You Don't Need Expensive Tequila For A Great Margarita, According To An Expert

margarita cocktails with salt, lime
margarita cocktails with salt, lime - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Some may say the key to a delicious, mixologist-quality cocktail at home is investing in top-shelf liquor. If the liquor is high-quality, then the cocktail should be too, right? However, according to Tiffanie Barriere, The Drinking Coach Cocktail and Spirit Educator, you don't have to break the bank to make a good margarita at home. "While top-shelf tequilas may offer more complexity and nuance, mid-range or budget-friendly options can still yield delicious margaritas when combined with fresh ingredients," Barriere told Daily Meal in an exclusive Q&A.

While a high-quality tequila with underlying floral notes and other rich flavors can enhance a margarita, the cocktail is about so much more than just its signature spirit. So if you choose to go the budget-friendly or mid-range priced tequila route, make up for lost nuance by gathering prime margarita ingredients. This means putting in the effort to create your own margarita mix from scratch instead of using store-bought. Margaritas are indeed customizable, but there are a few essential ingredients that will make a classic margarita recipe shine.

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

Fresh Ingredients You Shouldn't Skimp On For A Great Margarita

limes in bag, lime juice
limes in bag, lime juice - Enviromantic/Getty Images

The fun-loving margarita is made fresh and zingy by combining lime juice, salt, and a sweet ingredient. Make sure your lime juice is fresh when using a middle-of-the-road quality tequila. The bottled stuff will bring acidity, but won't deliver the same refreshing sparkle like freshly squeezed lime juice. Don't waste the rest of the lime! You'll become a homemade margarita pro by adding a bit of fresh lime zest. Incorporating the zest into your margarita mix brings a flavor concentration you can't get elsewhere. Make sure only to grate the bright green portion of the lime's skin, avoiding the bitter white pith.

When it comes to the salt, don't think your ordinary table salt will do. A coarse salt, such as kosher salt, is your best friend for coating the rim of your cocktail glass. Table salt is finely ground, and you could easily use too much to cover the entire rim of the glass, resulting in an overpowering saltiness. As for sweetness, a simple syrup is sufficient, but the impact of a high-quality agave syrup shouldn't be underestimated. Tequila is made from the agave plant after all, so agave's subtle sweetness goes hand in hand with tequila.

Important Qualities Your Margarita's Tequila Should Have

tequila poured in shot glass
tequila poured in shot glass - Igor Normann/Shutterstock

Once you have the highest quality margarita mix ingredients, you can let your taste buds run wild. You can seriously upgrade your margarita with spicy additions like fresh jalapeños or a tajin-coated rim. Even a splash of orange juice can bring a summery, fun, sweeter citrus component to your margarita to compliment the fresh lime juice.

Though it's possible to craft a superb margarita without the top-shelf tequila, Tiffanie Barriere advises that the tequila quality still matters. "The key is to choose a tequila that is still of decent quality and suitable for mixing," Barriere shared. Not all tequila will effectively mix to create a cohesive, smooth drink. If you use a tequila that's too sharp and astringent, it'll cut through the rest of the drink and unpleasantly stand out.

Barriere notes, "Ultimately, the choice between using a nice bottle of tequila versus a cheaper one depends on personal preference and budget constraints." Be uncompromising with your fresh ingredients to make an outstanding homemade margarita. As long as your tequila is good enough for mixing and the rest is made fresh, your margarita is sure to impress.

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