Whatever one might say of Hunter S. Thompson daily routine, it was anything but boring. At 3 p.m., the father of gonzo journalism would open his eyes to embrace another day of addictions. His daily supplements, ranging from alcohol to cocaine and acid, were actually just starters he’d take to pump himself up to finally start writing—but not earlier than midnight. He was particularly keen on neat spirits, and the only cocktail honored to compete with the liquors on that substantial menu was notably a margarita— or rather two, because Mr. Thompson had obviously no intention of limiting himself when it came to pleasures. So what’s so captivating about this drink that it made it to his short list and how to enjoy it if you’re living a lifestyle slightly less bohemian?
Whether it’s due to the tequila in it, the margarita happens to be America’s most beloved cocktail. In fact, this drink is so godly one Oklahoma woman even asked to charge her margs to Jesus once. The manufacturers of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic tequilas are equally besotted: if you look at the product descriptions, you’ll notice that many of the non-alc tequila- and agave-inspired spirits were made with a margarita in mind. While we already compiled a list of no and low margarita recipes, below you’ll find a list of essential non-alcoholic margarita ingredients such as mixers, lime juice, and agave syrup that will expand your at-home mixology options and significantly lower the chances of you pouring a margarita down the sink after the first sip.
The classic crack-and-pour mixers are Hella’s forte, and their fresh, peppery margarita mixer is the ideal companion to easy living. Made with real lime juice, red pepper extract, and cane sugar, this pure blend is free of the artificial stuff and perfectly suited for premium spirits. The spice is bold but not overpowering, and the fresh flavor can be creatively mixed with a variety of sweet or spicy counterparts. Best of all, it can be mixed and served in a minute’s time.
With Dhōs Orange, which is a non-alc substitute for triple sec, you can reduce calories by over 200 per serving: it’s sugar-free and just 5 calories per portion. Dhōs Orange is viscous and rich, with mouth-filling flavors of Navel oranges, tangerines, and clementines. Bitter citrus pith, cucumber, and watermelon rind add a slightly green exotic quality to the concentration of citrus flavors and provide a segue to the long lingering finish of warming spice and cooling menthol. Simply replace the triple sec with Dhōs Orange in your margarita and enjoy.
When life’s calling for extra flavor, you don’t want to settle for a bland margarita. A great go-to for turning classic margaritas spicy, the Smoked Chili Bitters will add a lively bite to any cocktail recipe and blend especially well with agave-based or aged spirits. These bitters are a surprising, creative blend of whole smoked chilis, orange peel, and gentian root that makes for a deep, complex finish. The kicker ingredient is the smoked chilis, sourced by Hella for their distinct, satisfying taste that brings this formula to the next level. A touch of caramelized sugar is added right before the bottle is sealed, bringing balance to the intensely bitter flavor. A drop or two of Smoked Chili Bitters will add a depth to any margarita, both regular and zero-proof.
The default, no-frills margarita recipe calls for lime juice, but you can go with orange, if you feel like your day could be sweetened up. Cheeky sells only all-natural, freshly-squeezed citrus juices that are strained, heated and bottled for extended shelf-life, so if you’re one of those people who buys fruits and veggies mainly to forget about them until they get all wrinkly and squishy, Cheeky juices might be a more durable and sustainable option.
Agave syrup is another bar staple often used in tequila cocktails. It’s sweeter than sugar and more neutral in flavor than honey, so add to taste depending on how you prefer your margaritas—sweet, dry, or in the middle. It’s also a reason for us to thank and exonerate bats after the rep crisis they’ve been through since early 2020: it turns out, the poor creature is one of the blue agave's main pollinators who actually makes tequila possible, so let’s show some respect.
There’s also a bundle if you’re already tired of reading and just want to unwind asap. It includes the Ritual Tequila Alternative, DHOS Orange Non-Alcoholic Spirit, and Lime Juice from Cheeky Cocktails. Simply mix the three in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until cold and frothy. Strain over a fresh glass of ice that has already been rimmed. Here you can find a 101 on shakers, mixing glasses and other essential barware tools you might need to step up your mixology game.
And if you ever dare to put a drink on His tab, make sure it’s at least virgin.