Margaritas conjure up images of sun-soaked beaches, fancy glasses, and froth-tipped waves. My favorite margarita, on the other hand, was first consumed not on a wooden dock, but on a wooden deck surrounded by sun-bleached scrub brush and snow-tipped mountains — in a mason jar.
All good things come in a mason jar, by the way. Last year’s tomatoes, Grandma’s preserves and, in this case, my first Ginger Marg. As I sipped and possibly slurped, I noted the sweet punch and especially appreciated the spicy kick from the ginger. This was unlike the margaritas I’d had before. Granted, they had mostly come from a pre-mixed travesty or sickeningly sweet syrups and bright food colorings, but I had found them enjoyable enough.
It was clean. It was real. It had a sharp edge to it that made me feel like I could cut through the constraints of nicety while sitting on a ski lodge deck with people I’d only just met, and climbing that tequila cactus to get a better view of my surroundings. I became, well, animated.
Before the cooking world became the main focus in my life, I was still a vagabond. Back then, I would share my journeys through photographs and a journal I published online or in zines. Things really came together, though, as I conceptualized “The Vagabond Chef” adding a food element presented me to really bring something to the table. And when I moved back home and opened Vagabond Kitchen, that’s exactly what I did.
The ginger lemonade that’s been a hit in the restaurant from day one was inspired by these ginger margaritas, and I’m excited to take you back to the source now!
Margaritas were developed in the Prohibition times, and the name is actually Spanish for “daisy.”
George Carlin may have said it best when he uttered, “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.” I, however, prefer the words of my man Tony Bourdain who said, “I believe — to the best of my recollection, anyway — that I soon made the classic error of moving from margaritas to actual shots of straight tequila. It does make it easier to meet new people.”
Alcohol is the great social lubricant, after all. And I have to say, a few Ginger Margs will help you fit into just about any situation — social or otherwise.
It’s a super simple drink to make — as I prefer simple drinks to ones that require a degree in chemistry.
While it is acceptable to serve frozen or even straight. I prefer mine on the rocks, and I encourage you to make yours however the desert spirit guides you.
For one drink you’ll need the following:
1 ounce Silver Tequila
1 ounce lime Juice
1 ounce gingery syrup
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We went over simple syrup with the French 75 earlier this summer. This simple syrup is much the same. Just add grated ginger. I prefer this ratio:
2/3 cup ginger, grated
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Here’s what you do:
You can grate your ginger in a great many ways. Using a microplane zester is straightforward, but if you don’t have one, you can freeze the ginger and use a standard grater. The trickiest part of the whole drink is that ginger is just so damned fibrous! But no worries, friends. If all else fails, just slice it as thin as you can and cook it for a little longer. The smaller you get the ginger, the easier is it to extract the ginger flavor. So the bigger the chunks, the longer the cook.
Pour the water and sugar into a saucepan with the ginger. Remember, if you have bigger chunks of ginger, it will throw off a volumetric measurement. Weigh out 2 ¾ ounces of ginger, and solve your problems right there.
Another important note is that unless the ginger has ridiculously thick skin, you don’t need to peel it. It won’t matter. If it does have thick skin, use a soup spoon to scrape the flesh off the meat, and buy better ginger next time.
Anyway, combine the ingredients into a small saucepan, heat on medium low, stirring occasionally until simmering. Cook for 25 minutes. Strain and cool. There you go. Ginger simple syrup.
Now pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, and pour into a salt-rimmed mason jar. Garnish with lime wedges. And enjoy.
At this stage — if you’ve already mixed a margarita or two on your own — you may be asking, “Where’s the orange!? The Cointreau!? The Grand Marnier!? The Triple Sec!?”
The ginger checks all the boxes that an orange liqueur does, plus several more. I’ve tried using both, and it doesn’t add anything to the drink. Instead, it subtracts the clean one-two punch of ginger and tequila that makes this margarita recipe so great.
After a couple of these delicious puppies, you can feel like you’re on the deck at a ski resort, too. Or on the beach somewhere in luscious Latin America. Or, just about anywhere else you might want to be, really. Just make sure you don’t need to drive anywhere.
• Matt Welsch, otherwise known as the “Vagabond Chef” has been fascinated with words for as long as he can remember, and he has enjoyed a good drink almost as long. His search for the perfect drink and tastiest plate to accompany a day full of adventures has led him all over the country and parts of the world. Chef Welsch returned home to the Ohio Valley in 2014, and he opened his first restaurant, Vagabond Kitchen, to share his experiences exploring through the dishes on his menu.