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Orange liquor primer for Cinco de Mayo

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The neighbors always ask why my margaritas are so good.

I appreciate the compliment, but don’t really want to share all the details. I usually say “fresh limes and good tequila.”

Seems plausible, right? They usually don’t press beyond that.

But what I don’t tell them (until now) is that the secret ingredient - a secret weapon if you will - is top shelf orange liquor. Not the cloyingly sweet kids stuff like Triple Sec, but exotic, real fruit-infused high-end liquors like Gran Marnier or Cointreau, both from France.

The delicious and aromatic Cognac-based spirits are friendly enough to sip on their own, and absolutely sing in margaritas. Both cost about $30 per bottle. Gran Gala from Italy is a bit less expensive, but desirable as well. The rich orange flavor of these elixirs, combined with fresh lime juice and 100 percent pure agave tequila, make for a special cocktail.

All of this is important with Cinco de Mayo festivities on the horizon.

But what about being “local” or as “authentic” as possible? There’s always a few out there who remind me of this. While traditional high-end margs are made with Cointreau or Gran Marnier, there are high quality Mexican equivalents (we share the Sonoran Desert, so we’re mere neighbors).

I recently tried Patron Citronge, from the venerable tequila producer of the same name, and, wow, what a revelation. Bright, fresh orange zest and bitters come to the forefront, along with that warm, whole orange flavor you want in your margaritas.

It is produced in Jalisco, Mexico, so it passes muster with the “local and authentic” police. A bottle of Patron Citronge costs just $23 and is available at top local wine and spirits retailers like AJ’s Fine Foods, Fry’s Food Stores, Total Wine and BevMo.

I guess it’s time to start thinking beyond cerveza, tequila and coffee liquor when we consider adult beverages from Mexico. Let’s add Citronge to the repertoire. Salud!

Contact Drinks Editor Mark Nothaft via e-mail and click here and follow him on Twitter. Subscribe to his frequent columns on Examiner and click here.

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