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Riffs: The Margarita

In this series, we look at a classic cocktail recipe and swap out one of the ingredients for a new and novel spin. This week: Skip the Cointreau and grab one of these unique Mexican sweeteners to breathe fresh life into the timeless Margarita.


Rumor has it, this fragrant herbal liqueur made with the delicate Damiana flower may have originally played the role as sweetener in the world’s first Margarita. History is muddled on the veracity of the point, but it’s certain the yellow Chartreuse-like ingredient elevates the cocktail’s texture to sultry status and lends an elegant floral bouquet to the finish. Try using the recipe from La Condesa in Austin for optimal results.

D’Aristi Xtabentún

Xtabentún (pronounced ish-tah-ben-TOON) is a tantalizing honey and anise-based elixir from the Yucatán region of Mexico. A light dose of oily licorice undertones swim softly underneath pops of lime juice, making for a bright, fresh cocktail primed for warm weather sipping. Try using 3/4 oz. of the liqueur in a combination of 1 3/4 oz. blanco tequila, 3/4 oz. lime juice and 2 bar spoons of turbinado syrup.

Ancho Reyes

Fans of mezcal won’t be led astray by the dry wisps of smoke in this savory, chile-driven daisy. Made from sun-dried poblano peppers (called Anchos) grown in Puebla, Mexico, Ancho Reyes’ fiery blend of sugar and spice adds a dark, earthy depth to the citrusy beverage that’s a nice departure from tradition. Try 3/4 oz. mixed with 1 1/2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. fresh lime and 1/2 oz. agave nectar.

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