Having added to it fruits, liqueurs and ingredients like honey, Margarita has moved on, much beyond its standard, clean, clear look
For the similarity in their names, and that they were named after women, whenever I think about the ever popular mélange Margarita, I also think about the now-so-far-away Margherita, a one-horse town in my home State Assam. Surrounded by tea gardens, lush forests, hills and the lilting Dihing river, Makum became Margherita in the late 19th Century, named by an Italian engineer working with the Railways there after his country’s then reigning queen consort. Much like how the classic cocktail Margarita was named after Margarita Henkle, daughter of a German ambassador who lived in Mexico in the 1940s. Though there is no one story behind the birth of the brew which went on to gain worldwide popularity, the story about bartender Don Carlos to be the first to mix the Mexican speciality Tequila with an orange liqueur at Hussong’s Cantina and call it Margarita, is a popular version. Carlos hadn’t thought of any name for it till he made it and when asked by the lady what was he serving her, he called it Margarita as she was the first to taste it.
Over the decades, Margarita has evolved and now the classic preparation just can’t be thought of without mixing Cointreau with Tequila though Carlos apparently mixed some other orange liqueur in his initial version. And well, there is much more to the Margarita story in today’s times. With mixology getting more and more competitive worldwide, constant experimentation has become key to clever bartending. Though Margarita is less consumed in Mexico today, the brew’s global popularity has only amplified, leading bartenders across the world to frequently think up interesting Margarita mixes. From adding bright and colourful fruits to liqueurs and condiments to the Tequila base, a lot is happening behind the bar counter in an attempt to produce the ultimate new age Margarita. Besides of course ready mix Margaritas taking up space in booze shops including versions from our home-grown Desmondji.
Our bars too are abuzz with such experimental Margaritas. If someone is serving you kiwi Margarita, some other is whipping up strawberry and banana Margaritas. Like Sangria, flavoured Margaritas in pitcher were served at a cocktail festival last month at 1911 bar in The Imperial, New Delhi. This entire June, The Courtyard by Marriott-Gurgaon is hosting a Margarita festival. Sniffing for something new, I land up at Marriott much before its opening hours (5.30 p.m.- midnight). Its bartender Ravinder is missing from the bar for obvious reasons. So Umesh Dalal, its Assistant Food and Beverage Manager and a London-trained bartender, whips up for me three out of the 10 Margaritas on offer at the fest.
First, a Bloody Maria. Umesh begins by saying, “It is just like Bloody Mary but the base is Tequila.” He drops some blobs of ice in a shaker plus 60 ml Tequila and 2 bar spoons of red wine adding, “You can replace the wine with sherry if you like. But if you are using wine, better leave the bottle open for some time for the wine to be fortified enough.” Umesh then adds to it 120 ml tomato juice, freshly squeezed juice of two lemons, more than a dash of Tabasco sauce (keeping the Indian palate in mind!) and little bit of Worchester sauce. And a speck each of fresh pepper and salt. Few vigorous shakes later, he opens the shaker onto a pre-chilled old fashioned glass and thrusts a celery stick and a sprig of mint for garnish.
Next is Panchoo Villa. “It is more of a lady’s drink, ideal for a casual summer evening sipping on the lawns of a sprawling bungalow,” Umesh tries sketching for me the perfect serving ground for the concoction. In a cocktail shaker, he mixes 60 ml each of Tequila and Cointreau plus 30 ml Tia Maria along with lots of ice and shakes the ingredients vigorously. “I let the concoction rest in the shaker for sometime as being alcoholic beverages, they need to mix well,” he says. The brew is served in a pre-chilled traditional Margarita glass with lots of ice cubes thereafter. A lemon rind is the garnish.
The last of his preparation is called Tequila Sunset. He uses the famous golden coloured Cuervo Tequila in this cocktail for its smoky flavour. In a shaker, 60 ml Tequila is poured along with freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons and 120 ml orange juice. Gives it a soft shake, saying, “It should ideally be stirred.” The blend is released into a pre-chilled Margarita glass. To create the aura of sunset, some ounces of honey is carefully dropping into the blend to settle at the base of the glass. “Honey doesn’t blend with the liquid. Since the drink can be a bit smoky, honey gives a lovely aftertaste,” he says. Umesh tops the drink with a generous dollop of crushed ice. A lime wedge is again the garnish.
The Marriott bar has these blends along with other interesting Margaritas in its regular menu. So they are available for customers even after the festival ends this June 30. Some Margaritas to look out for there are Coco Loco (made with white rum, Tequila, vodka, coconut cream and lemon juice) and Anacoco (has tequila gold, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and fresh pineapple).
I taste all three preparations of Umesh and give my heart to Panchoo Villa pretty easily. Because I am a woman? Well, nuh, because it tastes so smooth and silky.