Some recipes seem to be so fundamental that there is an objective answer. For instance, How do I make a risotto base, How do I make caramel, What are the basics of a soufflé? This question about margaritas seems to be distinct enough to have a fairly objective answer.

What's our policy on these types of question? Is it a slippery slope, is there a clear delineation?

  • The first answer to the margarita question suggested 2 different recipes. and a third technique. not sure how fundamental that makes it. I hear what you are saying, there are some things which are the basics (hollandaise, bechemel, bernaise) but I'm wary of the slippery slope too. I'm sure @Aaronut posted something about this somewhere once. I'll see if I can find it. – Sam Holder Sep 8 '10 at 15:57
  • @sam, yeah, I'm not sure this question would meet the criteria, but I was wondering this the other day, and this seemed as good a time to ask as any. – yossarian Sep 8 '10 at 16:17

Honestly, when I saw the question and the fact that it was closed, I actually thought "eh, I probably would have left it alone." Even though it was worded rather poorly ("best recipe"), there are really only a couple of answers.

On the other hand, I think if the OP is willing to reword his question (no sign of that yet), then we would actually be helping him. He says that he tried something and it didn't turn out right; what I think he really wants to know (or should want to know!) is why it didn't turn out right, not just a ratio that may or may not be what he's actually used to with the store-bought mixes.

The fact that it would be so easy to reword this question (if he would just tell us what he tried) makes me want to keep it closed for the time being. I think that the answers would be far more interesting and generally useful after a revision or two.

If he really doesn't care about any of that and just wants the hallmark ratio then fine, we can also edit the question into a one-liner and strip out all of the background information (which is no longer pertinent) to make it nice and search-friendly. Either way, I think it calls for some editing and should remain closed until we get some sort of feedback from the author.

  • Absolutely. I tried to make it obvious that we would help him if he listed what the recipe he used was and what was wrong with it, and tried to make it obvious that closing wasn't terminal. I linked to the FAQ posts with the reasons for no recipe requests and the clarification about what closed means. If he has what he wants then closing it causes no issues, if he wants something else then let him speak up, we are listening. Either way unless there is some feedback I'm not sure we need to do anything at the moment. – Sam Holder Sep 8 '10 at 18:01
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    I change the question ... is that more along the lines of what you were saying? Thanks – Martin Sep 8 '10 at 18:46
  • @Martin: Very much so, looks great! (I see that it's already been reopened, too.) – Aaronut Sep 8 '10 at 21:03

@Aaronut brought this issue up in one of his answers here. This seems to indicate that people thought Aaronuts idea of allowing recipes which are so well known that they are basically asking about preperation was a good one.

Part of me is inclined to agree, but part of me also thinks that if the recipe is so well known that people can find it anywhere, then let them do that and if something then goes wrong they can come here and say

'I tried this recipe for hollandaise, but it [Split/was too thick/was too runny/was lumpy] what did I do wrong'

and we can then help them.

If some good and mainly objective criteria for differentiating between things which have uncontroversial recipes and those that don't can be come up with then I'd listen, but my feeling is that it is just a slippery slope.


It's possible the author's intent was to get the hallmark ratio, a la what Ruhlman does in his book. If that's the case, I think that could be a fine question. The class of things that Ratio can define a "this makes an X and X" for seem like they might be OK when asked that way, although even within that book the author acknowledges differences amongst chefs on ratios such as mayonnaise.

There was an edge to the question as originally asked that appeared to read "How do I make this taste good?" That doesn't have a single answer, and in fact the answer is highly individual. Several people drinking from the same margarita batch might prefer sweeter or less sweet, etc. In the case of a question like that it seems that the author might be able to pick a "correct" answer (the one that fits his or her preferences), but the community could not make an authoritative decision when voting. In fact, if we had any bar tenders present (do we?) it seems that they'd all be voting for their favorite formula.


I interpreted this question as a request to replicate the taste of the mixes the author was previously using. I think we've established that a recipe request that is trying to imitate/replicate something specific (a restaurant or a particular flavor) can be on-topic.

  • 1
    Anyone want to explain their downvotes? – Bob Sep 8 '10 at 20:21

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