Liquidity: Pucker Up

7.13.2010

By Scott Hocker

For a cocktail so widespread and well-loved, the margarita has a surprisingly murky genesis. One of the most intriguing tales, as expounded by the cocktail historian David Wondrich, places its birth near Tijuana in the 1920s or 1930s. The story goes that while assembling a daisy (a drink typically made with brandy and spiked with orange cordial), a bartender mistakenly grabbed a bottle of tequila. Thus, the margarita -- Spanish for daisy -- was born.

The familiar drink hit its heyday in the 1970s, with triple sec becoming the margarita’s default orange liqueur. Over time, fancier drinkers and bartenders began favoring the cleaner citrus notes of Cointreau.

Then, in 1985, a controversial change transpired in San Francisco. At the legendary Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, Julio Bermejo and his father, Tomás, swapped agave nectar for the margarita’s traditional orange liqueur. Their intent was to create a drink that celebrated the unadulterated thrills of good tequila. Tommy’s margarita is now known worldwide.

Philip Ward, co-owner and bar manager of New York City’s Mayahuel, cries foul. “Using agave drives me nuts,” he says. “Yes, it makes a tasty drink, but it’s not a margarita.” At Mayahuel, tequila and its smoky cousin mescal are celebrated with the fervor and creativity traditionally reserved for gin and whiskey. Ward’s Broxburn is akin to a sturdier margarita, where Drambuie supplants Cointreau and mescal adds a whiff of a campfire.

Another of Mayahuel’s drinks, the señorita, bridges the gap between a traditional margarita and the Bermejo version, using both agave nectar and Compass Box Orangerie. Compromise, it seems, can be plenty delicious.

Masters And The Margarita

1) Tommy's Margarita
2 ounces white tequila
1 ounce agave nectar
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 1 large lime)
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila, agave, and lime juice. Shake until thoroughly combined.

2) Broxburn
1½ ounces reposado (aged) tequila
½ ounce mescal
1 ounce Drambuie
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila, mescal, Drambuie, and lime juice. Shake until combined. Pour into a glass with a salted rim. Garnish with a lime wedge.

3) Señorita
2 ounces reposado tequila
½ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce Compass Box Orangerie
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
dash of grapefruit bitters
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila, agave, Orangerie, lime juice, and bitters. Shake until thoroughly combined. Pour into glass.

Tags: Liquidity
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