Margarita, por favor. But hold THAT mix.

My family has had a long running love affair/history with the classic margarita, starting with what I remember of my grandfather, Dickie, and his version of a margarita called Dr. Demento's. I have asked my parents over the years exactly where the name comes from, and really haven't gotten the straightest answer except that they are so strong that they make you feel a bit "demented" in the head. Growing up, I remember weekends in Catalina or in Palm Desert where the first thing Dickie would offer to any adult coming through the door was an ice-cold glass of his potent concoction. As my sister and I grew up, we started to inquire what EXACTLY was a Dr. Demento. Dickie would tell us it was his secret mixture of tequila, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. He even let us watch him make them once, which, truly, was kind of a rite of passage since no one really ever knew how much of what was put into his "margaritas" (and, without giving away his recipe, I can say there is PLENTY of tequila).

My sister loves to tell the story about a weekend she spent with my Dad in Catalina, where upon arriving in the cove he was handed a fresh Dr. Demento and proceded to have a few more to the point that he needed to take a nap. Being so young at the time, my sister and I didn't really understand the effects of alcohol, but when she told the story to my Mom and I later that weekend, my Mom about fell over laughing: my Dad was so "conked" out by the potency of the "Demento's" he had had that my sister could only wake him up by putting ice cubes on the bottom of his feet. And, I can safely say from LATER personal experience, that yes, Dickie's Dr. Demento's are that strong, but also utterly delicious. Why? because of the fresh juice.

I still remember the tartness from the juice and the slight burn from the tequila as the first, cold sip passed your lips. My Dad would ALWAYS let out a loud, "Ahhhh...", showing his affirmation that this batch was a good batch. Dickie always smiled knowing his "from-scratch" margaritas had pleased the crowd of guests once again. Over the last few years, Dickie's health started to fade, as did the frequency of when he made the Dr. Demento's. When he passed recently, I remember being so sad that we as a family and our friends would never get to have a proper Dr. Demento margarita ever again. I think my Dad even mentioned something about this now-famous, fresh margarita in his Eulogy.

Speaking of my Dad, he is a huge margarita fan. I cannot think of any alcoholic beverage (other than wine, but in my family, wine is literally like water...) that he orders when we are out. I can hear him now, on a recent Sunday lunch: "What tequilas do you have? Do you have Casadores? I'll have a Casadores Margarita, on the rocks, with salt." It's like clockwork. Sitting in the jacuzzi after a Saturday of golf, a lazy Sunday afternoon at home playing cards, if it's not wine, it is always a margarita. Over the last few years I have seen him go though different types of pre-made mixes for his "margs", yet all of them impart this artificial, syrupy-sugary, fake citrus flavor, one that I personally can't stand. He also mentioned that he really didn't care for the mixes either, but it was just "easier" than taking the time to make one from scratch.

I was just at my parents house this past Monday, and offered to make dinner for the family. And, inspired by the beautiful Summer weather and the fact I was going to BBQ, I felt compelled to make "margs" from scratch. I remembered a few years back a friend of mine had a group of us over to her house and had made what was called "The Perfect Margarita" from scratch, and we all couldn't get enough of them. She had found the recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine, and I had held onto a copy of the recipe over the years. I decided to resurrect the recipe because it reminded me nostalgically of Dickie's Dr. Demento's, except with the additional sugar and Triple Sec.

I have altered the recipe slightly from Cooks Illustrated as theirs says to add all the ingredients together, including the tequila, and then serve from a pitcher. I think mine is a little easier than having to measure EXACTLY 1/2 C of juice here and there. Plus, when I make a margarita, I prefer to add as much tequila as I want and then top it off with the mix.

My Margarita Mix

8 limes, juiced
8 lemons, juiced
1/2 C granulated sugar (or superfine if you can get it; just helps to dissolve better)
1 C Triple Sec
*1 C Tequila (optional)
First, start with the obvious: squeeze the lemons and limes. Trick of the trade: put your lemons and limes in the microwave before juicing; this loosens up the juice inside the skin. They should be warm to the touch. Second: roll them back and forth on your counter, applying some pressure, to help release the juice from the pulp.

I couldn't find my parent's juicer so I did my other fail-proof squeezing: slice each lemon and lime in half, and squeeze the juice over a strainer over a measuring glass using tongs as pressure rather than destroying your hands squeezing the juice yourself.

No one wants a margarita with seeds. Strain them. And, as you can kind of see from the pic, you are left with about 2 - 2 1/2 cups of juice.

Next, add the sugar to the strained juices; make sure to whisk very well as you don't want the sugar to puddle at the bottom; the point is to dissolve all of the sugar INTO the juice.

Next whisk in the Triple Sec and *tequila (optional). I felt adding this 1C of tequila helped to "wake up" the mix (and, I like booze).

If you add the tequila, you will have roughly 4 cups of my "Mix". If not, you will have roughly 3 cups. I then fill a glass with ice to the top; pour about a 3-count of tequila over the ice and then top with my "Mix".

Tart, appropriately sweet, slightly tangy, and all the while a citrus punch with the addition of tequila. My margarita was born.

While I was taking these photos, I thought it fitting to get a shot with Party Marty (aka MOM) and my grandmother, Bevey, in the background. Bevey was Dickie's husband and might be the only person who really knows the true measurements for the tried-and-true Dr. Demento's. She was pleased to see that I was making my margaritas from scratch as Dick had done for so many years. My Dad came home from the office and I immediately poured him my version of a "marg", just as Dickie had done for so many years for all of us. He took a sip, smiled at me, and said the familiar, " that's some GFS!" My Dad said something to the point of never wanting to bother with the pre-made mixes again when I could make him something like this.

And, we both slept pretty hard that night, after a few of my new-and-improved Dr. Demento's. No ice to the feet, but I did wake up to my sister telling me it was time to go to bed. Yep. I took my own "nap" after a few of my margaritas. But, the effort, fresh juice, and knowing the EXACT ingredients that went into my drink (rather than corn syrup-processed, shelf stable mixes)helped to prevent a hangover the next day.


  1. Love this! Joe is all about the freshly made margarita as well--he gave up on mixes a while back, too. We should have you over for a marg night sometime! An awesome twist, when they're in season, is to use Meyer lemons. Adds a certain je ne sais quois that is really lovely. Also, if we have it on hand, we like to use agave nectar in place of the sugar (We started doing that after El Cholo told us that's what they used!!). The sweetness is "different," and you don't have to whisk the sugar continuously to get it to dissolve, or go through the effort of making simple syrup. I like it. :)

  2. I have tried it with the Agave nectar - love it too! And, of course with the Meyer lemons.

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  4. For the 4th I made "skinny" margaritas for the girls. They were a hit, even with the guys, and damn easy to make. The brownie points weren't bad either.

    For a large batch:
    36oz Fresca (0 calories hence skinny)
    12oz Tequila (white/clear)
    6oz Fresh squeezed lime juice (I prefer using a citrus juicer for some pulp)
    1oz Triple sec
    1oz Cointreau
    1oz Grand Marnier

    The ratio of 6-2-1 is easy to scale down.