Getting to your Proper Margarita

Hey

Today I was gonna write about the awesome home-cooked, holiday supper we had after yesterday’s sales meeting -each course featured a Tres Agaves product. But that will have to wait – check it out next week. Instead I’m reprinting a blog post done by Libation Lab’s Quinn Sweeney on the “proper” margarita.

Thanks for the words, Quinn!
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As much preacher as teacher, Eric Rubin is the agave evangelist from Tres Agaves Tequila who ran our Nirvino cocktail education event last week on making a proper margarita.

Conspicuously absent were the corn syrup, sugar cane spirits, sour mix and orange liqueur. Rubin promotes a margarita comprised simply of 100% agave tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice and agave syrup. His preferred 2:1:1 ratio is a bit sweet for me, but the quality of the simple drink shines through regardless.

The key to this recipe is the quality of the tequila. You get into trouble as soon as you pick up a bottle of “mixto” tequila, which is never indicated on the bottle with an honest “49% high fructose corn syrup” but simply by omission of “100% agave”. If the label doesn’t say “100% agave”, it isn’t.

I believe that if you prefer a fruity or exotic margarita, there’s no rule against modification, but remember that quality and simplicity are crucial. Substitute sweet and fruity ingredients for some or all of the agave syrup or lime juice to to maintain balance.

Rubin however, warns against frozen margaritas: “If you just blend up good ingredients with ice it both dilutes the drink and will also separate almost immediately due to no additives. The reason frozen ones with bad ingredients have such great texture is because they use corn starch or other thickeners to give it that milk shake smoothness.”

He does allow for salt in moderation, and told me, “… it came about during a bout of Spanish influenza in 1919/20 in Mexico. Almost all doctors told their patients to put lime and salt with almost all of their food. That led to Mexican men preferring their beer this way, which led to the whole shot with salt and lime phenomenon as well as salt on margaritas.”

So to recap, a proper margarita is the product of care, simplicity and purity as you will find in the recipe below.

The Tres Agaves Margarita
o 2 ounces Tres Agaves Blanco tequila
o 1 ounce agave syrup
o 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a glass with fresh ice.

Winning Cocktails at the Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl

In the past few posts I’ve documented how I purchased, prepped and served all the Tequila cocktails that were featured at last night’s Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl.

After my hosting duties were completed, I got to hang out with the 400 plus folks who attended and compare my creations with the experts. As a reminder here’s the drink list.

  • The Redevelopment
  • Fillmo’better
  • Jalisco Blossom
  • Joplin’s Juice
  • The Zapata
  • I sampled everything but The Zapata, which was “out” by the time I got there. So I’m trusting the law of supply and demand and that it must have been pretty tasty. All the drinks were high on the yum scale. In my own biased opinion my versions stacked up well against the Fillmo’better, the Jalisco Blossom and Joplin’s Juice. This is not to say I prepared better drinks than these Bartenders – only to say that they weren’t signifcantly worse.

    Sean McNeal’s 99 proof banana “frothing” on “Fillmo” was clearly on the money and on my lips. Mine was a little heavier in the glass – but still not bad. I preferred my version served up neat in a Martini glass. As you can see, though, I had no problem getting to the bottom of the glass. And apparently neither did anyone else as it was chosen the audience favorite. Congrats Sean!

    Finishing the Fillmo'better.

    The Redevelopment was clearly better and deLISH. It WAS the muddling of the Jalapeno. It made all the difference. It was spicier, better balanced. It was all at once sweet and sour with a pepper finish that made it come alive.

    I was too focused on enjoyed this and not focused enough on getting a shot. Wish I had a picture to share but, alas, I do not. I did snap this clinking of glasses though. A perfect way to finish off a great evening.

    One final toast.

    Bay Area folks: If you want to know which pubs are featuring these drinks, click here or pop me a comment. Happy to provide!

    Taster’s Choice – Serving up the Final Three Cocktails

    Embarking on my mission to create and taste test all the featured drinks at tonight’s Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl I’ve managed to make it nearly half way through quest. With the ingredients bought and two out of five drinks served we took a short break before delving into our last batch of Tres Agaves Tequila Cocktails. The evening was a hit so far. My friends were yakking -which mostly meant giving me a hard time- and enjoying the cocktails. So far, so good so on to the next set of libations.

    Jalisco Blossom by Lenny Gumm.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Tres Agaves Anejo Tequila
  • .25 oz Kashimiri chili agave nectar
  • .25 oz J.Witty Chamomile liqueur
  • 2 drops The Bitter Truth lemon bitters
  • Directions:

  • Stir ingredients with ice, strain into rocks glass filled with ice.
  • Twist a grapefruit peel over the drink, rub on the rim of the glass, and place into cocktail.
  • Jalisco Blossom

    Bartender notes:
    A thankfully easy drink to prepare. The ingredients were among the most exotic. Tried the Chamomile liqueur neat afterwards. Pretty dang good by itself. Would have been better and even great with a single cube of ice.

