Back in 2001, I had my first shot at a fancy bartending job. I ran the bar at an upscale Asian restaurant, and we put out all manner of oversized fruity “Martinis.” We had every type of sugar syrup and fruit purée at our disposal, but our crown jewel was a collection of large jars that held berry-infused vodkas, habanero/pineapple tequila, and housemade vanilla “Schnapps.”
Now, I can hear the young mixologists in the peanut gallery scoffing at these Sex In the City-era concoctions. But they may not realize infusing booze has been around for quite some time. Gin is little more than an infusion. Same with most liqueurs, which are sweetened infusions. And the venerable Charles H. Baker wrote of a curious libation in his 1937 Gentleman’s Companion: Tequila Por Mi Amante, or Tequila For My Lover. It’s outstanding. And, in truth, it’s just strawberry-infused tequila with a cringe-worthy name.
First, a little lesson on how this infusion business works. It’s science, really—osmosis, more specifically. Fruits contain flavored water inside their cell walls, and when you surround that fruit with another liquid, particularly one that is only 60% water and 40% delicious reposado tequila, the strawberry-flavored water and tequila-flavored water do a little dance. The fluids will flow in and out of those cell walls until equilibrium is reached. In other words, over time you will have strawberry-flavored tequila inside the cell walls, and strawberry-flavored tequila outside of the cell walls.
To make Tequila Por Mi Amante yourself, fill a large canning jar with halved strawberries and cover completely with reposado tequila. Seal the jar, and let sit for three weeks, agitating the mixture occasionally by shaking gently. After three weeks, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. For extra clarity, pour the infused tequila through a coffee filter.
I keep a bottle of Tequila Por Mi Amante in my refrigerator all summer long. It lasts pretty much forever, but the fresh flavor will start to fade after a few weeks. It makes a perfect sipper on its own, but it also makes the best strawberry margarita you’ve ever had.
• 1½ oz. Tequila Por Mi Amante
• ¾ oz. Cointreau
• ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
• 1 tsp. agave syrup
Combine ingredients and shake with ice cubes until cold. Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
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Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.