(Note: this post was originally published on February 15, 2019. It was one of the earliest posts on The Rogue Brussel Sprout! The date above reflects migration to the new platform, at which point the photos were updated).
A Margarita for Winter
Prepare to have your whole margarita world shaken up (pun intended): ginger margaritas are here!
Margaritas are, by far, my favorite cocktail. Something about the combination of the tart lime juice, complexly-flavored tequila, and salty rim is right up my alley. Dave and I keep a tequila "life list" and keep track of every tequila we've tried (of which there have been many!). We've traveled to Mexico City and Santa Fe in search of good tequila and are always on the hunt for Mexican-inspired cuisine and beverages.
My only problem with margaritas occurs during the winter. That delightful tart, bright beverage screams summer to me. A margarita on the deck on a summer evening, or after a long hot hike both seem perfect (especially when accompanied by vast amounts of salty tortilla chips and guac). But in the winter by the fire? It just doesn't feel quite right. But never fear, the ginger-y winter margarita is here! This cozy ginger cocktail feels just right for a chilly evening.
In order to create a winter margarita, I've made a few ingredient swaps: aged tequila instead of blanco, Grand Marnier instead of the more typical Cointreau, and a delightful ginger simple syrup instead of agave. I've also added a bit of orange juice since oranges are such a special and iconic winter citrus crop. All combine to provide a cozy, spicy, wintry feel with a deeper, more complex flavor profile.
This margarita riff takes my most-loved beverage into cozy winter territory. It pairs nicely with any Mexican-inspired dish, but the combination is especially beautiful if you can incorporate some traditional fall or winter produce or spices. Think Brussel Sprout Nachos, Butternut Squash Chili, Butternut Squash Enchiladas, or anything you can add a pinch of cinnamon and ginger too.
I should also mention that I'd consider this drink a "top shelf margarita" (a.k.a., "cadillac margarita"), meaning it uses higher-grade ingredients than is typical. Many tequila bars will have the option for both a classic margarita and a (pricier) top shelf margarita. Usually that higher distinction means several things: an aged tequila, Grand Marnier as the orange liqueur, and fresh-squeezed lime. This winter margarita recipe fulfills all three, plus utilizes your own homemade simple syrup instead of agave. Cheers to going the top shelf route!
What is a Simple Syrup?
This winter margarita relies upon a simple syrup to get all that wonderful, cozy ginger flavor into a drinkable form. If you've never made a simple syrup before, don't be intimidated. It's actually really easy to do at home, and a simple syrup keeps great in the fridge for weeks. You can use this easy ginger syrup to transform any cocktail into a winter-appropriate ginger cocktail!
A simple syrup is just a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water, cooked down until it becomes thick and syrupy. It's a great way for capturing flavors that are difficult to get into a liquid form otherwise. Because ginger root is a solid, you can't readily add it to a cocktail. The recipe below will walk you through making a ginger simple syrup using whole ginger root. But this concept will work for cinnamon, herbs, vanilla beans, and even edible flowers. That's why the simple syrup is a very powerful tool in mixology, and a great special addition to this top shelf margarita.
How Do You Make a Simple Syrup?
A simple syrup is easy and quick to make! You'll start with a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water; I like to use a cup of each. Add your flavorings (in this case ginger!) and cook it over a low simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half. You want to end up with a rich, thick liquid that will coat the back of a spoon (but not so thick that it's gloppy; otherwise it will be too difficult to incorporate into a cocktail). Strain the simple syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, then store it in a sealed jar in the fridge. It will keep for a few weeks, so don't hesitate to make a big batch, especially if you think another ginger cocktail is in your future.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Ginger root. The star flavor in this ginger cocktail! You definitely want to work with fresh ginger root to make the simple syrup. Ginger powder will not work!
Granulated white sugar. White sugar is really the way to go here; if you use a less refined sugar, like coconut, the simple syrup will end up looking brown and muddy.
Reposado tequila. Reposado, or "rested", tequila has been barrel-aged for 2-12 months. It has a more complex flavor than its lesser-aged counterpart blanco (or silver) tequila and is the typical base spirit for a top shelf margarita. Because reposado has a subtle whiskey-like vibe, it's the perfect fit for this cozier winter margarita. Or, feel free to use an anejo tequila (aged 1-3 years) instead.
Grand Marnier. You can sub your favorite orange liqueur here, but Grand Marnier is really the way to do it for a top shelf margarita. It has a rich, cozy vibe that complements the rest of this cocktail beautifully.
Fresh-squeezed lime juice
Fresh-squeezed orange juice
Garnishes. I like to garnish this drink with a lime wheel (or wedge) and a little piece of crystallized ginger for nibbling!
Have you ever wanted to have a cozy winter evening with some Mexican-inspired food, but then felt confused because a margarita feels a bit too summery for that sort of vibe? If so, then this winter margarita is for you! It's our ideal cocktail for a winter Friday evening at home because it's seasonal and comforting, easy to make, and goes beautifully alongside all our favorite Mexican-inspired finger foods.
One of the reasons I love having this blog is because it allows me to share our own household favorites with you! This ginger cocktail certainly falls into that category. It's one we make again and again, year after year. We've even made this top shelf margarita for a Valentine's Day date night! It has a very special place in our house, and I hope it will in yours too.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
The margarita gets a cozy update with the addition of warming ginger. This easy ginger cocktail is everything you love about a classic margarita, but the flavor profile feels so right for fall and winter.