Pimp This 'Rita

A cocktail is just like bread, or love. There are only so many ways to make it. Not to detract from my former profession, but all the drinks in the world can be distilled to about 10 basic recipes. All of those silly names and flowery descriptors are just variations on some classic. The margarita is the perfect classic cocktail. When done right, it's refreshingly tangy and fruity and never lets you forget it's alcoholic. But the margarita's origins are sketchy. Some say it was a husband's present to his bride. To hear others tell it, a deaf bartender got a drink order wrong but the results oh so right. All parties agree: The original recipe calls for (approximately) equal parts tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice—salt is a big point of contention. Nowadays, most margaritas are heavier on mixer, as are most classic highballs. One and one-half ounces tequila, one-half ounce or more of triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup, shaken, on the rocks with a salted rim: That's the modern default 'rita. Basic Sauza or Hornitos are the best tequilas for the job, and any self-respecting bartender will ask your tequila preference because Cuervo is for frat boys. Prepackaged sweet and sour? Dios mio, no. Frozen? Only at home or on vacation. Did you know the blender is like red kryptonite to a bartender? A Cadillac margarita upgrades tequila and opts for Grand Marnier instead of triple sec (though I use Cointreau). But the Caddie isn't the only way to pimp this drink. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here are a few riffs on the tastiest of classic cold beverages. Supe up your mixer: To the basic recipe, add an ounce or more of tamarind juice, which tastes like a tart, fruitier date and is common in Mexican aqua frescas. This will achieve a complex, exotic flavor—adding any slightly tart fruit juice equals fun. Perfect Purees from Napa are chef standbys and offer the best natural flavors any time of year, especially their blood orange. Upgrade your booze: Swap triple sec for Tuaca, an Italian vanilla liqueur. A Santa Margarita? This recipe evolved one night when I became tired of looking at the untouched bottle on my back bar. The substitution is extra fine, like graham cracker crust on a key lime pie. You could also add an ounce of sweet vermouth to the basic margarita recipe for a sangria-rita hybrid. Customize your rims: Mix lime zest and a tablespoon or more of raw sugar into one-eighth cup of kosher salt, maybe a few dashes of ancho chile powder or cinnamon. Get the convertible: Try adding coconut— but don't get the chunky Coco Lopez stuff next to the maraschino cherries. A can of ARROY-D coconut milk is far better and will make a cool limey dreamsicle. Add a tablespoon or more to the basic 'rita and shake it like you mean it. No blender necessary. info@seattleweekly.com Information on Perfect Purees at www.perfectpuree.com; tamarind juice available at Uwajimaya and El Mercado Latino in the Pike Place Market.

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