Beverage Director Adam Miller for Rita Cantina in Springs, New York designs a deliciously flavorful and seasonal drink menu.
His Margaritas are fresh and locally sourced using top-notch tequilas and a homemade, orange-infused agave syrup. We asked Adam to share his tips and tricks for creating his house made syrup.
Tell us about crafting the perfect Margarita.
High quality is essential! You need a solid tequila that you are comfortable handling. Use super high-quality tequila that doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. There are a ton of inexpensive tequilas out there that make for a great Margarita. Juice your lime fresh and use a high-quality agave. Water is your fourth ingredient, so using good ice and ensuring the correct balance is also vital. When you use ice, you are water-contenting your drink. If you can’t access block-ice or cold-draft ice, I highly recommend using ice that you have a little more control over from purified or distilled water. Always fine strain over fresh ice. Lastly, you want to use coarse kosher salt. It’s fun to play around with different salts, but you want your Margarita ingredients to shine at the end of the day, and you don’t need to use crazy salts. High-quality, coarse kosher salt is imperative.
What should bartenders know about using orange agave syrup in their Margarita recipes?
It’s a super sustainable product. All you’re doing is diluting a high-quality, 100%-agave syrup with some water and then bleeding the orange essence into it. You’ve got a great shelf-life on that product, which is super usable in other agave-based cocktails; it’s not a one-drink-pony. You can play with it in other Daisy-style cocktails, like an Oaxacan Old Fashioned! The orange agave syrup addition is not a major change. We weren’t reinventing the Margarita; people already love it. We just wanted to combine the two styles with a slight difference; the beauty is simplicity. The classic Margarita is timeless and loved for its simplicity.
When opening a bar like Rita and naming your bar after the last four letters of the namesake cocktail, it was super important to have a delicious Margarita unique to our space. When you look at the Margarita throughout the past 50 years, there is a robust debate over the Tommy’s Style and the classic Margarita. The Tommy’s opts out of the orange liquor and opts in for the agave syrup. I think a lot of people personally lean in one direction without realizing what they may be tasting. There were challenging discussions over leaning towards the Tommy’s or classic Margarita when opening Rita. We decided to attempt a hybrid by combining that orange element into the agave in Tommy’s Style Margarita. The orange agave syrup brings in the rich agave notes found in Tommy’s and the orange notes found in the original classic. This approach makes for a well-balanced, thoughtful, classic-adjacent, and unique Margarita.
Any tips/tricks with creating cocktail syrups from scratch?
In general, if you can avoid heating your syrup in any way, you will get a better consistency. We never heat our agave syrup because, with precise measurements, you don’t want to lose your water content. Some syrups require heat but avoiding heat for this syrup is essential. Additionally, always measure on a gram scale; never eyeball it. You want a consistent product, so the sucrose in your syrup can consistently balance the acid of the lime.
- 2 oz. Blanco Tequila
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. orange agave syrup*
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a shaking tin and shake. Fine strain over fresh ice in a double Old Fashioned or rocks glass and garnish with a lime and Kosher salt or Taji rim.
*Orange Agave Sryup
Combine 650 grams of 100% blue agave syrup with 330 grams of filtered water and 1 gram of orange peels in a food-safe container and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through an ultra bag or cheesecloth to remover the orange. Bottle and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.