The New Premium Margarita – Was the original broken?

There’s a movement in the high end San Francisco cocktail houses when it comes to making classic margaritas, spurred by the popular version made by Julio Bermejo at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant. It seems that the new de rigeur formula is this:

  • 2oz Tequila
  • 1 1/3oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/3oz Agave Nectar

This recipe, a 6/4/1 (6 parts tequila to 4 parts lime to 1 part agave nectar) was published in the August 14, 2002 edition of the Washington Post, though there are probably earlier references online as well.

This recipe does create a very good margarita – and I’ve enjoyed many of these at cocktail houses spawned by Julio’s followers, such as Tres Agaves (co-owned by Julio). But is this Margarita significantly better than the classic margarita?

The classic margarita, as I have always understood, is a 2/1/1 recipe:

  • 1.5oz Tequila
  • .75oz Triple Sec
  • .75oz Lime

In fact, when I look at the New Margarita, it’s actually not a margarita. It’s actually a tequila daiquiri. The original recipe for a daiquiri from the golden age of cocktails (1920s)

  • 2oz light rum
  • 1oz Lime
  • 1 bar spoon powdered sugar

Adherents to the Julio method of margarita making believe that the use of agave nectar, an expensive relatively flavor-neutral sweetener, enhances the agave flavor in the tequila… which I believe it does – to an extent. However, the new margarita method loses something in the process. The original margaritas used triple sec, a slightly sweet orange liqueur, to add both sweetness as well as a little more orange flavor. Varying the liqueur (maraschino, curacao, Cointreau, Gran Marnier) changes the flavor, allowing customization of the cocktail based on the flavors brought from the tequila. Yes, it’s possible to make a bad margarita if you pair improperly, but it’s also possible for a talented bartender to make an amazing margarita, playing with many levels of flavor. The new method makes a consistently good margarita, but that’s all.

2 thoughts on “The New Premium Margarita – Was the original broken?

  1. Avery Glasser Post author

    Now now… don’t blame the tequila until you’ve tried a couple of good ones. The funny thing is that most people who have had issues with Tequila compare a $17 bottle of Cuervo against the $40 bottles of vodka or whisky they prefer.

    Now, if you have had issues with even good, unadulterated 100% blue agave tequilas, there’s a chance that you body just doesn’t like some of the sugars that are found in the distillate. These combined with the alcohol does give some people just a nasty experience. In cases like this, switching the recipe to a Spanish brandy or even an older rum (check out the Guatemalan products like the Ron Zacapa or the Solera rums from St. Theresa) makes a fantastic drink – it’s not a margarita, but it’s still good!


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