The real skinny on the margarita

The modern margarita has a ratio of 2 ounces of spirit, three-quarters ounce of citrus and half an ounce of sweetener. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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The modern margarita has a ratio of 2 ounces of spirit, three-quarters ounce of citrus and half an ounce of sweetener. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Around Cinco de Mayo, we were confronted with questions about “skinny” and “real” margaritas, so we wanted to clear up some confusion.

Like most famous cocktails, the margarita has an origin story full of myth and fabrication. We do know that it originated in the first half of the 20th century, probably in the 1930s. Drink historian David Wondrich points out that margarita means “daisy” in Spanish, and daisies also are a category of cocktails that use a base spirit, a liqueur and citrus; another example is a sidecar.

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So, the original margarita, made by combining tequila, triple sec and lime juice, fits neatly into that category. That also is the recipe for a skinnygirl, or skinny margarita.

The margarita went on a bit of a journey before coming back full circle. In the latter half of the 20th century, a commercial product called sweet-and-sour mix was popular in bars. The majority of citrus in the product comes from citric acid, with corn syrup, water and artificial flavors making up the rest.

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The cocktail renaissance that began around 2000 brought back an adherence to freshly squeezed juice, and proper shaking techniques. But, while margaritas now were being made with fresh lime juice, they also called for the addition of simple syrup, possibly replicating that sweet-and-sour mix flavoring, only with real ingredients. This put the modern margarita into the sour category, not the daisy category.

Similar to the whiskey sour or the daiquiri, the modern margarita has a ratio of 2 ounces of spirit, three-quarters ounce of citrus and half an ounce of sweetener.

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Then, along came Bethenny Frankel, who now admits that she went on the first season of “The Real Housewives of New York City” in 2008 to promote her new business. What started as her “recipe” (just eliminating the sugar), became the Skinnygirl line of bottled, ready-to-drink margaritas.

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Later, Frankel sold the brand to spirits giant Beam Suntory for about $100 million. By that time, though, the terms skinny and skinnygirl had become a fixture on the menus of chain restaurants. Since those terms can be considered part of a detrimental diet culture, it’s difficult to believe they were applied to a drink that is a delightful indulgence.

Here’s a recipe for what we consider the modern margarita. You easily can eliminate the sugar, but, if you do that, the results are a more austere and unbalanced cocktail.

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MARGARITA

1½ ounces tequila

¾ ounce lime juice

½ ounce triple sec

½ ounce simple syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass or cocktail glass filled with fresh ice.

The Slaters are beverage industry veterans and the proprietors of the Expat and the Lark Winespace in Athens.

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