Stolen from Julio

I feel lucky to have in my possession a recipe for the Tommy’s Margarita, signed by Julio Bermejo. I was lucky enough to sit next to him at the 2009 Bar Awards and get a lesson in the evolution of the drink, the move from Herradura to Arete and most importantly, the 2-1-1 measure that make this drink drop dead gorgeous.

Inspired by the bottle of Stolen I received last weekend I thought I might combine it with the dark agave syrup that is on sale each Saturday in Fitzroy Gardens at the Kings Cross food market, some limes from the Organic vege stall and a little bottle of Aromatic bitters I found at the back of a shelf in Coles, produced in an industrial estate in Sydney’s western sprawl. Stolen has fruit and flowers where Reposado brings a dusty earthiness, so I upped the strong portion to balance things out.

Stolen from Julio

60mls Stolen white rum, 20mls freshly squeezed lime juice, 20mls dark agave syrup and a small dash of aromatic bitters. Combine in a shaker, ice and shake. Strain and serve up with a wheel of lime.

While it isn’t quite the symphony you get in a Tommy’s, the aromatics bring out the floral character in the rum, the dark agave adds a caramelly depth and it is a very pleasant little drink.


It’s National Margarita Day!

Those crazy Americans, they seem to have a day for everything. February 22nd has the utter joy of being George Washington’s real birthday, Worldwide Thinking Day and also National Margarita Day.

Like any great drink, the margarita has a bit of a clouded history. Most of the stories originate in Mexico, some time in the thirties or forties, although it wasn’t until the invention of the Slurpee machine by Omar Knedlik in 1965 that the Margarita became world famous; the stuff of hangovers and legend.

Thankfully, the Slurpee abomination has once more been pushed from the limelight, laargely by the tireless work of Julio Bermejo at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Fransisco. The invention of the Tommy’s Margarita, a 1:1:3 mix of Agave Syrup, Lime Juice and Heradura 100% agave tequila has bought the drink back to the fore. The agave syrup can prove difficult to track down,  and  a trip to San Fran is probably a touch far for most of you in Sydney, so here’s where you can get the best in Sydney should you feel the need to celebrate.

Eau-de-Vie: Margarita Con Palomitas is a Tommy’s with a modern twist, a salted popcorn rim that’s a real treat.

Cafe Pacifico: Go and drink your way through their impressive range of tequila in a well mixed up version of a Tommy’s.

At home, Cocktail, The Glorious Recipe, Training


Part One in a Four Part Series called The Glorious Recipe


One of the most common elements in modern cocktails is the smoothing and sometimes insipid sweet element. Learning different methods for sweetening cocktails and how to make your own syrup is an essential step to being able to make quality drinks for your guests when you are entertaining. Here are a few to get you started:

Simple Syrup.

The most basic if the sweet family of ingredients. Simply take equal parts white sugar and water and combine. There is much debate over the merits of hold vs. cold, but I have experimented and am yet to find a difference. I generally take 500 gms of sugar and add it to a pot of boiling water, that I have measured out to 500 mls (bless the metric system.) Take the pan off the heat when you add the sugar, and after about ten minutes and a couple of stirs the liquid should be free of sugar crystals. Bottled, it can be kept under refrigeration indefinitely, but you will most likely blow through the 800 odd mls that result from this recipes in two or three nights of irresponsible entertaining.

Demerara and Brown sugars, plus the new low GI cane crystals can be used, with differences in the way the final product will taste.

A note on infusion. Perhaps my single greatest revelation in mixing my own drinks at home was infusing the simple syrup with the flavors of fresh fruits, herbs and spices. Material should be chopped to small, but not obsessive slices or cubes and left to sit for an hour or more. Adding heat will speed the process but can add a stewed or caramelized note to the flavor that is not always welcome in your finished beverage. Personal favorites of mine are Lemon/Lime, made with peel and juice of each fruit; Ginger, with the skin left on to save both time and sanity; Lemongrass, with the stalks chopped and roughly smashed; Fresh Apple, I have found Fuji’s work particularly well; & Fresh Fig, which is surley one of the foods of the gods. (or god, depending on your stance.) The key here is experimentation, and remembering to remove the organic material with a sieve.


While most modern recipes consider gomme and  syrup the same thing, they are in fact somewhat different. Gomme is made by combing a paste made from equal parts Gum Arabic and water with a 2:1 (less sweet) version of the simple syrup above. Gum Arabic comes from unhealthy trees in the Sudan, it was used in the past to adhere ink to newsprint and is one of the constitute ingredients of jelly babies. It can be found at specialty food stores. 

The principle reason for adding Gum Arabic was to stop the sugar in the syrup from crystalizing with the lack of cold storage. It did have a side effect of adding a silkiness to a mixed drink, something now achieved by the addition of raw egg, making gomme the vegan alternative I suppose. Probably only made for notoriety rather than necessity.

Agave Syrup

Equal parts so hot right now and reviled because of the uneconomic nature of having said syrup slowly crystallizing on the rack, Agave Syrup is a low GI alternative to using Simple Syrup. The product is made from the Agave Plant, or more specifically, it’s core, ‘sweet cactus juice’ would probably be quite an accurate description of its provenance. Agave Syrup does carry a little hint of the sawdusty note found in Tequila, but a Tommy’s Margarita, which is made with this stuff, is possibly the nicest, smoothest, most incredible drinkable elixir I have ever laid my lips on.

Corn Syrup

Basically the reason America is fat, corn syrup is great at making things sweet, and ridiculously cheap to produce. It can be found flavouring everything from your Coke to your Cheetos. It should never sweeten your drink.

Agricole Syrup

Essentially the cane sugar syrup that is used to make Agricole rum. Can be used to great effect, especially if you can buy a bottle of both the Rhum and the syrup it came from. Tikilicious!

Artificial Sweeteners

Are acceptable, but are generally not used in bars due to the pesky nature of the complex chemicals and the way the streak up glassware, even when its put through a high temperature cycle.


Are basically syrups with some booze added.

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