If you’re a fan of tequila chances are you may have heard of Tommy’s in San Francisco, a Mexican restaurant established by Tomas and Elmy Bermejo in 1965. Given the number of quality bars that exist today it may seem odd that a small family restaurant be so well known across the world, but as soon as you meet the owners’ son Julio Bermejo you begin to understand what the fuss might be about. Combine that with a stock of over 300 tequilas and it’s obvious the place is a must visit – one I’ve not made myself yet but hope to soon!
The Margarita they serve at Tommy’s, now found on bar menus across the world as Tommy’s Margarita, is a twist on the classic Margarita recipe that replaces the triple sec with agave syrup – a sweetener made with agave, the same plant used to make tequila. While the agave syrup undoubtably combines with the tequila to terrific effect, I’ve always found that without the triple sec the Margarita is lacking something and it just doesn’t quite hit the spot like an original Margarita does.
Simon Difford, author of Difford’s Guide and publisher of the new Class Magazine, felt similarly about the Tommy’s Margarita and began experimenting with mixing part triple sec and part agave syrup. Unsatisfied with the results Simon teamed up with the French liqueur makers Giffard last year and after several visits to France tinkering with orange distillates, and countless Margaritas at Diffords own home bar The Cabinet Room tweaking the agave/orange balance, the result is Agave Sec.
Already being something of a fan of Giffard orange liqueurs, with their Giffard Premium Curaçao Triple Sec coming out top in my comparison of orange liqueurs last year, and having had a few tantalising sips of an Agave Sec Margarita earlier in the year, I was looking forward to giving Agave Sec a proper try.
Packaged in an attractive brown bottle, the liquid itself is actually almost clear in colour with perhaps just a tiny straw tint to it. The nose is bright with a lot of fresh orange plus hints of orange zest and mandarin, as well as a touch of honey. In the mouth a strong fresh orange flavour is mixed with orange zest and despite the alcoholic strength the liqueur remains smooth throughout with only a little heat. A more candied orange develops toward the finish, along with a rich honey note and a little of the characteristic agave earthiness.
Of course few people, me aside, tend to drink orange liqueurs straight so the real test for Agave Sec was obvious – a Margarita comparison. I lined up my preferred 3:2:1 ratio Margarita recipe using Cointreau against an Agave Sec Margarita using Simon’s recommended 2:1:1 ratio, both using the delicious El Tessoro silver tequila, and then used the very scientific method of taking sips out of each one and seeing which I preferred.
I was hoping one would be obviously better but in truth both were great drinks with more similarities than differences. The Cointreau-based Margarita had a slightly brighter, fresher mouthfeel to it, whereas the Agave Sec Margarita definitely had a richer flavour, with an almost earthy layer to it. The Agave Sec certainly worked very well in the Margarita, and while I wouldn’t say it made a better Margarita, it certainly equalled the Cointreau one while at the same time bringing something a bit different to the table – something that cannot be said for many orange liqueurs.
Overall I was very impressed with the Agave Sec. Its combination of agave and orange works very successfully resulting in a liqueur that offers a tasty palette of orange flavours combined with the richness of agave that sets it apart from any other orange liqueur. While I don’t see it replacing Cointreau entirely in my Margaritas I definitely see myself using it regularly, and I look forward to experimenting with it in Margaritas with reposado tequilas, and perhaps even the Tequila Old Fashioned.
Agave Sec is currently available in the UK, France and Germany, and will be released in Spain and USA soon. It can be ordered worldwide from The Drink Shop.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, a sample bottle of Agave Sec was supplied to me for review.
If you liked this, the barman recommends...