Julio Bermejo

Hamish Smith gets the full skinny on the Tommy’s Margarita from the creator himself, Julio Bermejo.

When the inventor of the Tommy’s Margarita (and pioneering advocate for 100% agave tequila) is in town, it'd be remiss not to steal some time with him. So, here's an interview with Bermejo that took place at a Pernod Ricard event at Donovan's Bar, shortly after he'd made a batch of Margaritas.

Why was the Tommy’s created?

The goal was to make a Margarita that tastes of the tequila you, the bartender, chooses to use.

We just had a great Tommy’s Margarita with Olmeca Altos, but what do you use at Tommy’s Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco?

It was Herradura for 23 years – which was arguably the best valley tequila around. We use valley because it’s more pungent – it suits American tastes, they want to taste the alcohol. Highland tequila is more delicate. We then moved to Arette for 11 years and now we’ve moved on to Dos Lunas. Often guests start with the house tequila in their Tommy’s Margarita, and then have something different.

Do you think blanco or reposado works best in a Tommy’s?

When we introduced 100% agave we were making a statement. Once everyone had caught up with us, we added a reposado. If you’re in San Francisco – or London – and the weather is grey, chilly, foggy, I would argue you should make a Tommy’s Margarita with something with more depth, body and a longer finish, so something aged in wood gives you that. Now, if you are in Mexico or in a hot, humid city, you want crisp, bright and young – that’s when I’d use a blanco.

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Should it be straight up or on the rocks?

They both work equally. I usually drink mine in a few minutes so the dilution doesn’t bother me. We serve ours in a goblet – it just works for us.

And how do you make yours?

I like anejo in my Tommy’s. It gives me complexity, it’s softer. It’s two parts of your favourite 100% agave tequila, one part seedless, fresh, hand-squeezed lime juice and one part agave fructose that we’ve cut at least 1:1 with purified water, depending on the brix.

And what about the lime juice?

The freshness of the juice and the type of lime are important. Persian limes – which are sweeter – make great Tommy’s. But even within Persian limes, the ones grown in Mexico taste different to the Brazilian and the Zimbabwean. We also cut the ends off the limes. Since we use a Mexican elbow, the backside of the lime doesn’t get squeezed. When you’re squeezing hundreds of thousands – that’s money. The other reason is physics. We want the largest, flattest surface area on which to apply pressure, so by cutting the nib and squeezing on pith – not rind – we can minimise on oil that goes into the drink. Our goal is to deliver the crispest, brightest juice we can and have the server deliver that in as expedient a fashion as he or she can. To me, juice doesn’t last 15 minutes. You can’t be a little fresh or a lot – fresh is fresh. It goes from the fruit to the cocktail.

And what about the agave syrup?

The agave syrup also has to be adjusted based on the juice and the maker of the syrup. You want the agave sugars to be hydrolysed with heat not acids and enzymes – just like tequila. The taste is different.