How to Make a Texas-Style Margarita With Key Limes
Joshua's Best Margaritas
Joshua and Gloria, our Tex-Mex neighbors, have a powerful connection with Mexico. Perhaps you’ve tried Gloria’s wildly popular family recipe for Mexican salsa. If not, we highly recommend you do.
Joshua knows more about Texas, Mexico and tequila than anyone else we know. His margaritas are unforgettable, especially his famous cherry-limeade margaritas. On one of our frequent visits to their home, where we consumed heaping helpings of homemade Mexican food and Joshua’s perfect margaritas, I decided to hit him up for the recipe.
Joshua is a goldmine of information. First, he regurgitated a wealth of facts about tequila. In the interview with Joshua following the recipe, he expertly answers the following questions:
- Why does tequila have such a bad rap?
- Are manufacturers doing anything to improve tequila's reputation?
- Is expensive tequila necessarily better tasting?
- What complements tequila and lime juice better than triple sec?
- How can I quickly and easily salt the rims of the margarita glasses?
For now, let's dig into how to make his best-ever margaritas!
The Best Key-Lime Margaritas in Texas
- 1 cup freshly-squeezed Key lime juice
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup amaretto liqueur, preferably Disaronno or homemade
- 2 cups 100% blue agave tequila
- 4 cups small ice cubes
- Pour first three ingredients into a blender container. If you prefer frozen margaritas add the ice cubes, too.
- For frozen margaritas, blend for 1–2 minutes or until blender container is frosty.
- Salt margarita glass rims, if desired. (See tips section below.)
- Pour margarita into glasses and garnish with lime slices.
Joshua's Tips for the Best Margaritas
Choose 100% blue agave tequila for the best flavor and no headaches.
- Disaronno is the best tasting amaretto liqueur, but it's also expensive. For a more economical option, try the "Homemade Amaretto Liqueur" recipe below.
- Fresh-squeezed Key lime juice is important to the flavor of this recipe. You can also substitute the larger limes common in U.S. grocery stores, but the flavor won't be quite the same.
- Grate lime peel into kosher salt with a microplaner for homemade lime salt.
- Rub glass rims with used lime halves and dip in lime salt.
- For frozen margaritas, blend the be-Jesus out of it! Don't be afraid to blend for 1–2 minutes.
- Pour margarita into salted glasses.
- Garnish margarita glasses with lime slices.
- Try Frosty Pisco Sour Cocktails for Peru's version of the margarita.
Don't have Key lime juice? Try this quick, easy and sweet margarita.
- 12 ounces limeade concentrate
- 12 ounces tequila
- 1/4 cup Disaronno, or to taste
- 3 cups of small ice cubes
- Pour all 4 ingredients into a blender container.
- Blend for 1–2 minutes, until thick and frosty.
- Pour into prepared glasses.
- Garnish with lime slices.
- Sip to the tune of Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville".
Homemade Amaretto Liqueur Recipe
This recipe, courtesy of allrecipes, is a dead ringer for Disaronno liqueur.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups vodka
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons almond extract
- Combine water and sugars in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a boil. Stir and simmer until sugars dissolve.
- Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
- Add vodka and extracts. Store homemade amaretto liqueur in a sealed glass container.
What to Serve With Margaritas
Vespa Woolf Interviews Joshua
Vespa: Joshua, why does tequila have such a bad reputation?
Joshua: It’s a shame, really. Tequila isn’t frat parties, Pee Wee Herman and Tijuana. Do you remember the bottles of tequila with a worm floating in the bottom? Bad marketing ploy. The worm was never an original element of tequila. Sure, it worked in the short-term. (“Gross…look at this…try it!”) But then the bad reputation stuck. No self-respecting tequila manufacturer puts a worm in their tequila.
Vespa: What are tequila manufacturers doing to overcome this stigma?
Joshua: There’s a lot of money in Texas. Tequila is an exploding industry and it’s now marketed for the elegant, the refined, the hoity-toity. There are as many brands of tequila in Texas as wineries in Napa Valley. It appeals to ritzy Texas subculture. You know, Texas country music, Paul Bond cowboy boots and expensive tequila. Descriptions read like wine labels: aroma of green apple with toasted caramel nuances. These guys know their tequila.
Vespa: So which tequila is the best? Is expensive necessarily better?
Joshua: Price isn’t the determining factor in good quality tequila. Gold label means wine is added….cheap wine. It’ll give you a headache. Some people recommend silver tequila, but silver tequilas have no character. Tequila is all about where it’s made: Texas and Northern Mexico. That’s a very harsh environment. Drinking tequila is drinking Texas. Cactus, scorpions and rattlesnakes. The land is trying to kill you! Tequila, like Texas, is harsh, raw, earthy.
Tequila made with 40% blue agave is made with 60% trash. That’s why tequila has a bad rep for a horrible hangover. If you want good tequila follow one simple rule. Buy 100% blue agave in a glass bottle. Never buy tequila sold in a plastic bottle. You should be able to find 100% blue agave starting at $25/bottle. This is just a launching point. Try different labels and judge the flavor for yourself. Never, ever buy Jose Cuervo. Jose Cuervo is ruining the tequila market.
Vespa: I get it now. 100% blue agave tequila makes your margaritas so special.
Joshua: (a glint in his eye) Have you ever had a margarita that tasted like chemicals? That’s the triple sec. Have you ever sipped triple sec? I didn’t think so. Yuck! Lime juice complements tequila. But orange liqueur? It just obscures tequila, makes it mediocre. I’ve found the perfect complement to tequila and lime juice. Are you ready for the secret ingredient? (Joshua leaned forward, hands clenched between the knees of his worn jeans.)
Vespa: The suspense is killing me. (laughs)
Joshua: The secret is amaretto liqueur, preferably Disaronno. That’s what gives it the cherry limeade flavor, not cherries. Disaronno amps up the lime flavor. That’s all it is: fresh squeezed Key lime juice, 100% blue agave tequila and Disaronno. Add simple syrup if you like them sweeter. I don’t. The amaretto liqueur is enough for me. And you can’t beat the flavor.
Vespa: I can testify to that!
Joshua: Someday a Texan will invent an amaretto liqueur just for mixing with tequila: perfectly Tex-Mex. Until then, we’ll have to settle for Disaronno. Add a touch of Grenadine for pretty color, although it doesn’t add much flavor.
Vespa: You salt the margarita rims so expertly. What’s your secret?
Joshua: Don’t bother with margarita salt. Buy kosher salt. Pour it onto a plate. For extra pizzazz, use a microplaner to grate a little lime rind into it. Then wet the rims with lime juice and dip them in the lime salt. That’s all there is to it.
Vespa: Your on-the-rocks margaritas are awesome. But how can I make frozen margaritas?
Joshua: Add 4 cups of small ice cubes and blend the be-Jesus out of it. I can’t emphasize this enough. I read once that you shouldn’t over blend. That’s just ridiculous. You can’t blend a frozen margarita enough. Blend until you’re bored of blending. Blend for a minute or two. The blender won’t get too hot. Instead, moisture will condense and freeze on the container. Now you have the perfect frozen margarita.
Vespa: That’s great Joshua! Thanks so much for sharing your secret recipe with us. Do you have any closing advice?
Joshua: Don’t bother to ask a Texan where he’s from. If he’s from Texas, he would have told you already. God Bless Texas. (with a final tip of his cowboy hat)
© 2013 Vespa Woolf