Whether you like your margaritas salt-rimmed and on the rocks, as spicy as a two-alarm fire or frozen into a slushie, everyone usually starts from the same place: with tequila. It is usually not aged, clear (aka blanco or silver) tequila, blended in its most basic form with fresh lime juice or sour mix, plus triple sec or orange liqueur.
As with most things booze these days, though, the basic margarita has been getting many boosts. Tim Burns, owner of Cappy’s Warehouse Wine & Spirits in Lynbrook, said that as people have gravitated to more aged and premium versions of bourbon, rum and even gin, tequila has followed suit.
“Blanco is still the biggest part of our business, but people are not only drinking finer products, but drinking more aged products,” said Burns, who sells about 75 different tequilas in his store. “They’re trying extra añejo tequilas, which are smoother and richer, and drinking them year-round, not just in summer.”
If those terms sound obtuse, know that tequila — which is distilled from the hearts (or piñas) of the blue agave plant — comes in several grades. The most basic is blanco or silver, the fresh, mostly not-aged version. When left to age in oak barrels from between two and 10 months, the smoother reposado results; between one and three years, tequila gains deeper, even more nuanced flavors, such as vanilla, caramel and even mushroom, and is graded as añejo. An extra-añejo is aged three years or longer, and can fetch skyward of $100 or more.
If you reach for a pricier aged tequila for your margarita, Burns advocates changing your mixers accordingly. Rather than sour mix and triple sec, for instance, “Use fresh lime and Cointreau, which is basically triple sec but much, much better.”
Even if you go for blanco, though, hold fast to one golden (or blanco) rule: Look for “100 percent agave” on the label.
From now until Cinco de Mayo, Cappy’s will hold five tequila and mezcal tastings, including on May 5 from noon to 3 p.m., when the store will blend various grades of Herradura Tequila into Cointreau margaritas. To find out more, check its website, cappyswineandspirits.com or call 516-256-0444.