Cilantro Syrup (and Associated Margarita)

I made syrup out of my cilantro because I hate Patron Citronge.

This takes a little explaining, I guess. I don’t really hate Patron Citronge. It seems fine for what it is. But the first, second, and third requirements I have for my orange liqueurs is that they make a good margarita. And, to my taste, Patron Citronge doesn’t do it. I wandered away from my faithful Cointreau just out of an urge to experiment, and, as sometimes happens, it didn’t pan out.

My complaints about the Citronge center around the orange taste (too faint) and the alcohol base taste (too strong). When I add Cointreau to a margarita, it enhances it by adding a new flavor. The Citronge just seemed to distract and attenuate the tequila instead.

Thinking of my visits to Tommy’s in San Francisco, I recalled that he doesn’t use any orange liqueur at all, but rather uses an agave syrup of his own formulation - the better to preserve the essence of the tequila. Could I do something similar?

Well, I did have all of this cilantro in my front yard. And I knew from experience that muddling a stalk or two of that in my margarita could give it an interesting element (albeit one that would probably make Tommy’s Julio Bermejo wince). I decided to try to leverage this by making cilantro-flavored syrup.

It works. It works really well.

Making the Syrup

On your stove, combine 1.5 cups of white granulated sugar with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat. When the boil settles away, add a large handful of nicely bruised cilantro. Stir a bit, and let sit as it cools. Strain into a jar or squeeze bottle when cool enough.

Normally, you’d infuse all the way through the boil - in fact, I’m doing that as we speak, with a bunch of bay leaves - but cilantro is so delicate that I decided to avoid it. Even going in after the boil, the taste is not strictly the aromatic breathless taste one associates with cilantro, but also has a stronger vegetal note (and an interesting light green color). It’s quite pleasant.

The Margarita

The ratio here is 2 parts Tequila to 1 part lime juice and just a bit of Citronge, then add syrup to sweeten as necessary (just under 1 part did it for me). I probably didn’t use more than a teaspoon or two of Citronge, just enough to give the drink a light orange cast. (The important thing here is to not let the Citronge screw up your good tequila. If, like me, you enjoy the orange notes in a margarita, It might be interesting to substitute orange bitters instead. I haven’t tried that yet, but will comment here when I do.)

For bonus points, muddle some fresh cilantro in the syrup, then add your liquors and ice, and shake. Enjoy a nonstandard, but very delicious, margarita.

As always, make sure you use 100% de agave tequila.