Cheers

Un­veil­ing the Mys­ter­ies of the Mar­garita

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS -

When made “right,” the mar­garita is oh so good, but too of­ten it comes out way too sweet, or acidic with an over­salted rim that leaves you with a burn­ing in your chest—and a headache in the morn­ing. In my quest to find the an­swers to the mys­ter­ies of the mar­garita, I hy­drated well and went to Agave in Naples, whose menu fea­tures 10 dif­fer­ent mar­gar­i­tas and some 80 tequi­las.

The pop­u­lar Mex­i­can restau­rant serves the award-win­ning Co­conut Mar­garita, about which I once heard some­one gush, “The more of those I drink, the sex­ier I get.” I un­der­stood the sen­ti­ment as soon as I stuck my straw in the frozen mound of sweet co­conut te­quila, pineap­ple, Coco Lopez and toasted co­conut. It’s a te­quila dream.

A cock­tail well suited for adap­ta­tions, the tra­di­tional mar­garita is quite sim­ple, ac­cord­ing to Agave op­er­a­tions man­ager An­gela Mo­rales: “It’s just te­quila, a lit­tle orange liqueur and lime; it’s not sweet.”

Qual­ity in­gre­di­ents are key, and pick­ing the right te­quila is a big deal. Sarah Kuhn, Agave’s bev­er­age man­ager, says, “My per­sonal pref­er­ence for mix­ing is a sil­ver te­quila, but I sell more gold.”

Sil­ver is smoother, pro­vid­ing a base that al­lows the other fla­vors in the cock­tail to shine. Gold te­quila is of­ten blended, with color and fla­vor ad­di­tives; it’s typ­i­cally mixed with orange juice.

If you want an up­grade, or­der re­posado, mean­ing “rested.” Re­posado te­quila is aged in a bar­rel for at least two months; the wood mel­lows harsh al­co­hol notes and adds fla­vor.

Anejo te­quila spends a min­i­mum of a year in oak, and ex­tra anejo, three years. While some­times used with mix­ers, afi­ciona­dos of­ten frown upon that prac­tice, sip­ping anejo like a fine bour­bon or co­gnac.

Mi­la­gro Bar­rel Se­lect Re­serve Anejo comes in a most strik­ing bot­tle with blown glass in­side. It’s also strik­ing on the palate with spice, vanilla and but­ter­scotch—te­quila to sa­vor.

Pro­duced in small batches, us­ing cen­turies-old tech­niques, is For­taleza Anejo. You can taste and feel the warmth of the bar­rel this spicy and smooth te­quila was aged in.

Each year Agave works with te­quila pro­duc­ers on a bar­rel that is ex­clu­sive to the restau­rant. It’s used in the sig­na­ture Ex­clu­sive Mar­garita.

A word of cau­tion about mar­gar­i­tas: If the restau­rant you go to does not have a full liquor bar, your drink is be­ing made with a wine-based sub­sti­tute, not te­quila.

Te­quila can be made only in a spe­cific re­gion in Mex­ico from

the blue agave plant. When some­one pointed out the plant has pro­bi­otics, we ex­cit­edly toasted te­quila’s health ben­e­fits. Bonus.

A bot­tle may say it con­tains 100 per­cent agave, but legally the spirit has to con­tain only 51 per­cent.

With te­quila ba­sics out of the way, Kuhn mixed one of her fa­vorites, Peach Fuego Mar­garita, say­ing, “I think it’s so much fun; re­ally bal­anced.” Made with spicy Tan­teo Te­quila, An­cho Reyes Chile Liqueur, peach schnapps, peach nec­tar and fresh citrus, the rim is coated in a house-made smoked peach and sriracha-salt rim. Sweet, salty, sa­vory and spicy, this one has it all.

About the salty rim, Mo­rales says, “Salt brightens up the el­e­ments in the glass.” Gen­eral man­ager Holly Stek-Sleep cau­tions, “It can also be used to fight away the fla­vors of cheap te­quila or too much sugar. We don’t have that prob­lem.”

Be­ware that mar­gar­i­tas can also be laden with calo­rie-loaded mix­ers. Agave’s sil­ver mar­garita (Cor­ralejo Blanco Te­quila, triple sec, fresh lime) is a low-cal fave; so is the Skinny.

Mo­rales says, “We worked re­ally hard on [the Skinny]. We used the sil­ver mix­ture, mud­dled fresh citrus and then added some club soda to cut 60 calo­ries.” It’s re­fresh­ing, ef­fer­ves­cent and nearly guilt free.

As with many fa­mous cock­tails, sto­ries of ori­gin vary. Ac­cord­ing to the folks at Coin­treau, this year marks the 70th an­niver­sary of the orig­i­nal mar­garita, crafted in 1948 by Dal­las so­cialite Mar­garita Sames. (Recipe pro­vided be­low.)

A gen­eral rule of pro­por­tions when mak­ing your own mar­garita is 3-2-1: juice-te­quila-triple sec. You might find the sweet­ness of your limes in­con­sis­tent, so be sure to taste.

Tast­ing is part of the daily rou­tine at Agave, where the Ex­clu­sive Mar­garita is made in large quan­ti­ties. “We con­stantly taste it. It’s a la­bor of love to get the right mix,” says Stek-Sleep. Job ap­pli­ca­tion, please? Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Flor­ida.

From left: Fam­ily-owned for 140 years, For­taleza makes small-batch te­quila; Agave’s Prickly Pear Mar­garita with chicken taco; the Peach Fuego Mar­garita with Mex­i­can Street Corn ap­pe­tizer.

Mi­la­gro Bar­rel Se­lect, known for its blown-glass bot­tle, is a high-end te­quila wor­thy of sip­ping, not just mix­ing.

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