Happy Margarita Day! 5 tangy recipes to shake things up

If you haven’t had a margarita since college spring break, it’s time to revisit this old favorite. Saturday is National Margarita Day, and bartenders have seriously moved on from those slushy, neon-green concoctions you used to order by the pitcher. Try one of these modern twists from across the country, or experiment on your own with this easy guideline. 

“Follow this simple rule of thumb for balanced and delicious margaritas: 2-1-1. Two parts strong tequila, one part sweet and one part sour,” says Tad Carducci, co-founder of Tippling Bros. beverage consulting firm. Another tip: “If you always salt half the rim of your glass, you never have to ask your guests if they prefer a margarita with or without.”

Blood orange margarita

Blood orange margarita Natalie Toral
Blood orange margarita

Instead of orange liqueur, mixologists Alan Akwai and David Shenaut at Portland's restaurant Raven & Rose use a trendy house-made artisanal drinking vinegar in this citrusy margarita.

Sanguine Daisy
Raven & Rose
Portland, Ore.

  • 1½ ounces Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
  • 1 ounce blood orange vanilla shrub (recipe below)
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass with sea salt on the rim. Garnish with fresh mint and a cinnamon-sugar laced blood orange slice.

To make the blood orange vanilla shrub:

Simmer 3 ounces of white wine vinegar in a saucepan with two cinnamon sticks, 4 to 6 whole cloves and one tablespoon of dried bitter orange peel for about 5 minutes. Add 4 ounces of fresh blood orange juice, 3 ounces (by volume) of cane sugar and a half teaspoon of pure vanilla bean paste. Stir until sugar is dissolved and strain out solids. Makes about 8 ounces.

Floral margarita

Floral margarita Jennifer Silverberg / Jennifer Silverberg
Floral margarita

This seriously sophisticated drink is perfect for spring. The award-winning bar crew of Nate Weber, Ben Bauer and Nick Luedde from The Libertine in St. Louis created it by fusing the margarita with a classic Aviation cocktail.

The Milla Alta
The Libertine
St. Louis, Mo.

  • 1½ ounces Riazul Añejo tequila
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ¼ ounce fresh agave nectar
  • ½ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • ½ ounce Rothman & Winter’s Crème de Viollete

Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into coupe glass. To garnish, press 1/8 of a sliced lemon in the base of the coupe. Add a brandied cherry to glass. 

Avocado margarita

Avocado margarita. Tracy Saelinger
Avocado margarita.

There are 14 margaritas on the menu at ’Rita’s Cantina at Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort in Valley Center, Calif., including this smooth and refreshing avocado number.

'Rita's Cantina
Valley Center, Calif.

  • 1 ounce Avion Silver tequila
  • ¾ ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/8 avocado
  • ½ ounce lime juice

Combine ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend and pour into a margarita glass and garnish with lime wheel. 

Pineapple margarita

Pineapple margarita Drew Templeton / Tracy Saelinger
Pineapple margarita

The Little Market in Chicago has gathered quite a following with this namesake drink. “Its complexity comes from the use of chile guajillo, which imparts a spicy fruitiness and some heat to the cocktail,” mixologist Paul Tanguay says.

The Little Market
Little Market
Chicago, Ill. 

  • 1 ½ ounces reposado tequila
  • 1 ounces guajillo syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 ounces lime juice
  • 2 chunks pineapple, 1.5 inches square

In tin, muddle pineapple. Add remaining ingredients. Shake over ice. Add pico piquin (spicy seasoning) to rim of glass, if desired. This recipe’s amount can be increased to yield more portions.

To make the guajillo syrup:

  • 1 quart simple syrup
  • 7 to 8 guajillo chiles (or pasilla or pulla chiles)

Bring simple syrup to medium heat. Break up chiles and add to heated syrup. Simmer for ten minutes, check heat level and let simmer for another ten minutes if needed. When desired heat level is achieved, strain and refrigerate. Yields 1 quart.

Cucumber margarita

Cucumber margarita Drew Templeton / Tracy Saelinger
Cucumber margarita

If you can’t find the hoja santa Mexican herb at specialty stores, mint will work in a pinch, says mixologist Tad Carducci.

Pepino El Pyu
New York City, N.Y.

  • 2 ounces tequila blanco
  • ¾ ounces lemon juice
  • 1 ounce cucumber juice
  • 1 ounce hoja santa syrup (recipe follows)

Add all ingredients to glass. Shake over ice. Decorate rim with cumin salt. (This recipe’s amount can be increased to yield more portions.)

To make the hoja santa syrup:

  • 4 tablespoons hoja santa (an herb available online or Mexican specialty stores), dried
  • 2 ½ cups cold water
  • 2 ½ cups white sugar

In medium pot, place sugar and water and bring to boil. Add the dried hoja santa and let boil for one more minute.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain through a very fine strainer and refrigerate. Yields 2 ½ cups.

To make the cumin salt:

  • ½ cup coarse salt
  • ½ cup ground cumin

In a bowl mix both ingredients until well distributed. Store up to 6 months in a cool, dry place.