• Julia Thiel
  • You can’t see the carbonation, but it’s there

Full disclosure: carbonated margaritas are basically the extent of the experiments in this post. There’s one slight variation on the classic margarita, but if you’re waiting for a big reveal at the end, it’s not going to happen.

Since last fall I’ve been the proud owner of a drink carbonation system (not the commercial kind, but a homemade version like the one described here), and while I’ve been putting it to good use carbonating water, I’ve mostly ignored one of its major functions: carbonating cocktails. One advantage of making your own system is that you can carbonate anything you want (whereas most commercial systems only allow you to carbonate water). With the return of warmer weather and the questionable excuse of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to remedy that by making carbonated margaritas.

The first step, of course, was deciding on a recipe. I’ve made good margaritas before but couldn’t remember what recipe I used, or if I’d just made one up. Pretty much everything I read online agreed that a margarita should involve tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, though the proportions varied widely; some articles claimed that a margarita should consist of three parts tequila, two parts triple sec, and one part lime juice, while others said that the proper ratio was 1:1:1. Some recipes involved sugar, others didn’t.

I settled on two parts tequila to one part triple sec and one part lime juice, recommended by both Epicurious and Esquire, though I read later that the International Bartenders Association calls for a 7:4:3 ratio of tequila to Cointreau to lime juice (which isn’t all that far off, really). I also adopted some elements from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe: using a mix of lemon and lime juice and infusing the juices, along with a little sugar, with the zest of the lemons and limes. I only had an hour to let the zest work its magic before I strained it out, though—far less than the recommended four to 24 hours. I’m not sure it did much. The cocktail still turned out well, though: I liked the mix of lemon and lime juice, which was especially handy because I had plenty of lemons on hand and only one lime. The carbonation was fairly gentle, more of a slight prickle than the full-on bubbly burning sensation that highly carbonated water can cause (fun fact: CO2 bubbles trigger pain) .

I might try carbonating it a little more next time, but I liked the mild bubbliness of the drink; I think extra carbonation might make it hard to taste the cocktail. I ended up making a second variety of margarita, this time with Meyer lemons (they were on sale at Stanley’s last time I went, so I had some on hand). Because Meyer lemons are sweeter than conventional ones I knew the proportions would be different, so I did some googling and came up with a recipe from the blog White on Rice Couple: an ounce and a half of tequila, another ounce and a half of Meyer lemon juice, and an ounce of triple sec. I carbonated it the same way I had the first one (shaking the cocktail first with ice, because cold liquids take carbonation better, before pouring it into a plastic bottle to carbonate it). This recipe turned out just a little too tart—not so sour that I had to add simple syrup, but quickly approaching that line. The Meyer lemons, though, were a nice touch, adding a distinctive floral aroma to the drink. You may not be able to make a margarita with them by the standards of the International Bartenders Association, but I’d use them any day.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.