To master mixing a perfect margarita, there might be no better coach than chef Rick Bayless.
The next best thing to a one-on-one class with the chef and TV celeb is his book, “Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks” (W.W. Norton & Co., $24.95), written with his wife, Deann Groen Bayless.
The book opens with “A Master Class in Margaritas,” a lively conversation with the margarita master who offers insight into the nuances at play, from limes to tequila (save pricey aged tequila for sipping solo), from balance to texture.
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Texture in a margarita? “When you shake a margarita the way I describe, not just back and forth three times then pour it out, but that full 15-second shake, you chip off little bits of ice and create a drink that’s got this wonderful sort of frothiness,” he says.
Starting with fresh lime juice is key. “The difference in flavor between fresh-squeezed lime juice you make yourself and anything that you can buy is huge.” And he favors agave or sugar syrups over granulated sugar: “You’re going to get a much better texture and much more even distribution of the sweet element.”
The book boasts recipes for seasonal margaritas (peach-basil, apple-habanero, etc.), mezcal margaritas, tequila-spiked classics, agua frescas, dessert cocktails and tequila choices. There’s also a “master class” in guacamole plus seasonal variations. To science-fixated “self-professed margarita geeks,” he coaches not to take “all the delicious fun out of it. ... I’m all about soul-satisfying deliciousness.” To that, we say: Salud!
Sparkling Ginger Margarita
16 thin slices fresh ginger, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, halved lengthwise, optional
1 ½ cups 100 percent blue agave blanco tequila
½ cup fresh Key lime juice
½ cup orange curacao or other triple sec
¼ cup ginger agave syrup, see recipe
1 cup sparkling wine
1. Muddle ginger and half the kaffir leaves, if using, in the bottom of a pitcher. Add tequila, lime juice, curacao and syrup. Stir; refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
2. Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice. Pour in 2/3 cup margarita mixture, including a small amount of muddled ginger and lime leaf. Shake; strain into two martini glasses. Top each with sparkling wine. Repeat with remaining mixture. Slap each leaf between your palms to release aroma. Float a piece atop each drink.
GINGER AGAVE SYRUP: Heat ½ cup light agave syrup or simple syrup, 2 tablespoons water and ¼ cup finely chopped, unpeeled ginger in a saucepan over medium heat. When mixture reaches a simmer, time for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature; strain.
Prep: 10 minutes Chill: 2 hours Makes: 8 cocktails
Adapted from “Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks.”