Phil Ward's Perfect Margaritas

By Justine Sterling Posted May 03, 2012

Courtesy of Mayahuel

Phil Ward, co-owner of New York City’s tequila and mezcal den, Mayahuel, has strong opinions about the margarita: “It has sold a lot of really bad tequila, but it’s a relevant drink—up there with the classics.” While some of our favorite bars take liberties with their recipes, Ward is a purist. Here are his three rules for making an exceptional margarita.

Start with the original recipe. At Mayahuel, the recipe for a margarita is simple: Two ounces blanco tequila, one ounce Cointreau and 3/4 ounces lime juice. “Classically, the margarita is just tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice,” Ward says. “It gets mixed up when people put sour mix or orange juice in it. A lot people are doing agave nectar for sweetness instead of Cointreau, but, historically, the recipe calls for the liqueur.”

Use blanco tequila. For Ward, blanco (aka silver) tequila, which is aged less than two months before bottling, is the best spirit base. “I think the notes of tequila that really go great in a margarita are those nice crisp vegetable and grapefruit notes,” Ward says. Oak-aged tequilas add flavors that are a bit too complex. “Reposado and anejo give you more tannins and wood notes, like cinnamon or clove or nutmeg. Those notes don’t go as well in a margarita.”

Keep it affordable. Margaritas are a fantastic way to highlight tequila, and Ward even makes the cocktail when assessing new brands, but there's no reason to go overboard. Very expensive spirits are best served neat. Ward suggests Pueblo Viejo for quality and price: “It’s the Rittenhouse of the tequila industry.”

Related: America's Best Margarita Bars
Terrific Margarita Recipes
Great Tequila Drinks
America's Best Bars

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