Bottoms up > Margaritas and mariachis go hand-in-hand

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Bottoms up margarita: A good margarita starts with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Bottoms up Margarita Mariachi A: The Maya International Mariachi Band performs June 8 at El Portal Mexican Restaurant in North Cape May. Another performance is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 13. Bottoms up margarita: A good margarita starts with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Bottoms up Margarita Mariachi A: The Maya International Mariachi Band performs June 8 at El Portal Mexican Restaurant in North Cape May. Another performance is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 13.

What makes a good margarita? Simply put, it’s all about the tequila.

One could say that it was a good thing those Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy and began to use the Aztec people’s process of distilling the agave plant, or we might have missed out.

The name comes from the area in which it is primarily made – around the city of Tequila, about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara in the highlands of the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories.

Blanco, or white, is unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels.

Reposado means rested, and this type of tequila is aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size.

Añejo means aged. This type of tequila spends a minimum of one year but less than three years in small oak barrels.

Extra añejo, if one can find it, is aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels.

Once the type of tequila is chosen, it is time to make the drink. A margarita – a real one – is not a flippant cocktail. It's not that one drink your friend who "doesn't like alcohol" can tolerate on celebratory evenings out if she has to; it should never contain anything with the word "mix" in it; and it does not deserve, nor require, a giant fishbowl-sized glass.

Rather a margarita, like the best classic cocktails, is just that: a classic cocktail. It's a shaken combo of spirits and mixers that are there to highlight the full potential of the liquor. It should be created using fresh ingredients. It's not a frozen slushie and it isn't neon yellow; a good one will never come from a bottle, and sour mix is unnecessary, and can actually hide the taste of the spirits.


Mariachis stroll from table to table at El Portal.  Mariachis stroll from table to table at El Portal.

Classic Shaken Margarita

2 ounces 100 percent agave tequila

1 ounce Cointreau

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1/4 to 1/2 ounce agave nectar

Kosher salt

 

Begin by squeezing the lime with a juicer or citrus reamer. Use the spent lime half to rim a 4-5 ounce martini glass or rocks glass, and dip into the salt. Place in the freezer or fill with ice cubes and water to chill.

Pour the lime juice into a shaker, and add the Cointreau, tequila and agave nectar. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until your hands get cold, then shake some more. It's essential that it's well mixed and diluted just so with the melted ice, and that comes from shaking.

Remove the ice from the chilled glass, or fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain the shaken cocktail into the glass, add a wedge of lime and enjoy.

Tequila isn’t the only thing that got its start in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Mariachi bands originated in the southern part of the state.

Mariachi isn’t just about the music, it’s about a whole culture, expressed through a group of musicians dressed in charro suits – the clothing of the traditional Mexican horseman.

The only thing more Mexican than tequila is mariachi music, and some consider it a shame to have one without the other.

There will be an opportunity to enjoy them both together 5 p.m. June 8 at El Portal Mexican Restaurant located at 3704 Bayshore Road in North Cape May. That’s when the Maya International Mariachi Band from Philadelphia will be returning to the restaurant to serenade customers. They will return in July.

The restaurant is BYOB – that gives home mixologists an opportunity to show off their skills by mixing up a classic margarita to take along.
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