    Taster notes:
    Anne: “Ahhhhhh, a sipping cocktail. Smokey but surprisingly clean.”
    Dean: “The lighter side of Scotch. I’ll have this drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, please?”
    Yina: “I’d call it a Rusticini.”

    And then we headed to the 60’s hard-rock inspired Joplin’s Juice by Rob Albright.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
  • Dash of bitters
  • ½ tsp. Agave Nectar
  • 3 oz. Pineapple juice
  • Garnish pineapple and cherry
  • Step-by-step directions:

  • 1. Fill shaker with ice
  • 2. Add 1 full shot of Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
  • 3. Add a dash of bitters
  • 4. Then add the agave syrup
  • 5. Fill shaker with pineapple juice and shake
  • 6. Strain over ice
  • 7. Garnish with cherry and pineapple chunk.
  • Joplin's Juice

    Bartender notes:
    Noticed in process that I didn’t have the amount pineapple juice written anyway. My third mistake of the evening. Winged it and went with an oz. which made the drink a tad too sweet and not as fruity as it was when I remade it the following night with the ingredients above. Yet, still everybody really like this.

    Anne: “Tastes like the Carribean. Good down way too easily.”
    Dean: “A Tequila Mai-Tai with a hint of Vanilla.”
    Yina: “A sweet and sour Martini.”

    The final drink was The Zapata by Barclay Spring.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
  • 1.5 oz Pomegranate mix
  • 3 Dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 Fresh lime
  • Dash of simple syrup
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • Directions:

  • Add all ingredients.
  • Shake.
  • Pour into a martini glass with a sugar rim (if you hold simple syrup).
  • Garnish with a lemon slice, lemon twist or cherry.
  • The Zapata

    Bartender’s notes:
    Received this submission too late to include in the party but wanted to include it here since it will be featured at tonight’s crawl. Not sure what Pomegranate mix was so substituted Langer’s Pom juice. Also opted for the non-sugared rim and lemon garnish. While I was hoping for a brighter show in the glass it was still pretty dang yummy.

    Tomorrow I’ll look back at last night’s event. Share some pics and announce the audience favorite. Stay tuned.

    Taster’s Choice – Serving Up the First Two Cocktails.

    With the shopping behind me I was pretty much set except I still had to secure my panel of judges. It was a given that the drinks were free – a definite recruitment plus – but part of my “homework” meant that I would be serving as “acting bartender”, which in some people’s eyes could be a bit of a minus. (As the evening wore on some of their apprehension on my bartending capabilities turned out to be somewhat justified. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.)

    With some emails and well placed phone calls I rounded up 7 friends who were game. We drew straws and narrowed it down to three for my un-official, un-professional but fun, tasting panel. Here’s a brief snapshot of my trio of non-experts:

  • Anne: Former NYC corporate executive. Chucked it. Moved to San Francisco. Current art school student. (Let’s just say she embraces change in her life.)
  • Dean: Six feet five inches of fun from the Oakland Hills and not afraid to let his Midwest roots show through.
  • Yina: Naturalized mainland Chinese. Pint-sized frame. Large personality. Want an opinion? Yina’s got one and is willing to share it.
  • I explained the ground rules and that I needed my tasters to offer an opinion on each drink. A few other notes: We cleansed the palate with some stone ground corn chips. A little salty but seemed to do the trick. We also decided to make the drinks in alphabetical order. I also prepared the drinks as close to instructions as possible.

    So we were off. What follows is a listing of the first two drinks, ingredients, directions, my bartender notes and the non-expert, non-official -yet animated- commentary of the drink.

    The first drink up was The Redevelopment created by Mathew Frantin.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
  • .75 oz Luxardo Marachino Liquor
  • 1.5 oz Pineapple juice 1.5 oz
  • .5 oz Lime juice
  • .5 oz Agave Nectar
  • 1 ring of a red Jalapeno
  • Directions:

  • Muddle the jalapeno in the shaker.
  • Put ice and ingredients into shaker, shake and pour into an old fashion glass.
  • Garnish with lime and put straws in.
  • The Redevelopment

    Bartender notes: The Redevelopment was originally named The Conquistador hence it was first on the list. My taster’s were impatient and wanted their first drink, ah like yesterday. I was derided because “everything” took way too long. “Thanks guys. I guess free booze wasn’t good enough?” Already feeling the pressure I realized that my shaker was too big which made it hard to muddle the jalapeno. Also make sure to muddle the jalapeno first! With a smaller shaker the jalapeno flavor would have come through better. Also I don’t normally “do” straws but they were helpful for sanity sharing of drinks throughout the evening.

