The origins of the classic margarita are to this day, a bit hazy. While many credible sources claiming its origin, all tell a fascinating story, the classic cocktail seems to have originated from somewhere in Mexico during the 1920’s-1930s.
It was most likely created during the time when the United States had made it illegal to drink alcohol within its border. So thirsty Americans had to head elsewhere to drink a delicious cocktail, but they mainly ventured south of the border into Mexico.
The admiration for the drink exploded in 1953 when Esquire Magazine named the Margarita the Drink of the Month. After calling it “exciting and provocative”- they exploded the intrigue of this incredible cocktail worldwide. However, the article sparked debate as Esquire printed what they believed was the correct story regarding the history of the recipe, while others had their doubts.
The core recipe is relatively simple with a small amount of basic ingredients; however, the margarita is now available in countless forms. Modern intervention has brought many variations of the classic drink from the spicy and skinny margaritas alike.
One variation that took the world by storm is the famous ‘Tommy’s Margarita’. The origin and history of this recipe is an intriguing story that would go on to change the way bars think about tequila, forever.
The drink was created by one of the world’s foremost experts on tequila, Julio Bermejo. Bermejo is the beverage manager at the iconic Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, which was started in 1965 by his parents, Elmy and Tommy. The true essence of a family business all five of the Bermejo children grew up working at the restaurant. While working at the restaurant in the late 1980s Julio created the well-known beverage that we love today.
While the recipe is similar to the classic recipe, Julio has a passion for tequila so every change he made was to enhance the flavours of the tequila; his incredible passion and vast knowledge of tequila is what helped him to create the best drink possible.
When he was introduced to 100% blue agave tequila, it blew his mind and furthered his passion for tequila. This led to a trip to Mexico, so he could visit distilleries and learn more, gradually he turned Tommy’s into a full-fledged tequila bar that only stocks 100% agave tequilas.
After he was introduced to agave nectar around a similar time, he began using it in the margaritas he served at the restaurant and that was the beginning of the Tommy’s Margarita.
According to Julio, using agave nectar in a margarita makes sense because you are tasting the flavours of the base spirit itself; the flavour of agave is the king in this simple margarita.
By using agave nectar or syrup instead of triple sec, Julio could enhance the agave flavours in the tequila. He always uses a 100% agave tequila instead of a cheap mixto tequila (a blend of spirits made with a minimum of 51% blue agave and other non-agave sugars).
As the popularity of the Tommy Margarita grew so did the restaurant, which is now an incredible iconic place in San Francisco with many travelling far and wide to get a Tommy’s Margarita made by the man himself. They are also the only tequila bar on the list of top 50 bars in the world, and the only bar on the US west coast to have made the list consistently.
During an interview with Patrón Julio ended by saying what he thought about the hazy history of the classic margarita “I think we should all be grateful to all of the contributions over the years to the margarita. And “Tommy’s” has its place there. What’s most important is that people, in all of their margarita drink really good tequila! That’s the crux of the battle for me. Drink the best you can!”
Julio Bermejo is now and forever will be a tequila expert, but even after being in the business so long he still has one last tequila-related dream – to make his own tequila. We cannot wait to see what this tequila expert brings to the bar scene in the coming years.
He is truly an important part of margarita and cocktail history.