A classic which every imbiber across the world knows, the Margarita has become the holiday cocktail, twisted with fresh fruits, blended with ice and lavished with salt. In its original version, with tequila, lime and orange liqueur, it is simply one of the tastiest cocktails around, holding in its extremes of sweetness, sourness and bitterness a thrilling tenuous balance, which has raised tequila from a student dive bar shot to a serious mixology ingredient.
The Margarita’s simple recipe has lent itself to multiple, and rather excellent, twists – making the right cocktail a matter of time, place and palate. Here are 12 twists to satisfy even the strangest of Margarita cravings.
Tequila, lime and apricot brandy
This simple twist replaces the Margarita’s orange flavour with apricot, and is always served up. It makes for a slightly richer cocktail, with an orchard-fresh fruitiness as opposed to the typical citrus-sweetness of the classic – all the while still allowing the agave and lime to shine through.
Tequila, lime and orgeat
On cocktail menus, the Infante reads as if it shouldn’t work. The vegetal notes of tequila, marrying with the sharp citrus of lime and the almond marzipan of orgeat seems a feat too far. In fact, it’s the orgeat’s thick sweetness which pulls this cocktail together, while the lime delicately cuts through that marzipan flavour, allowing the tequila to burst through at the end. The Infante is simply easy sipping agave.
Tequila, lime and agave syrup
The Margarita’s best known twist was invented in a San Francisco institution and eponymously named for its birth place – yup, in a place called Tommy’s. Reputed to be even better than the original Margarita, especially for tequila and mezal lovers, it removes the orange sweetness and replaces it with vegetal agave syrup, made from the same plant which gives us tequila. This is the purest way to enjoy your Margaritas and appears on bar menus around the world, making it very easy to get your hands on one, or even possibly two.
Tequila, orange liqueur, orange marmalade, pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice and agave syrup
Invented in London back in 2005 by two heroes of the agave world, Henry Besant and Dre Masso, the Marmalade Margarita is one of the rare twists which heroes the traditional orange flavour found in the classic drink. It’s sweet, fragrant and more delicate than typical Margarita twists, largely due to the gentler citrus of grapefruit and lemon.
Tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, orange liqueur and agave syrup
Grapefruit, and its cousin the pomelo, are two fruits that grow in abundance under the Mexican sun, as does the blue agave plant whose core is used to make tequila. So it seems natural these two punchy native flavours should pair well together. And they do, so much so that there is another, longer cocktail called the Paloma which features tequila, grapefruit soda and lime and is typically how you’ll see the locals drinking their nation’s spirit. But when adjusted into a Margarita twist, grapefruit needs orange liqueur and agave added to round out the drink and bring in more layers of flavoursome complexity. Summer sipping, delightfully fresh and with a sneaky punch of booze best describes a Grapefruit Margarita.
Tequila, lime juice, ginger juice, cassis and ginger ale
Sweetened with blackberry liqueur and ginger juice and lengthened with ginger ale (some bars cheat a little and use ginger beer to omit the ginger juice) the El Diablo is refreshing yet spicy twist on a Margarita. Using a berry sweetener rather than orange creates a deeper, richer flavour which pairs well with the spice form ginger, all neatly refreshed by tart lime juice. This is certainly one drink, with all those complex flavours, that benefits from being served long, over ice.
Mezcal, lime and orange liqueur
Tequila’s smoky cousin mezcal doesn’t really have its own cannon of classic cocktails created specifically to its unique flavours. Lucky, then, that it works perfectly in nearly all tequila cocktails. When you swap tequila for mezcal you retain that vegetal freshness but add into the mix a deep smokiness that some find harsh and others find addictive.
Tequila, Green Chartreuse, kummel, lime, basil, sugar syrup and celery bitters
Invented in Happiness Forgets, one of east London’s most lauded bars, by Dan Garnell, this drink has the same zippy freshness of a Margarita but with a few additions. The lime is still there to carry the sweetness but in the Dante’s case it also delivers the herbal notes of the drink that come from celery and basil. Green Chartreuse goes further to enhance these flavours, as well as the vegetal notes coming from the tequila while the kummel brings a unique spice and pairs well with the natural spices within tequila. It’s a complex drink yet one which still harks back to a classic Margarita with elegance and finesse.
Tequila, lemon juice, syrup syrup, Angostura Bitters and sparkling wine
The Mexican 55 is more a twist on a French 75 than a Margarita to be perfectly honest, but with its base of tequila, citrus and sweetness, it’s also easy to see this as a mild Margarita topped with fizz. Some places serve this over ice and garnished with a lime wedge but we love it in a Champagne flute – after all there aren’t many truly elegant tequila cocktails so we’ll take it where we can.
Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice
This may seem an obscure twist but the Margarita and Sidecar, and even the Cosmopolitan, all belong to the same family of cocktails; daises. These drinks are all classic sours flavoured with orange and you’ll find swapping between them reveals just how similar they are. If you’re craving a Margarita-like drink but want something aged and smooth, the cognac Sidecar is an excellent option.
Tequila, orange liqueur, lime shrub, lime juice and sugar syrup
Created by Tristan Stephenson and featured in his cocktail book The Curious Bartender, this twists plays off a briny characteristic that is reminiscent to dry Manzanilla sherries and often crops up in blanco tequilas. To bring this flavour out Tristan turned to shrubs, or pickled-fruit cordials, which used to preserve fruits and vegetables on long journeys. Vinegar, the base of a shrub, has a sourness to it just like citrus and when balanced in cocktails makes for very interesting classic twists. Opting for a lime shrub using sherry vinegar Tristan has ensured lime is still the dominant flavour but that the oils in the zest contribute as much as the juice.
Tequila, orange liqueur, aloe vera juice, agave mix (1.1 agave syrup and water) and lime juice
Slightly sweet, slightly tangy, adding in aloe vera to a Margarita might seem like a desperate attempt to try and make cocktails healthy, but is, in fact, a super tasty twist. You’ll notice from the ingredients the traditional orange flavouring is still there but agave, like we saw in the Tommy’s Margarita, is also brought into to play. And there’s room enough for both – as this delicious drink proves.