One of the most influential speeches I have ever heard on the making of cocktails came from Brian Van Flandern. During the 2009 New York Bar Show, Van Flandern spoke about the anatomy of cocktails. He expressed that every good cocktail is the balance of three basic components: the alcohol, the sweetness, and the sour or bitterness. The Margarita, and specifically for this post, the Tanteo Jalapeño Margarita, is true to this formula. As stated in earlier blog posts, the Tanteo Jalapeño Margarita recipe is 2 oz. of Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila (alcohol), ¾ oz. agave nectar (sweetness), and 1 oz. lime juice (sour). Van Flandern’s basic formula has countless applications with all the different types of spirits. If you substitute the Tequila for Rum, you have a daiquiri. If you substitute cognac, you have a sidecar, and if you substitute cachaca and you have a caipirinha. The fun goes way beyond the basics. Today, I want to point out a couple ways you can play with the classic Tanteo Margarita recipe and make it your own:
Alcohol: Cocktails have to have booze in them. While there are many stories on the origin of the word cocktail, I have always operated with the 1806 publication that defines a cocktail as a spirit mixed with sugar and bitters. I have a pretty fluid definition on most existing drinking vocabulary terms, but a non-alcoholic cocktail is an oxymoron. As the CEO of Tanteo Tequila, I highly recommend using Tanteo’s infused Tequilas for all cocktails and all margaritas 😀. However, Tanteo does do a good job of playing well with others. Tanteo is great with Mezcal, St. Germain, Domaine De Canton, Chartreuse, Cynar (with Tropical Tanteo Tequila), Tuaca, or Disaronno (also with Tropical Tanteo Tequila). For all cocktails, it is recommended to have no more than 2 oz. of total 40% abv spirits in the mix, so when adding other spirits, be sure to tweak your proportions.
Sweetener: As the official definition states, sweeteners are also an important part of any good cocktail. While a neat serving of Tanteo Tequila is wonderful, our most successful cocktail application is in, you guessed it, margaritas. Standard margarita recipes call for some sweetener. As a former bartender, I have skimped on the sweetener for many calorie conscious consumers, but this does not make a good cocktail. For the Tanteo recipe, we encourage the use of agave nectar. It is low on the glycemic index, mixes really well, and it has the same base as Tequila. Simple syrup is another easy substitute if you don’t have agave nectar, but the sweetener substitutions don’t stop there. For the calorie conscious, try Truvia. While raw honey does not work well in cocktails, a honey syrup can also work. Be aware that the booze and/or the sour / bittering agents may have sugar in them. It is important to keep all of this in mind when you are balancing your cocktails to perfection.
Acid / Bitter: Plenty of uptight bartenders have claimed that if you are going by the 1806 definition, cocktails have to strictly include bitters. While bitters do balance out sweet spirits in many classics like an old fashioned, a Manhattan, and even a dry Martini, I want to challenge the definition to include a sour. The fresh lime juice used for the Tanteo Jalapeño Margarita is the acidic agent that makes the cocktail dynamite. Given last year’s lime shortage, I have experimented using fresh lemon, orange and grapefruit juice as acidic agents and although they are a bit sweeter, they do work as a good twist on the recipe. I have also seen Tanteo cocktails made with Aperol and Campari. Atlanta bartender, Richard Tang, even made a barrel aged Margarita that includes Tanteo Jalapeño, Hangar One Lime Vodka and orange bitter.
Understanding the anatomy of a cocktail, and concurrently, the anatomy of a margarita, gives one a starting point to inventing countless variations of the classic. The ingredients are important, but finding the balance between the three components of a cocktail will make it greater than the sum of its parts. Conversely, screwing this up may turn great ingredients into awful cocktails. At
Casa Tanteo, we have tried many different ways to perfect the jalapeño margarita, but with all the different spirits, sweeteners, bitters, and acidity agents, the possibilities are endless.
Para la buena vida,