A refreshing, balanced riff on the classic, in which the flavors of agave take center stage
Back in the early 1990s, Julio Bermejo was working behind the bar at his family’s restaurant, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, in San Francisco. A big tequila fan, Julio wanted to create a margarita that would let the flavor of the agave spirit shine through. Swapping the traditional orange liqueur for the lesser-known agave nectar, he was onto something. By doubling down on the agave to enhance the flavor of the tequila rather than mask it, the Tommy’s Margarita – as it became known — started gaining popularity among the restaurant’s customers.
Thanks to Julio’s creativity and love for all things agave – he is officially recognized by the National Chamber for the Tequila Industry (CNIT) as the Tequila Ambassador for North America – Tommy’s is highly regarded as the place in San Francisco to enjoy a margarita, with a menu that includes close to 300 labels of 100% agave tequilas, and close to 100 varieties of margaritas.
Tommy’s Margarita has become a modern classic, especially popular among drinkers looking for a cocktail with less – or what’s perceived as better-for-you—sugar.
A Tommy’s Margarita tastes like a classic margarita but a bit less fruity, with more of the earthy flavors naturally found in agave and the punchy tartness of lime juice. Therefore, it is super important to use fresh lime juice, freshly squeezed if possible, to obtain the best results. If you want to shake things up a bit, try adding a bit of heat with fresh chile serrano or jalapeño to make a spicy margarita.
What’s the difference between a classic Margarita and a Tommy’s Margarita?
The difference is that instead of including orange liqueur – whether it’s Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier – a Tommy’s Margarita relies on agave nectar to add sweetness to the cocktail.
Most orange liqueurs contain additional sugars such as sucrose, fructose, or glucose on top of the natural alcohol sugars. Agave nectar is mostly fructose, which has a lower glycemic index than the sugars, which means the body absorbs agave more slowly into the bloodstream and therefore does not lead to a rapid spike in insulin. It is also about one-and-a-half times sweeter than sugar, so you can achieve the same sweetness while using less product. Think skinny margarita, but with a more sophisticated approach.
What is the best Tequila to Use?
For a Tommy’s Margarita, or any Margarita for that matter, it is always best to use 100% agave tequila. The brand you choose is up to you, and you can even decide if you want a Blanco tequila, which will provide fresh agave flavors, or a reposado or even añejo for a richer taste. Price is ultimately not the deal breaker; I would not use that $150 bottle on a drink like this one, but choose a high-quality spirit which you would like to sip by itself, too. I like a Blanco like Patrón or Olmeca, which are good mid-price options.
- 2 oz Blanco Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz Agave nectar
- Ice cubes
- Salt for rimming
- Lime for garnish
- In a shaker, combine the tequila, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar. Give it a good shake until it’s well mixed.
- Fill a rocks glass halfway with ice.
- Pour your mixed drink over the ice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Tommy’s Margarita Variations
- Classic margarita: The one that started it all. Refreshing, citrusy, and balanced, great with a big bowl of chips and guacamole.
- Mezcal margarita: Substitute an earthy, smoky mezcal for the tequila for a more complex yet delicious cocktail.
- Spicy margarita: Add a hint of spice and fresh chile flavor to the citrusy classic.
- Skinny margarita: A lighter version of the classic cocktail, for those keeping an eye on their calorie intake.
- Frozen margarita: A favorite in Mexican resorts and Tex-Mex restaurants the world over.
- Mango margarita: A fruity, tropical twist to the classic margarita that will transport you to a beachside daydream.