For such a simple and iconic drink, there sure are a lot of ways to fuck up a margarita. Take this as lesson number one: If there’s a soda gun involved, you’re in for a rough ride. I’m sitting in a bar at LAX called Malibu Joe’s (or something like it), killing time as one does, making idle chit chat with Fernando the bartender and Bob from Milwaukee. As I suck down a cold lager, Bob orders up a margarita, which the bartender makes entirely from the soda gun and serves in a glass that could double as a kiddies’ pool. “Hmm, delicious!” Bob exclaims. My eyes visibly roll into the back of my head.
You see, the margarita — and consider this lesson number two — when made perfectly, is a drink that relies more on the quality of ingredients than the sure hand of who’s mixing it. You don’t need to be an experienced “mixologist” like me, but you do need to know that cheap tequila, sour mix and synthetic liqueurs have no place in the modern bar or household. If we can start there, we’re onto something.
The greatest margaritas to be found on planet Earth are, in mine and many others opinion, at Tommy’s Mexican restaurant in San Francisco. The place is the stuff of legend, started in the 1960s by Yucatan immigrants Tommy and Elmy Bermejo. Their son, Julio, is now the face of this matchbox of a bar, holding court and extolling his freakishly vast knowledge of tequila. Julio’s agave IQ is so profound that he has been endorsed by the Mexican government as the official tequila ambassador to the entire United States. Needless to say, if you’re in Fog City, go there. Right now.
Back in the late 90s, Tommy’s was the first place to pioneer the use of agave nectar in their margarita, eschewing the usual Cointreau or triple sec. This was before it was the trendy ingredient it is today, and it is that synergy between the agave nectar and an agave spirit that really allows the true flavors of the tequila to shine through. And on that note — lesson three; listen up people — is that they only use 100% agave tequila and none of the shitty mixto tequilas that most bars still carry. If it doesn’t say 100% agave on the label, don’t buy it. You’ll thank me for it in the morning.
And lastly, and this is the final lesson, only use fresh lime juice. Period. If it’s been sitting on the shelf of a supermarket or comes in a powdered form, it is not lime juice. At Tommy’s, they hand-squeeze their limes to order for every single drink. If they can do it, so can you. Have a great summer, class is out, you’re all dismissed.
- 2 ounces 100% agave tequila
- 3/4 ounces fresh lime juice
- 3/4 ounces agave nectar (diluted with equal parts water)
- Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.
- Add a lime wedge or a salt rim as you see fit.