New York has been HOT this week. Like humid, sticky, 99-degrees-but-feels-hotter hot. And when you need a break after a long day, the best thing to do is…have a margarita. Happily, the lovely Kate from the whole foods blog Cookie + Kate shares her favorite recipe below…

The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have
By Kate of Cookie + Kate

In a past life, I bartended at a college bar and mixed countless margaritas for students during my shifts. Truth be told, we used a powdered sweet-and-sour mix that was no better than lemon-lime Kool-Aid. A few too many sips of those sugary margaritas practically guaranteed a stomachache and, thanks to the cheap tequila, a headache to match.

Real margaritas are a very different story.

Made with freshly squeezed lime juice and 100% agave tequila, margaritas are naturally sweet and sour, strong little drinks. I used agave nectar, which is a natural sweetener derived from the same plant as tequila, in place of the standard simple syrup for this recipe.

After playing with the proportions of basic margarita ingredients on my own, I invited my friend Emily over to help me finalize the recipe. We experimented with different amounts, and eventually we tried leaving the Cointreau out entirely and replaced it with fresh squeezed orange juice. After my first sip, I smiled and cheered that we’d found it. I passed the winning cocktail to her, and we agreed that we’d finally found the best margarita we’d ever had. We mixed up a couple more (for good measure!) and then rode our bicycles to the nearest available swimming pool.

Recipe: The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have

You’ll need:
Kosher salt or ground sea salt
2 ounces (1/4 cup) tequila
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon light agave nectar
1 lime wedge or round, for garnish

Pour a layer of salt onto a small plate (preferably one just slightly larger than the top of your margarita glass). Slice off a small piece of lime and run the wet edge of the slice along half of the rim of your glass. Dip the top of the glass into the salt at a 45-degree angle and roll it from side to side to catch the salt. Add ice cubes to your glass and set it aside.

Fill a small cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the tequila, freshly squeezed lime and orange juice and agave nectar. Put on the lid and shake for 30 seconds. Strain the liquid into your glass and garnish with a slice of lime.

-Use 100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco. I recommend Milagro, Hornitos or Patrón.
-Citrus at room temperature is easier to juice than cold citrus, so take your limes and oranges out of the fridge an hour in advance.
-Consider lining the rim of just half your glass with salt so you can control how much salt you taste with each sip (that’s a great tip I picked up from a recent issue of Bon Appetit). If you’d prefer a light sprinkling of salt all around the rim, just pour a very thin layer of salt onto your plate and run the lime slice around the entire rim of the margarita glass.

(Keep in mind that since the fruit contributes liquid and sweetness, you might want to reduce the amount of orange juice and/or agave nectar in the original recipe):
* Muddle a few pieces of juicy fruit like strawberries, peaches, watermelon or mango at the bottom of your shaker before adding ice and the other ingredients. You can muddle up fresh herbs, like a couple of basil or cilantro leaves, for garden-fresh flavor or add a skinny slice of serrano or jalapeño pepper for heat. Strawberry basil (not shown) and grapefruit serrano (shown in the photo below, on the left) are both great combinations.
* Add a splash of fruit juice to your shaker. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is one of my favorites because it cuts through the flavor of the tequila. Pomegranate or cranberry juice would be festive during the holidays.
* For a frozen, fruity margarita, blend the basic margarita ingredients in a blender along with 1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberries are my favorite, shown in the photo below, on the right) and a few ice cubes. Serve over a couple of ice cubes to slow the melting.
Have fun with your rim salt. Mix in raw sugar or spices, like ground cinnamon or chili powder, to add an extra layer of complexity to your drink.

Thank you, Kate! These look truly amazing.

P.S. More best recipes, including mac n’ cheese and avocado toast.

(Photos by Kate from Cookie + Kate. Thanks to Shoko for help with this series.)