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The Margarita Just Got More Interesting

The twist in this riff on the popular cocktail involves garlic.

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Friday, Feb. 22, was National Margarita Day. But you don’t need that as an excuse to indulge in one. It is, after all, the best-selling cocktail in America.

But we have a suggestion: In lieu of drinking whatever watered down, frozen or well-tequila variation your local watering hole is schlepping, go somewhere nice and have it made properly (good tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice).

Or go bold. Really, really bold.

That’s what Will Wyatt is doing. The former barkeep at New York’s The NoMad Hotel just opened Mister Paradise, a sociable East Village cocktail den that evokes both mid-century Art Deco hotels in Havana and a multitude of Stanley Kubrick films (namely The Shining and A Clockwork Orange).

It’s the kind of place that isn’t afraid to take rather wild spins on classic cocktails, including, yes, the margarita, which here is radicalized into something rather unique.

Will Wyatt at his sociable East Village cocktail den. (Mister Paradise)

Herein, Wyatt’s thoughts on the margarita, and a recipe for his (very) unusual take.

InsideHook: Why is the margarita still so popular?
Will Wyatt: I think a margarita is a cocktail that spawns a lot of happy mental connections. Anyone who breaks away from their job and posts up on a beach somewhere likely has a margarita in their hand. Sense memory is a powerful thing. When I sit down at a bar on a snowy night in New York and drink a margarita, every sip comes with a little bit of that escape. Also, margaritas are delicious.

IH: How creative can you be with a margarita? Are there are any unofficial rules?
WW: You can be as creative as you want with a margarita, it just won’t necessarily be a margarita [see Will’s recipe, below]. To me, once you deviate from the orange liqueur, lime, tequila recipe, it’s probably still a very delicious cocktail, but throw another name on it.

IH: The Tommy’s Margarita variation (replacing orange liqueur with agave nectar) seems to be a trend in cocktail circles. What are your thoughts?
WW: Tommy’s certainly is a big order these days. I think a big part of that is the current trend of a more health-focused lifestyle. Agave has a far lower glycemic index, which means it has a more subtle effect on your blood sugar than regular sugar. Also, again, a Tommy’s margarita is a delicious drink.

IH: Should the margarita be revered like other classic cocktails, or was it meant to be more fun?
WW: The margarita is absolutely one of the more impactful cocktails out there. Of course, as with nearly all classic cocktails, there are a thousand different tales of its inception, but it is certainly an important and revered export from our southern neighbors.

And here’s Will’s variation on the classic drink … which is (rightly) not called a margarita, but certainly offers up a great punch of agave. And, um, garlic brine (note: we had one on the bar’s opening night, it’s great).

The Party Lobster is a spicy riff on the spicy margarita. (Mister Paradise)

Party Lobster
Created By Will Wyatt

4 dashes fermented habanero/garlic Brine
1/4 oz Campari
1/2 oz mezcal
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz clarified watermelon cordial
1 1/2 oz blanco tequila

Says Wyatt: “It’s a riff on the spicy margarita. It sets your mouth on fire with habanero, but here it’s fermented and paired with savory garlic, watermelon, lime and a blend of agave spirits.”

Note: If you’re looking for a good tequila to make a margarita of any variety, check out our feature on 7 Great Tequilas You’ve Never Heard Of, And How to Take Them.

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