Marvelous margaritas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 10, 2000

The heat has settled in the Miss-Lou like a big goose-down comforter. Thick and heavy with very little room for a tiny little breeze to sneak in. I’ve given up on keeping my yard watered and decided to keep myself hydrated instead.

The perfect summer cocktail is a margarita. You can drink it over ice or frozen like a grown-up Icee. And while lime is the run-away favorite flavor there are others, only limited by your imagination.

Here in Natchez the most popular margarita spot is Fat Mama’s. This mexican hot spot has been owned by Britton Gammill and her husband Jimmy for 12 years. Their &uot;knock-you-naked&uot; margaritas are known all over the south and have been featured in several publications.

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&uot;I really can’t remember exactly how we came up with the name, but we’ve never sent anyone home naked,&uot; laughed Gammill. &uot;We sell our margarita mix in four states, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.&uot;

Fat Mama’s serves frozen lime margaritas and they serve a lot of them.

&uot;I have no idea how many we have sold, especially this summer with the heat the way it has been,&uot; said Gammill. &uot;We use gold tequila in our drinks. I think it gives them a better flavor.&uot;

Tequila is the primary spirit in margaritas. It is made from the from the blue agave plant which is related to the lily family, not the cactus family as commonly thought. There are many types of agave plants and they are used to make a spirit called mezcal. Tequila is made only from blue agave in the state of Jalisco in Mexico.

And while mezcal is not a tequila, tequila is a mezcal and they are graded in the same four categories. Silver, Plato or Blanco is not aged and it bottled within 60 days. Dorado or Gold is usually bottled within 60 to 120 days and the name refers to its caramel coloring. Resposado or rested, is aged for two months to one year. And the most expensive, Anejo or aged tequila. This is aged for at least one year but no more than five years. Anejo tequila, such as Cuervo 1800, is commonly served on its own such as a fine scotch.

Many people feel that anejo is to expensive to waste in a mixed drink and prefer the reposado or rested tequila in their margaritas. Also, tequilas made from 100 percent blue agave are labeled as such. Sometimes the fermented agave is mixed with cane or corn syrup, in this case it will be labeled 51 percent tequila, and you can tell the difference easily.

The other spirit included in a margarita is an orange flavored liqueur. The most commonly used is Triple Sec although many prefer its more expensive cousins Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

Lime is most common flavor margarita served. And while there is no substitute for fresh lime juice, frozen limeade makes a great margarita, especially if you are making frozen ones.

Perfect Margarita Straight Up

1/4 fresh lime

Kosher salt or other large grained salt

3/4 ounce Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec

1 1/4 ounce Cuervo tequila

Juice from 1 – 2 large limes

Pour the salt into a saucer. Wipe the rim of a chilled glass with the fresh lime. Dip glass rim in the saucer of salt. Tap the glass to shake off excess salt.

Mix the Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec, tequila and lime juice and a couple of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Close and shake until well mixed. Serve over crushed ice with a lime slices for garnish.

If you prefer your margarita’s frozen give this next one a try, you’ll notice it serves two. There’s no sense in messing up a blender for just one.

Frozen Margarita

3 ounces Cuervo tequila

1 ounce Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec

Juice from 3-4 limes or 1 1/2 ounce limeade

1 cup crushed ice

Mix ingredients in a blender. Blend until slushy. Serve in a salted glass with a lime slice for garnish.

Many people prefer a touch of sugar in their margaritas. By using the frozen limeade instead of fresh lime juice your drink will have a touch of sweetness. Or if you have the time try this margarita base, it keeps for a week in the refrigerator.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Margarita mix

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

2 cups fresh lemon juice

2 cups fresh lime juice

Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan. Sit over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let syrup cool completely and then and in the juices. Store in the refrigerator and stir well before using. To use this mix 1 1/2 ounce respado tequila. 3/4 ounce Triple Sec and a splash of the mix. Serve over crushed ice.

As good as these classics are every once in a while the desire for something new pops up. So once you have mastered lime margaritas you can branch out with some of these flavors.

My personal favorites are the peach and mango. Both have a great color to them and the taste is pure summer sunshine.

You can buy frozen peaches and use them as a substitute for the ice. When mangos are plentiful and cheap I buy them, peel, seed and chop a few for the freezer. Then substitute this for your ice just like the peach ones.

And just in case you need a light summertime dessert give this cheesecake a try. Served with a strong cup of coffee it will delight you and your guests.

Margarita Cheesecake

Yields 12 to 14 servings

1 1/4 cups vanilla wafer cookie


1/4 cup butter, melted

3 8-ounce packages cream

cheese, room temperature

2 cups sour cream

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons Triple sec

3 tablespoons tequila

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed

lime juice

2 teaspoons grated lime peel,

chopped very fine

4 large eggs

Thinly sliced limes for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cookie crumbs and butter in medium bowl until blended. Press mixture onto bottom and 1-inch up sides of a 9 -inch diameter springform pan. Refrigerate the crust while preparing filling.

Using a electric mixer or food processor beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add one cup sour cream, one cup sugar, Triple Sec, tequila, lime juice and lime peel and beat until well blended.

Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Pour filling into crust. Bake until center is softly set, about 50 minutes. Maintain oven temperature. Mix remaining one cup sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and one tablespoon lime juice in small bowl. Pour over cheesecake.

Using spatula, smooth top. Bake cheesecake five minutes longer. Transfer pan to rack and cool completely. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least four hours or overnight.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Remove pan sides.

Garnish cake with lime slices.