Matt Russell For Inside Tucson Business

Whether it’s blended, shaken, stirred or strained, few would deny that the margarita has evolved into Tucson’s official cocktail. What began generations ago as a relatively simple integration of tequila and fresh lime juice has now grown into a burgeoning beverage category of its own, with seemingly countless variations calling on ingredients from prickly pear sorbet to basil granita.

So what does it take to assemble an award-winning margarita of global magnitude? Ask three-time Tucson Iron Chef Ryan Clark of Lodge on the Desert.

Clark surprised many last year at the World Margarita Championship, when he earned first place for his ‘Pom Sour.’

“I’m just a chef who enjoys making good cocktails,” he said, admitting that most people knew more about his cooking than his cocktailing before last year’s competition.

But when you listen to Clark discuss the recipe that took him over the top, it’s no surprise that it came from the hands of a gifted culinary artist.

The winning margarita featured reposado tequila, a citrus simple syrup, pomegranate jam and pomegranate balsamic vinegar. It was such a hit with the judges that Clark decided to add it to the Lodge on the Desert’s cocktail menu.

This year’s World Margarita Championship is scheduled for Oct. 25, and Clark has been busily preparing for the last six months. What cocktail does he believe will bring home the gold again this year?

He calls it the “Salted Lime,” which features a blanco tequila infused with “black limes,” which are fresh limes that have been juiced, cooked in salt water and dried outside in the sun for one week. To the infused tequila, Clark will add a citrus simple syrup, Grand Marnier and a jalapeno tincture spray.

Fifteen contestants will compete on a live stage at the event and will be judged on presentation, creativity and taste.

They will have 10 minutes to assemble their entries from scratch and present them to the panel of judges. Both Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice awards will be conferred, and food pairings will be provided by 17 Tucson Originals member restaurants.

More than 35 years ago, Jimmy Buffet’s anthem to the classic margarita centered simply on a “frozen concoction that helps me hang on.” It may be time for a new song to celebrate today’s modern margarita  —just have to find a word that rhymes with tincture.

The 7th annual World Margarita Championship will be Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Tucson Museum of Art.

READ ON INSIDE TUCSON BUSINESS: http://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/on_the_menu/will-tucson-s-iron-chef-repeat-as-mayor-of-margaritaville/article_828c7296-3799-11e3-919d-0019bb2963f4.html