The Margarita’s minimal formula—simply tequila, orange liqueur, lime and sweetener—makes it one of the most adaptable recipes in the cocktail canon. As such, it’s given birth to a whole cottage industry of thoroughly modern riffs

Playing on the Mezcal Margarita—a modern mainstay, thanks in part to a recent mezcal boom—bartender Dan Greenbaum’s Mexican Razor Blade adds a sprinkle of powdered chili for a layer of heat, which accompanies an already smoky base, and encourages swapping agave nectar or honey in place of simple syrup.

An alternative form of sweetener is also key to Sylvanus Johnson’s playfully named Word to Your Cardamom, which splits the base between tequila and mezcal and adds a splash of barolo chinato. The drink gets a hit of house-made cardamom syrup for a lightly spiced finish.

Other bartenders have stretched the Margarita template to its outermost limits. Beyond experimenting with flavor-enhancing syrups, Meaghan Dorman transforms the traditionally short sour into a long drink with her Dove Dispatch. To the requisite tequila base, she adds Campari, bell-pepper syrup and grapefruit juice, before lengthening the whole mixture with soda water for a long, savory spin on the perennial classic. In the El Vato Swizzle—a summery muddle of watermelon, cilantro, agave syrup and tequila—Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi of Miami’s Broken Shaker likewise offer a spin on the Margarita in the form of an icy swizzle.

Perhaps the most unexpected twist, however, sticks to the simplicity of the original. Calling on only four ingredients—Jägermeister, Cointreau, lime juice and simple syrup—the Jägerita redeems the much-maligned bitter liqueur for a surprisingly sophisticated frozen drink.

Five Easy Upgrades on the Margarita

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