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Beyond the Margarita: Cocktails to make at home 

If you love Margaritas, why not try one of these tequila twists? From a spicy Picante de la Casa to a mezcal-laced Paloma, here are five cocktail recipes to suit both beginners and more experienced home mixologists.

An icon of sunshine and good times, the Margarita has been the inspiration for countless variations over the years. Itself a riff on a classic cocktail – the Daisy – it has spanned the globe in blended, fruity, and spicy forms, and many more besides.

‘The Margarita is the perfect combination of sweet, sour and salty, all in a few ingredients,’ says Erin Davey, head of bars at Soho House US. ‘Its simplicity allows people to easily adapt it to their personal taste.’

‘People love them because they are refreshing and super enjoyable, so any twist already has a bit of a head start,’ agrees Marina Juszczyk, head bartender of London bar Soma.

At its most traditional, the Margarita consists of tequila, lime juice and an orange liqueur, or triple sec, such as Cointreau, and usually sporting a salt rim. Unlike some classic cocktails where variations sometimes switch out the core ingredients, Margarita twists invariably involve the addition of compatible flavours. ‘You generally have to keep the lime and tequila at a minimum,’ says Jake Burger of The Portobello Star in London’s Notting Hill.

A case in point is the Tommy’s Margarita, created by Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco to highlight the flavour of tequila in the drink. Arguably the most prevalent contemporary Margarita twist, it’s made with just tequila, lime juice and agave syrup, and has become the starting point of many modern takes on the Margarita too.

While the Tommy’s doesn’t use a salt rim, a number of the below drinks do, employing a variety of interesting salts. Creating a salt rim at home is simple: place the salt in a saucer, run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass – usually half of its circumference – and then press the rim into the saucer.


Beyond the Margarita: cocktails to make at home

Try making one of these Margarita twists at home. Recipes are arranged in order of difficulty, from simple serves to mixes for more ambitious home mixologists.


Tommy Pickles

Cocktail with a pickle garnish

Recipe from The Portobello Star, London

This straightforward twist on the Tommy’s Margarita – named after the lead character in 1990s animated TV show Rugrats – introduces a measure of pickle brine into the mix, an ingredient that Jake Burger of The Portobello Star considers to be ideal in a Margarita riff. ‘The combination of sweet and tart echoes the structure of the Margarita in many ways, so it slots into the drink perfectly.’ He attributes the Tommy Pickles to The Portobello Star bartender Joe Farr, while acknowledging the recent viral video by Matthew McConaughey featuring his tequila brand Pantalones and a Margarita made in a jar of pickles. ‘There are very few new ideas in the cocktail world – I’m sure a few people have probably come up with something similar,’ says Burger.

Ingredients: 50ml Ocho Blanco Tequila, 25ml lime juice, 12.5ml agave syrup , 20ml pickle brine from sweetened pickled cucumbers

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Slice of pickle, cut lengthwise

Method: Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake hard and strain over ice into a rocks glass.


Paloma

Paloma cocktail on a bar

Recipe from Side Hustle, NoMad, London

To really go beyond the Margarita, there’s another classic tequila cocktail that’s been growing in popularity in recent years: the Paloma. At its simplest, this combination of tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda is a wonderful, thirst-quenching drink, but lends itself well to a few subtle upgrades too, as with this version from Side Hustle bar at NoMad London. ‘We add a small amount of mezcal to round out the texture, and shake with a twist of grapefruit to release the essential oils and aromas, bringing both brightness and freshness,’ says bar director Liana Oster.

Ingredients: 43ml Tapatio Blanco Tequila, 14ml Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, 14ml agave syrup, 21ml lime juice, 28ml grapefruit juice, grapefruit twist, grapefruit soda

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Grapefruit wheel and half pink peppercorn and salt rim

Method: Rim a highball glass with pink peppercorn and salt, and fill with ice. Add all ingredients, including grapefruit twist but excluding grapefruit soda, to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain into glass, top with grapefruit soda and garnish with grapefruit wheel opposite salt rim.


Picante de la Casa

Picante de la Casa cocktail on a white bar by the sea

Recipe from Soho House, US

Originating at Soho House just over a decade ago, the Picante has since spread around the world. Key to its success, according to Erin Davey is how well suited it is to any occasion. ‘It can be the perfect poolside drink, enjoyed with dinner, as a post-work happy-hour cocktail, and more,’ she says. It’s also very easy to recreate at home, with any tequila you have to hand, and even replacing the agave nectar with honey if necessary.

Ingredients: 50ml reposado tequila, 25ml fresh lime juice, 20ml agave syrup, slice of chilli pepper (about 6mm wide), 10 coriander leaves with stem

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Top end (stem) of a chilli pepper

Method: Cut a small piece of chilli and press it with a muddler in a cocktail shaker tin. Hand-clap the coriander (cilantro) and drop in. Add the rest of the ingredients, then shake and fine strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Cut off the top end of the chilli pepper and place stem upwards in the drink to garnish.


Silk Road Margarita

Silk Road Margarita cocktail on a bar

Recipe from Hakkasan, London

‘We want to be playful but respectful to the classic Margarita, with a touch of Hakkasan culinary influence,’ says Wendy Hopkins, head of bars at TAO Group Hospitality UK. ‘Combining a bit of spice from cardamon with fresh pineapple and pistachios creates a unique harmony that complements our food offering.’ At Hakkasan, the pistachio-tequila infusion is made using a sous vide, but you’ll achieve a comparable result with a regular, room-temperature infusion. Blend 100g of pistachios and then combine with 800ml of tequila. Infuse at room temperature for 48 hours and then place in the freezer for a few hours to separate the oil and sediment, then double strain.

Ingredients: 25ml Casamigos Blanco Tequila infusion, 30ml pineapple juice, 15ml lime juice, 10ml agave syrup, 4 cardamom pods

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Unsalted, blanched green pistachios, crushed

Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, preferably a single large cube. Add pistachios on top of ice to garnish.


Chaat

Cocktail on a bar with a plate of pickles

Recipe from Soma, London

In keeping with Soma’s use of Indian flavours and ingredients in its cocktails, the bar’s take on the Margarita uses both chaat masala spices and gooseberries. ‘The spice blend brings some funkiness and saltiness, while the gooseberry gives a tart yet fruity finish,’ says Marina Juszczyk. The bar uses a gooseberry salt rim, made by dehydrating leftover gooseberry skins and blend them with sea salt – not only a tasty addition, but sustainable too. But at home you can simply rim with sea salt.

Ingredients: 45ml agave spirit chaat masala infusion, 45ml gooseberry-lime syrup

Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Gooseberry salt

Method: To make the agave spirit chaat masala infusion, combine 10ml kumquat liqueur, 20ml mezcal and 60ml blanco tequila. Add 1g of chaat masala spice and cold infuse for 12-24 hours, then strain the mixture through a coffee filter. To make the gooseberry-lime syrup, blend equal parts gooseberries and white sugar, then strain. Mix the gooseberry syrup with an equal amount of lime juice. Rim a coupe glass with salt. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and double strain into the glass.


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