Saturday Is National Margarita Day! Celebrate With Two Nontraditional Versions

Look, I don't know who comes up with these national food and drink holidays. I don't know why. I don't know how many years any of them have been celebrated. And I swear, there are at least four National Pie days every year.

What I'm saying is I'm kind of a scrooge when it comes to food holidays. All except for one: National Margarita Day.

National Margarita Day actually seems to be one of the few arbitrary food holidays that has a single, agreed upon date. Every year we celebrate that magical combination of lime and tequila on February 22, which, (praise Dionysus) happens to be a Saturday this year.

There are plenty of places in town hosting specials for the holiday. But I propose that instead of joining everyone else in Houston at your favorite Tex-Mex bar/restaurant, you go a different route.

I'm talking Kata Robata.

"An Asian restaurant?!" you say. "Blasphemy."

It's true, though. Not only does Kata Robata stock high-quality tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar (none of that simple syrup crap), the cocktail menu also includes a drink called the Conquistador, which is a sort of Manhattan/Margarita hybrid.

Unlike the traditional marg, which contains tequila, the Conquistador uses smoky mezcal with lime juice and agave nectar. Then, to add a bit of the Manhattan in there, it's also got sweet vermouth and angostura bitters.

It's not yellowish like a classic margarita (Note: If it's green, you're doing it wrong). Rather, it's a golden color, thanks to the mezcal and the dash of angostura. All of the ingredients are combined in a cocktail shaker with ice and shaken until chilled and blended.

The result is sweet, smoky and rich, but still highly palatable. The citrus and sweet vermouth star. It's a great starter drink for people who may not be ready for more intense mezcal cocktails or mezcal neat.

The bartenders at Kata Robata are also capable of making a great traditional margarita, though livelier cocktails and sake are really their thing.

Of course, my favorite margarita in town comes out of my own kitchen.

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I'm what some might call a margarita snob. I think the best margarita is generally as simple as possible: Good tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and some sort of orange liqueur.

Starting with that as my base, I've developed what I think is a wonderful margarita recipe. I've tweaked it just a little, but the basic ingredients remain the same. And it's very easy to make.

You will need:

  • Tequila (I'm drinking George Clooney's Casamigos, not because it's George Clooney's, but because it's damn good)
  • Limes
  • Agave nectar
  • Grand Marnier
  • Almond extract
  • Ice

Start by juicing limes until you have one ounce of lime juice. That's usually about three large limes. Pour lime juice and 1.5 ounces of tequila into a cocktail shaker. Add a teaspoon of agave nectar, a generous half-ounce of Grand Marnier and a splash of almond extract to the shaker. Fill with ice and shake until blended and chilled--I usually do it for about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lime wedge, and, should you choose, a salted rim (but do that before you pour in the liquid, obviously). Enjoy.

Note: I sometimes top it off with a little grapefruit soda. Is is still a margarita? Debatable. But it's delicious.

I choose to substitute Grand Marnier for triple sec or Cointreau because it's stronger (40 percent ABV) and because, to me, it has a spicier flavor. The almond extract actually cuts the tartness of the lime a little without adding any extra sweetness. And I always swear by fresh, fresh, fresh lime juice and agave nectar above all else.

You can actually make a great margarita with just tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar. I've had so many margs in my life that I tend to prefer a little creativity without going into the territory of syrupy, frozen slushies.

So if you're into it, by all means, check out some of the great specials going on around town in honor of this wonderful holiday. But if you're not, go to an Asian restaurant or do it yourself. As long as there's tequila involved, you can't go wrong.

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