The margarita is perhaps the most investigated of drinks, its standing as the world’s favorite cocktail no doubt leading to the intense curiosity. It has been torn apart and reimagined, its lineage interrogated. Classicists maintain that the original margarita was a simple formulation of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice, a tequila version of the brandy-based Daisy (“daisy” translates to “margarita” in Spanish). Decades of abuse had rendered the drink unrecognizable by the late seventies, when artificial mixes had largely replaced the simplicity of fresh lime. But in the early eighties, the Mexican martini emerged in Austin as a throwback to the earlier, simpler margarita. This, along with the “premiumization” of tequila in the nineties and the cocktail renaissance of the aughts, brought renewed attention to the ubiquitous drink.
It would seem as if there is nowhere else to go with the margarita, but Houston’s Eight Row Flint has managed to find a little wiggle room. “With a cocktail that people are familiar with, it’s important to keep it close to something they recognize,” theorizes the bar’s owner, Morgan Weber. The Eight Row Flint margarita starts with robust 110-proof tequila, orange curaçao, and fresh lime juice. But then the drink is enhanced with an oleo saccharum (a syrup infused with lime zest) and a minute quantity of salt tincture. “The tincture evenly distributes the salinity, instead of getting a big mouthful of salt on the rim,” explains Weber. The last touch is the addition of a drop of pasteurized egg white, which imparts a frothy head. Once standard-issue in sour-style cocktails, the egg white trick will be familiar to any longtime Houstonian who’s enjoyed a margarita or two from Pappasito’s.
1 1/2 ounces 110-proof silver tequila
3/4 ounce orange curaçao
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce lime oleo saccharum*
drop pasteurized egg white
2 dashes salt tincture**
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain onto fresh ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
*In a bowl, muddle 1 cup of packed lime peels with 2 cups sugar. Cover and infuse in the refrigerator overnight. Add 1 cup water to the infused sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
**Stir 1/3 cup salt into 1/3 cup warm water until salt is dissolved.