Learn how to mix a classic margarita and all the marg-making essentials from Graham Bartlett, the chef behind Village at Shirlington’s soon-to-be-opened fast-casual Mexican joint, Taco + Piña, in honor of National Margarita Day this February 22nd. It’s got a piña twist, of course!


Serves 4
Prep Time: About an hour

1ea         pineapple, crown, skin, and core removed
2pc         star anise
1pc         Mexican cinnamon, about 2”
2T           agave
8oz         blanco tequila of choice, such as Sauza
2ea lime
salt and ice for garnishes

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a snug baking dish, place pineapple flat-side down, and brush with the agave and 2oz of the tequila. Break apart cinnamon and star anise into large pieces and lay over pineapple. Cover with foil and roast in hot oven for about 45 minutes to one hour until caramelized and soft.
  2. When the pineapple is done, allow to cool, then scrape the anise and  cinnamon off to discard. Chop the pineapple into chunks, and process in a blender for several minutes until a smooth puree paste forms.
  3. To assemble, rim your favorite pint glass by rolling the lip in agave, then coarse salt. Squeeze two fresh limes into a shaker, with the remaining 6oz of tequila, and 6oz of the puree. Top with 4 scoops of ice, and shake vigorously for about one minute until creamy (this may have to be divided into 2-4 smaller batches depending on the  size of your shaker). Pour into rimmed glasses and serve immediately.

Note: For a frozen version, repeat step 3 but substitute the shaker with a blender and process until creamy. The puree will keep in fridge for about one week, and allso makes a great dessert with ice cream or pastries!


Sonder/Sway: What are the essentials for a great margarita?
Chef Graham Bartlett: The best ingredients for a great margarita are fresh produce and quality tequila. Tequila can be a matter of taste as there are so many varieties and subtle nuances, but a quality product is a great start. Also,don’t skimp on using fresh limes and produce. Avoid the syrupy pre-made mixes you see in the grocery store and some Tex-Mex restaurants and head straight for the fresh limes and citrus. 

S/S: To salt the rim or to not salt the rim? What’s your pick and why?
GB: As a chef I need to have the salt to balance the sour sweetness, but don’t go overboard. Much like what goes inside the glass, don’t settle for the cheapest salt to put on the rim. Some drinks in Mexico such as Palomas often actually have a pinch shaken into the drink itself for balance, which is great.  

S/S: What food pairs best with a margarita?
GB: I  think even air goes great with margaritas (haha!). Spicy [food] obviously lends itself to a margarita since we are looking for balance from the sour/salty/sweet flavor profile. Nothing wrong with adding it into the drink, and I love spicy food, but for me personally I like to keep the chiles in the food and the drink refreshing to put out the fires, so to speak. Otherwise the sky is the limit.