    Taster Comments:
    Anne: “Could be dangerous. Tastes like Hawaii.”
    Dean: “Refreshingly frothy. Perfect for the pool.”
    Yina: “Fresh with a solid kick at the end. Just how I like it. Great hot weather drink.”

    Our second drink of the night was the Fillmo’better by Sean McNeal.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
  • .75 oz St. Germain
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz agave nectar
  • .75 oz 99 proof bananas
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Directions:

  • Build in a shaker glass.
  • Add the Tres Agaves Tequila, St. Germain, fresh press lime juice and agave nectar.
  • Shake the bloody living hell out of it, and strain. (My favorite instruction of the night!)
  • Top with the foam, which should be the consistency of irish coffee whipped cream (ie, should be able to be easily poured and layer)
  • More instructions for me to make sure I got it right:I like to use a flash blender, adding a pint of cream, 1.5-2 oz. agave nectar, and 3 oz 99 bananas- 99 proof banana schnapps (or to taste). In a flash blender whip for 2-3 seconds.

    In a whip cream siphon, of the liter size, proportion the mixture accordingly and fill to a liter and only add one NO2 charger. Shake and test pour, shake more if need be to achieve desired consistency. Again, it should be silken smooth and only firm enough to layer on the drink.

    Fill'moBetter

    Bartender notes: Apparently the “bartender” was sipping a bit too much of the Tequila and I didn’t exactly get it right. I forgot the lime juice. Called a mulligan and reshot the hole. Surprisingly good the first time but much better the second time out with lime to balance out the St. Germain and Nectar. I also didn’t spring for the NO2 charger. Whipped up the 99 proof bananas and whip cream and got what I think was the desired end result.

    Taster Comments:

    Anne: “Ah, Yum. Tart, sweet with foamy goodness. Like a Gin Fizz but way better.”
    Dean: “An adult banana split. I definitely Feel’mo Better”
    Yina: “Creamy, dreamy. Bananas emerge after lime infusion.”

    In tomorrow’s post we finish it up with the final three drinks.

    Getting Ready for the Taster’s Choice

    Doing a little homework for this Wednesday’s Fillmore Street Holiday Cocktail Crawl, which is the Fillmore District’s (for you folks in San Francisco Bay Area) way to welcome the season and sample some tasty cocktails.

    Here’s the plug for the event: It only costs 5 dollars and the “crawl” takes you to some of the hipper locales in the hood. Plus each pub will feature a special Tequila based cocktail that you get to sample. Plus all the registration money benefits the African American Art & Culture Complex. Yum and for a good cause. Sold?

    Want more details? You can find it here at Nirvino, which is one of the co-sponsors, or you or go to Brown Paper Tickets:

    Now back to my “homework”.

    Here’s what’s I signed up for: making, tasting and sampling all the featured drinks. At the event attendees will have the opportunity to text in their favorite- so one of these drinks will be crowned the Fillmore Favorite. Why not do a dry run and then compare their results to ours?

    Thanks to Nirvino I got all the recipes and held a little pre-tasting with some hip, swank and cool friends that I managed to scrounge up. Securing the location, time and date of the event was easy – my place a time of my choosing. 7pm on a Friday worked for both me and my friends.

    A somewhat harder and more time-consuming task was securing all the ingredients for the cocktails. Here’s a run down of the cocktails that I had to the goods on:

  • The Redevelopment
  • Fillmo’better
  • Jalisco Blossom
  • Joplin’s Juice
  • Zapata
  • These nifty Tequila drinks included some pretty exotic specifics: J. Witty Chamomile Liquor, Luxardo Marachino Liquor, Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters and St. Germain-an elderberry liquor-not to mention Tres Agaves Tequila. I was able to get all this plus the requisite cherries, pineapple juice and lemons in one or two stops. So far easy enough but not inexpensive. The tab for the liquor ran over 120 bucks not including the Tequila that I had in my stash.

    I had two more ingredients on my list: Kashmiri Chili Agave Nectar and 99 Proof Banana Liquor. Getting any chile-infused liquor was going to be impossible and I was definitely out of time to make it myself. Thankfully, Lenny who created a drink that necessitated this ingredient, offered my up some. Danke Lenny! Lifesaver. The banana liquor was a bugaboo. I went to no less than five places before finding it at a local chain store. Want to know which one? Click here. I don’t know why I didn’t start there. While they didn’t have 750 ML size. They did have a trial size.

    Note: Two minis were the perfect amount for the recipe and it saved me some bucks, too. So, if you’re thinking about doing something like this in the future. Good tip for all you out there who might be crafting up some specialty drinks this holiday season.

    My shopping was completed and I ended up with a table full of liquors, mixers, garni and tools. Take a look at the haul:

    Got the goods!

    In tomorrow’s blog I’ll explain what happened when we started creating, mixing, tasting and discussing.