Food & Drink

Margaritaville can be found in your own backyard

The Capitol Margarita
The Capitol Margarita Kevin Hopper

The fabled margarita is one of the most popular cocktails in the U.S., and despite its relatively recent invention (circa 1930s), its origin is unknown.

In fact, there are almost as many claims to the cocktail’s invention as there are varieties of margaritas. And whether it was created for actress Rita Hayworth, crafted by a Texas socialite or named for a Tijuana showgirl, the margarita is a modern classic cocktail that most folks have served at their backyard parties.

My inclination is to believe that the margarita got its name from a much older classic cocktail called the daisy, originally a mixture of citrus, spirit and orange cordial. In Spanish, daisy translates to, you guessed it, margarita.

With Cinco de Mayo near (Saturday, May 5) and the temperature warming, this might be the perfect time to hone your margarita skills and invite some friends over.

Step one in crafting a margarita: throw away that bottle of margarita mix. That is, unless you enjoy a dose of “glycerol ester of wood rosin” from time to time — read the list of ingredients next time you’re at the grocery store.

A margarita is nothing more than tequila, sugar and fresh lime juice (emphasis on fresh). That’s it. Of course, sugar (or simple syrup) is often substituted with orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec. Not a bad option. My recipe calls for a bit of both.

Step two: Do not plug in a blender. While I sort of understand the idea of a frozen cocktail — a grown up slushy for those extra hot days — I certainly don’t condone it. The texture of a frozen drink takes away the concentration of flavors. Why go through the effort of combining ingredients for taste, when you just end up tasting ice? And don’t even get me started on the brain freeze effect.

The simplest margarita preparation is two parts tequila, to one part sugar and one part lime. Shake with ice and pour into a glass. Salted rim is optional, not mandatory. I prefer to use reposado tequila rather than blanco as it lends a rounder, more developed flavor. In my book, blanco is for shooting, reposado is for mixing and añejo is for sipping.

For this Cinco de Mayo, I offer my version of a margarita. It’s not exactly classic, but I’ve been told by my guests at Capitol Bar that it is one of the best they’ve ever had. I’ll take that compliment any day of the week.

Hailing from New Mexico, Kevin Hopper has imported his significant margarita knowledge and skills to Capitol Bar in Northwest Boise.

Capitol Margarita

1 1/2 ounces Lunazul Reposado

3/4 ounces Cointreau

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice and shake for a good 20 seconds. Pour contents of shaker, including ice, into glass rimmed with chile salt*. Top with splash fresh orange juice and garnish with an orange peel.

* Chile Salt: Combine equal parts kosher salt and New Mexico chile powder.