Aficionado's tequila tips

SIPS

Blue Agave's owner offers 87 kinds of the liquor

August 07, 2002|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the Blue Agave opened in Federal Hill, the tequila-themed restaurant put up a margarita sign, keeping count of the number it sold. Two years later, the count has gone well past 76,000.

For every mixed drink the restaurant serves, Blue Agave bartenders mix 50 to 60 margaritas, says chef-owner Michael Marx. Marx is such a tequila fan that he offers patrons a choice of 87 different tequilas and named his restaurant after the plant from which it's produced.

Tequila comes from the blue agave, one of many varieties of agave plants that grow in Mexico. The agave belongs to the lily/amaryllis family - it's not a cactus - and only the blue agave can be used for tequila.

Premium tequilas are made solely from the blue-agave plant, and all tequilas must have at least 51 percent blue-agave extract. Those with less are labeled mixto, or mixed. You won't find a mixto at Blue Agave.

Americans usually become acquainted with tequila through the margarita, a beguiling combination of lime juice, sugar water, tequila and orange liqueur. The drink is usually served on the rocks in a glass rimmed in large-grained salt to provide a counterpoint to the tartness of the lime.

Marx says frozen margaritas gained popularity when good tequila was not as readily available. All that melting ice helped water it down, and he'll only serve them for an additional $1 blender fee.

Marx's favorite tequila is Herradura Silver. He likes it so much he made it Blue Agave's house tequila.

If you're in the mood to mix up your own pitcher of margaritas, Marx has some tips. First, make your own margarita mix with simple syrup (boil 1 part sugar in 1 part water until it dissolves) and fresh lime juice. Never use concentrate, he warns. Some stores carry the fresh juice, at least occasionally. You can always squeeze your own limes, in which case a juicer might come in handy.

Marx suggests using Herredura Silver Tequila. For your glass, use Morton's kosher salt, which has a nice, large grain.

Margaritas

Makes 1 pitcher

1/2 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated till sugar dissolves)

3 cups fresh lime juice (see note)

9 ounces Herradura Silver Tequila

3 ounces triple sec or other orange liqueur

kosher salt

ice

Combine the simple syrup and lime juice. Add tequila and triple sec. Dampen a clean sponge with a splash of the mix, rub the rim of each glass, then dunk the rim into a small platter of salt. Fill each glass with ice and pour the margaritas.

Note: If limes are especially tart, increase the simple syrup, using up to 3/4 cup.

- Michael Marx

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