Cover The Verdita Margarita by Jay Khan

While a classic Margarita may be fabulous, sometimes change can be delicious. Give these innovative recipes a sip!

A margarita is a cocktail that reminds us of tropical vacations, a warm salty breeze, sand between our toes, and a whole lot of dancing. Today, on February 22 we celebrate this beloved tipple for International Margarita Day!

This classic cocktail is tequila-based and typically contains fresh lime juice and orange liqueur. The traditional versions are either served straight up with salt on the rim, or on the rocks depending on your preference–some even like it blending with ice, in a slush-like texture. 

While its origin story is murky, this tipple has definitely been tried and tested. Over the years the drink has been re-interpreted and tinkered with by many a bartender, in pretty much every country in the world. Some infuse the cocktail with notable local flavours, and other mixologists tack their own unique signature.

Here, we have asked some top bartenders in the region for their recipes of non-traditional Margaritas that you can create at home to make happy hour extra exciting and enticing! Go ahead, give these a try and impress your friends:

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Jay Khan - Hong Kong

Founder of COA (Asia's Best Bar 2021) 

"Verdita" 

40ml Tequila blanco (100% agave) 
15ml. Cointreau 
20ml Verdita juice 
20ml Freshly pressed lime juice 
1 teaspoon agave nectar 

Verdita juice recipe

1 litre fresh pineapple juice 
A bunch of cilantro 
A bunch of mint 
Juice of one lime 
2 jalapeño (remove seeds if you want it to be less spicy) 
Add a pinch of salt 
(If refrigerated it could last for a few days) 

Method:

Add all ingredients over ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake until the drink is cold and frothy. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a nasturtium flower (or any edible seasonal flower). 

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Kenneth Bandivas - Philippines

Bar consultant; co-owner of The Spirits Library and Kampai bars; Diageo Worldclass Bartender of the Year 2015 

Multiple variations of this drink have been made over the years as the bartending scene kept growing. To cite an example, one of my favourite twists on a margarita is called “Tommy’s Margarita” made by Julio Bermejo back in the 90s at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, San Francisco, California. This drink became a modern classic cocktail as a lot of new-age bartenders adapted to its recipe. 

There are several ways how to improve or incorporate seasonal fruits on a Margarita. One example is to swap the base spirit with mezcal and use tropical fruits to give it a complex approach on the flavour profile. Here’s a sample recipe that I created.

“A drink called Mole” - (Mole - literally means sauce in Mexico)

Ingredients:

45ml Montelobos Mezcal

20ml fresh lime juice

1 chunk of pineapple fruit (2x1.5 inches)

10ml agave nectar 

2 dashes Bitter Truth Xocolatl mole bitters

Salt

Method:

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for six seconds. Finely strain and pour inside a chilled coupe, and salt half the rim. Garnish with lime peel. You may also serve it on the rocks. 

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Enzo Luna - Philippines

Head beverage manager of Square One Hospitality, Philippines

This cocktail is a mix of classic and tropical ingredients for a Margarita. The coconut- hazelnut liqueur is a house-made ingredient we use for some cocktails in our bar; it adds a note of refreshing coconut and subtle cacao [flavour], whilst the grapefruit adds a fruity finish to the whole cocktail.

To make your own version of the coconut-hazelnut liquor at home you could do 1:1 coconut liqueur and hazelnut liqueur (Malibu rum and Frangelico).

"Sunstoked Margarita"

45 ml Patron Tequila Silver

15 ml coconut-hazelnut liqueur

15 ml orange liqueur

20 ml lime

2 dashes of grapefruit bitters

Method:

  • Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake for about 15 seconds
  • Pour shaken cocktail in a chilled margarita glass.
  • Garnish with sliced grape and toasted coconut chips

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Daniel Eun - Hong Kong

Beverage director & partner, 11 Westside bar

Named for Tupac's hit song "Hail Mary", this Margarita variation uses the natural oils in the skin of the orange and just a hint of juice to boost the flavours typically found in a classic Margarita. The red wine float is an old technique found in cocktails such as the New York Sour that adds further depth and complexity and makes for a great excuse to open a bottle of wine as well.

"Hail Mary"

45ml Blanco Tequila (like Cimarron)
22.5ml orange Curacao (preferably Pierre Ferrand)
22.5ml freshly squeezed lime juice
7.5ml simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water by weight)
Orange wedge (shaped like a half-moon or half a disc)

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in a shaker. If you have larger cubes of ice, just shake; for smaller ice, give the orange wedge a quick muddle.
  • Then, finely strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Here, use a tea strainer, or preferably a cocktail strainer into a tea strainer (aka "double-straining") to make clean up easier.
  • Slowly pour a drier red wine (we used a Fleurie) to layer it on top of the drink.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!

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Ulysse Jouanneaud - Philippines

Beverage consultant, head mixologist and co-owner of Buccaners Rum & Kitchen

"A Tropical Margarita"

50ml Ocho blanco tequila

20ml Paradise mango liqueur

25ml passionfruit puree

15ml lime juice

15ml agave syrup

Method:

Simple - just shake it all up together and serve with salt on the rim and enjoy!

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