Frosty summer drinks — spiked or not — are such a trademark of summer entertaining. Margaritas are my hot weather faves, and ever since I figured out the homemade sweet and sour mix thing last year, I’ve been giving all store-bought mixes the distrustful sideways glance.
I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next girl (I can eat cake frosting off a spoon [she says, as most of you cringe right down to your dental fillings]), but there’s something about cocktails that call for a backing-off of the sugar. Or maybe it’s my deep, abiding love for the pure, puckery brightness of citrus juice.
Either way, fresh, clean-tasting homemade margarita mix is soooo easy to do in your own kitchen, there’s nothing standing between it and you that a citrus juicer (electric or manual) can’t fix. The difference between bottled mix and fresh mix is a deep, dark chasm of weird ingredients and a cough-syrup aftertaste that have no place in a margarita.
When you’re making your own DIY margarita mix, you control the sweetness … and the sweetener. Recently, I switched from sugar to agave syrup. This simplifies the process of making a simple syrup — no heating required, only stirring — and the resulting “sweet” is somehow less heavy than sugar. (Note, though, that the agave does impact the color of the mix — you can see in the photos here that the mix, and the resulting margarita, is golden, which is from the agave rather than the orange juice in the recipe.)
This margarita mix can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a stretch — or — for frozen margarita lovers [raises hand!}, frozen like ice cubes, ready for frozen margaritas on demand (all included in the recipe that follows).
And here’s one of the really great intangible things about DIY margarita mix: if you’re like me, the peeps in your personal circle are not necessarily both foodies and DIY’ers. They might’ve had top-notch margaritas in their lifetime (usually thanks to top-shelf tequila) … but probably not at someone’s Saturday night backyard BBQ.
*You*, with your super fresh DIY margarita mix, however, will become known as a margarita genius. And while they’re gushing, fishing for the secret, I recommend you just smile and shrug your shoulders.
Some secrets are best left kept.
- a scant 1/2 cup agave syrup or 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8-12 limes, depending on their size and juiciness)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 medium orange)
- If using agave syrup: whisk together the syrup and water until completely combined.
- If using sugar: heat water and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium until completely dissolved. Allow to cool.
- Pour the sweetened liquid into a pitcher and stir in the lime and orange juice. Homemade mix, done!
- Mix will keep in the fridge for about a week, OR:
- Prep ahead and freeze 2 tablespoon amounts in standard ice cube trays (2 tablespoons will fit perfectly in each cell). Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a sealable container or zipper bag for frozen margaritas on demand.
Bonus: Margaritas for 2
1 1/4 cup margarita mix (= 20 tablespoons or 10 ice cubes if frozen per above)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) well-chilled tequila (place in freezer for 15 minutes)
For regular margaritas: place the chilled margarita mix and tequila in a small pitcher (or even a bowl) and mix well. Divide evenly between two margarita glasses, over ice.
For frozen margaritas: place the frozen margarita ice cubes and tequila in a blender, and liquefy until smooth and frosty. Divide evenly between two margarita glasses.