The Secret Ingredient for the Perfect Margarita


For Cinco de Mayo today, I asked our spirits specialist in SF, Jackson Lee, for the perfect margarita recipe. I love this cocktail and I often seek it out, but I also find that I can frequently be disappointed. Among the more common cocktails, this one has the potential to be either incredibly delicious or shockingly bad. At its best, it is a refreshing combination of sweet and sour, layered by a rich complexity from quality tequila. But served wrong, it can be either cloyingly sweet or overly acidic.

The secret, Jackson shared with me, is a lemon-lime “Oleo Saccharum” simple syrup. Oleo Saccharum is exactly how it sounds, a “sugar oil” created from the natural oils in citrus with a superfine sugar. By macerating the two together, and letting them sit for a few hours, you get a rich, tasty syrup that boosts the flavor of the margarita and resolves that push and pull between the sour limes and subtle agave. It also allows you to skip the triple sec, creating a classic tequila-only cocktail.

For this recipe, Jackson recommends Tapatio Blanco, which is incredibly smooth, with plenty of spice and a nice clean finish perfect for margaritas. Beverage Testing Institute called it  “a soulful blanco tequila that exudes 'Mexican countryside.'” I think you’ll find it is absolutely perfect – though feel free to substitute your favorite tequila here as well.

Cinco de Mayo Margarita with a Twist

2 oz. of Tapatio Blanco

1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

¼ oz. of agave nectar

¼ oz. Oleo Saccharum Simple Syrup*

Prepare a rocks glass with salted rim (dip in lime juice and rim with margarita salt), put all ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice and shake it like a Polaroid picture (please don’t actually shake polaroids). Use a strainer and strain over ice into your rocks glass.

*Lemon/Lime Oleo Saccharum Simple Syrup

Zest 3 lemons and 3 limes, try to avoid leaving any pith on the zest

Add 10 oz. of Baker’s Sugar (or put regular white sugar in the food processor)

Muddle with a wooden spoon, making sure the peels release their oils

Cover and let the mixture sit for at least an hour and up to four

Scrape all contents into a small saucepan and add ¾ cup of water and stir until all sugar is dissolved, strain and allow to cool.

Megan Greene