The Perfect Margarita

Paco from Hatch shows us how he gets down with a classic

“When done wrong, even with the right ingredients, a margarita just won’t taste great,” Paco says as he slings his silver shaker over his shoulder with experienced ease. Outside, a grey sky spits cold rain onto the recently turned leaves. Fall has spread across Jackson Hole. On summer days, Hatch’s deck is covered with post-hike / post-bike gangs cashing in on their reward: Paco’s oh-so-refreshing margarita. On snowy days, the margarita soothes shared stories of big air, big falls, and those full-grinned last run powder turns.

Today, we are just in time for our favorite happy hour treat. Darting through blazes of yellow aspen trees in the early afternoon’s sun, we sprinted our last miles of biking to get back to town. A dark line of rainclouds in silent pursuit.

Paco smiles to himself as he measures out the 2 to 1 to 2 ratio of the fresh goods in his jigger: 2 oz of Camarena Silver tequila, 1 oz of agave nectar, and 2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice. “Squeezed fresh in house daily,” he explains proudly as he notices me watching. I’ve watched before too, because it’s clear that the secret to Hatch’s signature drink is not the pure goodness of the ingredients but really Paco’s understanding of the little extras needed to make the best margarita in town.

“Squeezed fresh in house daily,”

First comes the glass. “You’ve got to make sure to get an even distribution of lime juice around the outside of the rim,” he explains as he rolls the rim of his tumbler through a plate of salt, “to ensure an evenly salted rim.” The glass is set onto the wooden bar, its rim now coated in an even layer of white salt crystals.  

Next; the ice. Paco scoops a neat pile of ice into the prepped glass. Apart, of course, from the top-quality freshness of pure lime juice, Paco insists that ice is the most important factor in the overall quality of his margarita. The smaller the cube, like most common household ones, the faster the dilution process, thus rendering a mediocre final product. At Hatch, Paco explains, their ice cubes are just the right size and density to dilute the tartness of the lime in the shaker while still maintaining the full flavor and potency of the drink as a whole once poured.

Makes sense, but my gaze softens as my tired legs sink further in to my chair. I’m glad we got our ride in before the rain. Will those Aspen groves lose too many leaves in this storm?

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A sudden clang from Paco’s direction snaps me back to attention. It’s game time. Paco throws a new handful of ice into his shaker, pours in the measured ingredients slapping a smaller cup onto the butt of the first and begins his shake. The sound of cubes clacking against steel turns into a more uniform slushing as his pace quickens, that same soft grin on his face the whole while. It’s at that point of slushing, he explains as he replaces the butt of his shaker with a strainer, that he knows the drink is ready. He pours the light green liquid over the cubes and a small layer of froth lands neatly on top, just perfectly in line with the pre-salted rim. Still watching closely, I learn that like any good beer these suds are essential, as the effervescence helps release flavor through scent to the drinker, hitting all the senses with one good shake.

With a quick hand he adds a straw, a wedge of lime, et voila!  He places it in front of me, a slight tilt in his head, his eyebrow cocked in expectation as I take my first sip. Hatch’s perfect Margarita. I smile and notice it’s pouring outside. Well earned, I see my tacos arriving too. “Thanks, Paco.”

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Paco’s Perfect Margarita
2 oz Camarena Silver tequila
1 oz  agave nectar
2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
good ice – not too small!

Join Paco for a margarita and tacos daily at Hatch. 120 West Broadway in downtown Jackson.
For reservations call 307.203.2780.

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Images © Taylor Glenn