Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 31, 2012

A Decent Frozen Margarita

It’s hot out. Well today it isn’t too bad, but the last week or so in DC has felt like…a summer in DC. The point is, it’s hot. When it’s hot out, really hot out, upper 80s and beyond with high humidity (that is, almost any day in DC between now and mid-October), there are really only three things I want to drink:

  1. Cheap, cold, light beer
  2. Gin Rickeys
  3. Pina Coladas

The problem with Pina Coladas, though, is that cream of coconut is so sweet and the consistency makes it a pain to work with. Straight from the can it’s an unmixed pool of syrup and solidified (but delicious) fats. Opening a can means you’re making a bunch and sometimes I just want one. There’s nothing wrong with an inconvenient ingredient, but it certainly makes me think twice about diving head first into making a frozen drink to cool off.

And then there’s America’s most popular cocktail, the Margarita.

I love Margaritas, though I basically only drink them on the rocks, never frozen. To me, a Frozen Margarita is the epitome of a bad cocktail. The tequila is almost always low quality junk. There’s never even a thought to using fresh lime juice – sour mix is a guarantee. The consistency is usually a mess, meaning after five minutes you have half a glass of slush and half a glass of a soon to be warm sour mix and cheap tequila slurry. And yet this is a variation that makes the Margarita the most popular cocktail in America. It’s enough to make one seriously question our national palate.

With all that as a preface, I decided over Memorial Day weekend that I needed to find another frozen cocktail to quench my thirst on hot days. The fact that most places can’t serve a good Frozen Margarita is really no more determinative than the fact that most bars can’t serve a decent Martini. This is a problem that could be solved.

I started doing research to find recipes from bartenders I trusted who might make a decent Frozen Margarita. Not shockingly, Dale DeGroff came through with a killer Frozen Margarita recipe. DeGroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, is one of the canon in my bartending library. DeGroff is a phenomenally important American bartender who helped the craft of bartending well-balanced cocktails survive the dark years of the 80s and 90s. The Craft of the Cocktail both is a great resource for fairly standard, classic recipes for classic cocktails and contains many DeGroff originals which are interesting and worth knowing. But most important of all for me, in a space with numerous cocktail luminaries who’ve published numerous tomes of the same or similar recipes, I’ve always found that DeGroff’s recipes strike the right note for what I like and look for in cocktails, regardless of the recipe. I just see eye to eye with him a lot of the time, which makes his recipes a tremendous resource for me.

And so I turned to The Craft of the Cocktail and sure enough, DeGroff had a recipe for a Frozen Margarita that looked like it was worth trying. Here it is:

Frozen Margarita (DeGroff recipe)

2 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz simple syrup
3/4 cup cracked ice.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend and pour into a large goblet rimmed with coarse salt.

Since quality ingredients make for quality cocktails, I used Cointreau in lieu of regular triple sec. And instead of cheap rail tequila, I used top shelf stuff – Partida Reposado, until that was gone, then Patron Silver. My simple syrup was a 1:1 formulation of water and sugar.

This is a killer Frozen Margarita. It’s light, crisp and you can enjoy the tequila in it. I could probably be fine with the simple syrup dialed back a touch, but I wasn’t so bothered by the sweetness as to change it in multiple batches. Best of all, this is a recipe that I can turn to on out summer days. Or, as noted above, most days from here on out in DC…



  1. I use Coco Real in my Piña Coladas, both at home at at my bar. It’s almost as tasty as Coco Lopez but it’s shelf-stable even after opening, homogenized, and comes in a handy squeeze bottle. Also, a teeny 1/4 oz of lime juice helps with the balance on the drink–no more than that, or it’ll taste like a yogurt smoothie.

    As for frozen margs…well…let’s just say most people who order them aren’t after flavor as much as the drink’s other qualities. For what it’s worth, Dale’s recipe is fairly similar to our own, though we use proportionally less lime and simple.

    • Thanks for the tip Nathan, I’ll have to check out Coco Real and a tiny bit of lime juice.

  2. I’ve had decent luck making frozen Margaritas at home. I feel the key is fresh citrus, even if its frozen.

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