Ina Garten's Secret Ingredient For Her 'Dangerous' Margaritas

Ina Garten
Ina Garten - Theo Wargo/Getty Images

A classic, citrusy margarita has a sharp bite of tequila balanced by agave or triple sec, and often gets a zip of flavor thanks to a salted rim. Now, if you're after the perfect margarita recipe, Ina Garten might just have a tip for you. She makes a margarita that she describes as "dangerous" and it's all thanks to the addition of one ingredient.

You see, in a Barefoot Contessa episode that has a section exploring how she makes her tasty margaritas she said, "It's really traditional, but I make it with a twist -- I do it with lime and lemon, and I think it's really good." You don't need much, either. Garten says she uses the juice of one lemon for every ½ cup of fresh lime juice in her recipe, although you could also go for a 1-to-1 ratio if you want a stronger lemon flavor. Still, just the small amount Garten adds can give your cocktail more depth of flavor.

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Why Lemons Enhance Your Margaritas

Person juicing a lemon
Person juicing a lemon - Burke/triolo Productions/Getty Images

One reason why lemons make such a great addition to margaritas is that their flavor profile varies slightly from that of limes. Sure, both are citrus fruits that add tart notes to your drink, but limes tend to have a more bitter flavor. Lemons, on the other hand, have more noticeable sour notes.

What's more, lemons also tend to have a slightly higher sugar content, which can make for a sweeter take on your classic margarita. If you like the added sweetness, you could also opt for a sugar rim vs salt-rimmed cocktail. At the same time, sweetness can help offset some of the sharp notes of the tequila in the drink.

It's not just the juice of the lemon that can add a little something different to this cocktail. You can also upgrade your margaritas with a bit of citrus zest to add complexity. The zest contains floral notes that the juice doesn't have that can ramp up your drink and give it nuance. Enhance that flavor further by adding some of the zest to your salt rim, too. It's a great way to use the whole lemon, rather than leaving the rind to go in the garbage after you've juiced it for your drinks.

Other Citrus Juices To Try In Your Margs

lemon lime margarita
lemon lime margarita - Monicaninker/Getty Images

While lemons can certainly add some extra zing to your cocktail, they're not the only additional citrus juice you could try stirring into your margaritas. Another choice could be to add a bit of grapefruit juice. Grapefruit, like lime, has a bitter taste to it. It adds some extra pucker to your drink and could be a good choice for achieving balance in drinks that call for a sugar or spicy rim.

For those who prefer sweeter beverages, another option could be to add mandarin juice. These fruits have a sweeter flavor than regular oranges and also aren't as acidic. That can make them ideal for those who want to balance out the citrusy tartness of a classic margarita recipe made only with lime. Finally, you could go for something in between, using orange juice for a mild sweetness and noticeable tart, fruity flavor. Next time you go to make margaritas, try experimenting with adding a squeeze of juice from a different citrus fruit, and you might just be surprised at the complexity it adds to your cocktail.

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