Un­veil­ing the Mys­ter­ies of the Mar­garita

Like many peo­ple, I have a love/hate re­la­tion­ship with the mar­garita

Cape Coral Living - - Contents - BY GINA BIRCH

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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