the tart marg

What seems like a million years ago, Alex and I had some friends over for a fajita party at our old 500-square foot Chelsea bungalow. Lacking an electric citrus juicer, we spent a good part of the afternoon hand-reaming the juice out of dozens of limes so that I could make a few pitchers of the margarita recipe that was printed on the Classic Cocktails paper place mat I’d stolen from Stingy Lulus the weekend before. If you like your margaritas so tart you might have to close one eye to swallow a single sip and your memories few and far between, I cannot recommend this old-school recipe enough.


But, if you’re only going to invite over four friends, may I suggest you make slightly less than two-and-a-half pitchers? Because in the years since, rarely a month goes by that we don’t tell the story of Dave and Steve getting ejected from a cab that night in the middle of Times Square, Steve having his “to-go cup” tossed in the trash by a patrolling police officer, Dave getting in a non-sensical argument with the cop’s partner (Steve swears they were speaking in Brogue by this point) who called him a drunken disgrace and told him to go home but Dave pleaded that he was trying to go home but mean cabbie kicked them out and then, when the cops finally sent them on their way, Dave announcing, “Well, I think I handled that pretty well.”

[Dave’s convenient grasp of reality will make him an excellent lawyer one day, don’t you think?]

worth every penny

Man, this story never gets old. Um, for me and stuff. And speaking of things that are great for me but maybe less so for you, after this margarita (What? It’s noon somewhere now!) we’re taking off for a whole, glorious week and countless margaritas in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Could my life be any sweeter? I will ponder this as I sift sand through my fingertips and alternately thumb through longformat writing and gaze at the horizon this week. Don’t go too far, though, because my darling Joc of the blonde hair and the no-cooking fame will be sharing with you her secrets to the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as perfect cookies from a tube, or really, epicurean service journalism at it’s finest.

Have a great week!

stained glass

The Tart Marg

Psst! There’s a newer and we think even more balanced margarita on Smitten Kitchen. You can find it here.

You can use the recipe below to make a single, day-erasing, stress-obliterating margarita (though for the glass size pictured, you’ll need a double) but I actually find the ratio approach easier. I squeeze all of the limes I have into a liquid measuring cup, add an equal amount of Triple Sec or Cointreau, and two times as much tequila. You got that? 1:1:2. Now close your eyes and be in Mexico with me.

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounce) tequila
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup (optional)

Garnish: Lime slices and/or salted rims

Shake, strain, and serve over ice in margarita glass, preferably one of those with a cactus stem.

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22 comments on the tart marg

  1. lucky duck you! sounds like a great vacation – have a wonderful time! i am SO overdue for one, but with the new job and all, i’m not looking at one for another 3 months or so.

  2. I can’t believe you are handing over the reigns to Smitten Kitchen to ME! I am so excited. Get ready kids– to order in and eat out. Because my Mama taught me how to make reservations!

    Have a blast in Playa! My home away from home. Tell Carlos I will be there in November!



  3. Wow, gorgeous lime pictures. I can’t tell you about the last time we made margaritas for our friends. Something about the tequila, man, it makes people loco. Looking forward to hearing about deb’s excellent vacation when it’s over. Did you see the thread on what to eat in Playa del Carmen at the chowhound site?

  4. Erin

    Deb I am so jealous! Playa is my favorite vaca spot ever. Where are you staying? You must go have cocktails at both Hotel Deseo and Hotel Basico. Both are super cool and make fantastic margaritas. Bon Voyage!

  5. vic

    i read your blog all the time and it’s fantastic!!! i saw that you are going to playa, you have to go to an amazing seafood restaurant called LA PIRATA, or el pirata. it’s off the beaten track…if you go the main strip until you hit calle 40, take a left and it’s a big blue facade two or three blocks down on the right. it’s mostly locals. i got a grilled fish with a garlicky sauce, my friend got the most amazing grilled shrimp. the shrimp were almost the size of langoustines and you could still taste the brine of the ocean. they also had something that a lot of people seemed to be ordering that looked like a whole fried fish. it looked fantastic. mostly locals and the menu is only in spanish. also, a lot of people seemed to be ordering the ceviche. and try a chelada…it’s beer with lots of lime juice and salt…like the michelada, but without the hot sauce.

    the other thing i enjoyed about mexico was the fresh squeezed juice everywhere. my favorite combo was the orange and guayaba!

    have fun!

  6. vic

    here’s another place i really enjoyed…la cueva del chango on calle 38 a block from 5th or so. i had a breakfast and a lunch there. the hot chocolate is delicious, i had that with fresh fruit salad and granola. and for lunch i had a creamy corn and poblano soup. really lovely.

  7. Jelena

    Deb, thank you so much. You have laid a fear of mine to rest. You see, most of the adults (don’t take offense to the adult thing, I’m one too, I guess) I know don’t ever get drunk or have funny drunk/drinking stories. Even my 28-year old married sister doesn’t (she’s the good one). So I was kind of scared that when I got to a certain age I’d never get drunk again either. However, now I know that’s not true. :)

    The margaritas look great; everyone at work tonight was buying limes for their tequila too. I’m very jealous about your vacation, I wish I could go to Mexico. Have a lot of fun and bring back tons of pictures!

  8. Christine

    Hey Deb…just another recipe for a kick-ass margarita.

    The Devil’s Margarita:
    6 oz tequila
    6 oz frozen lime-aid
    6 oz any amber/light beer
    fill up the blender with ice, wizz away and enjoy with a chip or two covered in salsa or guac. YUM! The beer tends to take the “ick” out of the tequila.

  9. Amelia

    That looks remarkably like my own home-grown margarita recipe (inspired by a brilliant friend’s example, of course). Since my first margarita party, which demolished about 4L of tequila in 4 short hours, I’ve learned to paste a sign on the pitcher that reads “Warning: These Margaritas? They’re Stronger than You.”

  10. Doug

    For a variation: when you make your lime juice syrup, add about two or three thumbs of rough chopped (and peeled) fresh ginger and some chopped lemon grass. Adds a nice zip (I use white rhum and Cointreau; don’t like salt).
    Enjoy your vacation!

  11. Tea

    “If you like your margaritas so tart you might have to close one eye to swallow”
    Yes, indeedy, I do! Thanks for the recipe, I had been planning on hunting one down in preparation for a housewarming/cinco de mayo fest. We’ll see if our party can produce the same sort of humorous after-tales that yours did. As for Bel Canto, what a lovely read. Hope you enjoy the book, the beach, and everything else.

  12. ann

    make sure you have some conch while you guys are there. Oh, and don’t do like I did and run into a shark whilst snorkling. While nothing happened, it was still wicked scary! have fun!

  13. Andy

    Dammit, it’s summer and I have been waiting all winter for this. I passed by 1800 tequila on sale in February, but something about slushy snow and 2 degree weather doesn’t do much for this drink. smitten kitchen is my absolute favorite, year round though. so excited about the cookbook