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The perfect margarita

Photograph: Chris Litwin

There’s a reason margaritas evoke a tropical paradise. More refreshing than beer, more flavorful than wine and stronger than both, margaritas are like an alcoholic cold shower on a sweltering day. And as with many of life’s great pleasures, margaritas are a simple concoction: All you need is tequila, fresh lime, orange liqueur, ice and salt. We break down the classic cocktail to those five essential elements, exploring the importance, lore and best examples of each. All this reading getting you thirsty? Dig in to our list of top-notch margaritas around town, from a 45½-ounce monsterita to a fancy number lined with black lava salt. Salud!

Bars

Tequila

The best agave spirit for your margarita might not be the same one you'd pick for sipping.

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Restaurants

Lime

The little green fruit has a big role: amping up flavor, freshness and tartness in a margarita.

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Bars

Orange liqueur

It plays the strong, silent supporter to tequila's star turn, but it's a must for a balanced margarita.

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Restaurants

Salt

Call it the margarita nanny: That sodium-encrusted rim tells all the other flavors how to behave.

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Restaurants

Ice

Blended, frozen, straight up or on the rocks-we've got the cold facts on why each of the margarita's incarnations might make you ...

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Restaurants

The great upgrade debate

Master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim explains why spending more on your cocktail is a good thing.

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Restaurants

How the margarita flowered

Legend has it the margarita was named after a beautiful woman named Margaret. We politely disagree.

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Restaurants

Give it to me straight

To truly appreciate the agave nectar of the gods, hit the city's best tequila bars and order it neat.

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Restaurants

Marga-redo

Five mixologists whip up their creative takes on the classic cocktail-and you can, too.

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Restaurants

Causing a stir

The best store-bought margarita mixes, for the mixology-challenged.

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Restaurants

Fruit fight

Four different orange liqueurs that range in price from ay caramba to affordable.

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Restaurants

Operation Extreme Margarita

A weeks-long, hangover-inducing offensive delivers standouts in four categories.

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Restaurants

Domestic buzz

Transform your home into your own personal cantina with these boozy accessories.

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