The bartenders have scattered to the winds, but the recipe lives on.

  • 1 1/2 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Gran Mariner
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz margarita mix
  • Half a dash of orange juice

The Generic Bar Margarita
Sit down at a bar and ask for a margarita, and this is pretty much what'll be served unless you specify "Cadillac" or "Top Shelf."

  • 1 1/2 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

The Generic Bar Margarita - Improved
The generic margarita seemed a little bland and tart to me. This spruces it up a bit, adds a little sweetness. The result feels a little "Top Shelf" but without using margarita mix.

  • 1 1/2 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • 1/2 oz Gran Mariner
  • 1/2 oz Agave Syrup
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

The Cadillac Margarita
I was never sure why this was called the "Cadillac." I guess it's better than the generic, but even the classic is as good as this.

  • 1 1/2 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz Gran Mariner
  • 1/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

The Top Shelf Margarita
Fairly similar to the "perfect margarita," but it's different enough to be immediately recognized as a different drink.

  • 1 1/2 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Gran Mariner
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 2 1/2 oz sweet and sour mix (also called margarita mix)
  • 1 oz lime juice

Kelly's Wicked Double Barrel
Yes, this is my concoction, and it's ONE drink. Two kinds of tequila, and it hits like both barrels of a shotgun.

  • 3 oz Premium Blanco Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Premium Anejo Tequila
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz lime juice

Pitcher of blended Margaritas
As I mentioned above, the proportions are slightly different. The crushed ice, when blended, will melt a bit and dilute the ingredients.

  • 1 cup good Blanco Tequila
  • 1 cup Gran Mariner or Cointreau
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups crushed ice

Blend thoroughly. Remember to start with crushed ice, not cubed ice. It'll make a smoother margarita, and it won't dilute as much (since it won't be in the blender as long).

To adapt this for a single drink, change "cups" to "ounces," and use only a pinch of sugar. Blend.

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