Enter, Paul Tanguay of the Tippling Bros., Chicago's ultimate culinary cocktail creators. The libation master shared with us some fun history, tips, and a damn-good recipe that all have to do with (you guessed it) tequila. Between the delish cocktail and your newfound agave knowledge, you're bound to be the center of attention at the next barbecue. So, read on, take notes, and hit the liquor store as soon as you get off work.
On The Origin of the Margarita:
"The margarita has an interesting origin: In the late 1800s, there was a category of cocktails called 'Daisies' consisting of a base spirit of gin or brandy, lemon juice, and flavored with grenadine or syrup. During prohibition, people started flocking to Mexico, and it’s said that there was a racetrack in Tijuana that started making Daisies with tequila and making substitutions, like lime juice for lemon and agave and Grand Marnier for simple syrup and grenadine. Plus, margarita is Spanish for daisy!"
On Tasting and Terroir:
"Where you grow the agave matters! Tequilas are as influenced by place (terroir) and production as much whiskey or scotch. Lowland tequila is a little bit spicier, and you’ll get notes of cinnamon oil or wet clay. With highland tequilas, you get subtle notes of the agave, as well as citrus, grassy, vegetal, and floral notes and more minerality. Overall, highland tequila comes off as more delicate, while lowland tastes a bit rougher."
On Using It In Cocktails:
"At Mercadito, where all of the cocktails are tequila-based, we start with what we view as the 'base' of a margarita: sweet, spice, and smoke. Most of our cocktails are riffs on the margarita, but rethinking the ingredients. For example, our Pepino El Pyu uses cucumber as a flavoring agent, hoja santa-infused simple syrup as the sweetener (a Mexican herb that means 'sacred leaf,' and according to Mexican lore, Mary used it to dry Jesus’s diapers on the plant), and cumin salt for the rim. This just takes the classic elements and makes them a little more creative. Other ideas include: Try chile-infused simple syrups like guajillo syrup or highly acidic fruit components like pineapple or Valencia orange. An extra shot of mezcal in a simple margarita is another great way to add another dimension of smokey flavor to a classic cocktail."
On Trying It At Home: The Misty's Sleeve Margarita
1 ½ oz hibiscus infused EL Tesoro Blanco
¾ oz ginger syrup
¾ oz grandma mix (half Grand Marnier, half simple syrup)
¾ oz lime
1 chunk of orange
1 dash of Yucateca green
Garnish with Jamaica salt rim/lime wedge
1. Press orange in tin.
2. Add remaining ingredients.
3. Shake and strain over fresh ice.
Photo: Courtesy of Mercadito