The great shakedown: Sydney's top 5 margaritas
A great deal of ambiguity surrounds the margarita’s original creation. But its story of dual heritage would lead to bartenders around the world, including Sydney's, coming up with varietals that would imitate its debatable roots.
The earliest claim for this classic cocktails dates back to 1836, when Mexican bartender Daniel Negrete presented a glass filled with tequila, orange liqueur, fresh lime and a crown of salt as a wedding present to his sister-in-law, Margarita.
Another story involves San Diego bartender Carlos Herrera, who was madly in love with showgirl-cum-actress, Marjorie Hall. She was allergic to all liquor except tequila but reportedly couldn’t stand the taste. So Herrera invented the cocktail to woo her and -- of course -- named it in her honor.
These days, many a cocktail bartender is judged on his or her version of the drink.
Served on the rocks, shaken on ice, frozen or straight up, it’s the most popular tequila-based cocktail in the world. No cocktail list is complete without at least one variation, and it even has a glass of its own.
To celebrate its largesse, let's go on a search for the ultimate tequila and lemon combo.
1. Cinnamon and Vanilla Margarita at Café Pacifico
Café Pacifico is not just another Mexican restaurant. It’s the only venue in Australia recognized by the Mexican Government for its work promoting tequila with the Agave de Oro Award, which it received in 2006.
“We are the tequila headquarters for Australia -- I got tequila coming out of my ears,” says owner Phillip Bayly. “Margaritas are naturally a big part of what we do. The cinnamon and vanilla margarita uses as its base tequila liqueur, which is flavored with the damiana flower, a supposed aphrodisiac.”
Ingredients: 45ml Agavero Tequila Liqueur, 15ml Cointreau, 30ml lime juice, dash vanilla essence, cinnamon, lime wedge.
Method: Blend wet ingredients over ice in a shaker. Wet rim of margarita glass with lime wedge and crown with cinnamon. Serve neat.
Café Pacifico, 95 Riley St., East Sydney +61 (0)2 9360 3811. Tuesday-Saturday 6 p.m.-late.
2. The Tommy’s Margarita at Smith’s on Bayswater
A margarita with the basics –- Tommy’s Margarita was invented by bartender Julio Bermejo (aka Mr. Tequila), co-owner of Tommy’s Restaurant in San Francisco.
Tommy’s is now the signature margarita at Smith’s on Bayswater (the old Bayswater Brasserie) in Kings Cross, though owner Kingsley Smith says they “can do any style, because a drink should be a very personalized thing.”
Ingredients: 45ml Gran Centenario Tequila, 10ml Cointreau, 10ml organic agave syrup, 20ml sugar syrup, juice of two fresh limes.
Method: Muddle ingredients together with ice in a shaker, then pour onto ice in a tumbler. Garnish with a twist of lime.
Smith’s on Bayswater, 32 Bayswater Road, Potts Point +61 (0)2 9357 2177. Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m.-midnight, Friday noon-late, Saturday 5 p.m.-late, Sunday 10:30 a.m.-midnight.
3. Jam Jar Margarita at The Pony Room
When The Sydney Morning Herald called The Pony Room’s habit of serving cocktails in jam jars “one-dimensional,” they may have missed the point. Set in the semi-residential back end of Manly, this St. Vincent’s-style speakeasy is all about substance over style, and the cocktail list epitomizes this.
“We’re a small bar and we’re very busy -- we didn’t want people to have to wait
20 minutes for a cocktail, so we broke it down to the basics,” says owner Dylan
Eisenhut. “But everything that goes into it is top shelf. We use fresh-pressed
lime, 100 percent agave tequila and Grand Marnier. The flavor speaks for
Ingredients: 50ml Cazadores Blanc Tequila, 20ml Grand Marnier, 5ml sugar syrup, juice of one lime.
Method: Pour ingredients in a jam jar and fill with ice. Seal and shake. Unseal and top with more ice, straw and lime twist.
The Pony Room, 26 Pittwater Road, Manly, +61 (0)2 9977 2890. Tuesday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight, Sunday 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
4. Blood Orange Margarita at North Bondi Italian
Renowned for its crimson flesh, the blood orange originated in Sicily and is served as breakfast juice in the finest Mediterranean hotels. Blood oranges are sweeter than the regular variety and they’re only in season in the wintertime.
“It’s our most popular winter mixer by far,” says manager Rachel Duffy. “Whatever we put it in –- vodka, Campari –- becomes a bestseller. And the blood orange margarita is the bestseller of them all.”
Ingredients: 45ml Olmeca Tequila, 15ml Cointreau, 30ml blood orange juice, lime wedge, white sugar.
Method: Blend wet ingredients over ice in a shaker. Wet rim of convention glass with lime wedge and crown with sugar. Serve neat.
North Bondi Italian, 118 Ramsgate Ave., North Bondi +61 (0)2 9300 4400. Monday-Tuesday 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday noon-10.30 p.m. www.idrb.com/northbondi
5. Chili, Melon and Cucumber Margarita at Flying Fajita Sistas
Versatility is a huge part of the margarita’s appeal. At Flying Fajita Sistas Mexican restaurant in Glebe, they serve 10 different kinds, from black raspberry and rhubarb, to pomegranate, to honey and green apple.
Their chili margarita has a subtle spicy kick that develops in stages. One of Sydney’s best margaritas -- it’s only $9 on Monday evenings.
Ingredients: 45ml Tromba Blanco Tequila, 10ml Midori, 3 slices cucumber, 3 wedges lime, teaspoon brown sugar, 1 small chili, 1 large chili.
Method: Slice large chili in half and remove most of the seeds. Place in shaker with cucumber, lime and sugar and pulp with a muddler. Add tequila, Midori and ice. Shake for one full minute. Pour over strainer into Martini glass. Garnish with small chili.
Flying Fajita Sistas, 65 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, +61 (0)2 9552 6522. Monday-Sunday 6 p.m.-late.