Amidst the heat and dust, a 100% desi-margarita

In Drinks on December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm


I came across a fascinating story recently.  The famed Tequila and Margarita of the West being processed and manufactured, right here in India.  The guy behind this was Desmond Nazareth.  This being an India first, I had to participate in the toast first and a blog next!

Tequila is a refinement over a native drink of Mexico, by the Spanish Conquistadors more than 500 years ago.  They took the sweet syrup of the agave plant and fermented and distilled it further.  It has come to become the national identity of Mexico’s proud heritage.  From Jalisco, Tierra del Tequila, published by Artes Mexico, 1995:

Tequila reminds us of a particular world, a world that was born of shared imagination – a wild, rural landscape of robust men on horseback, accustomed to difficult tasks.  A powerful shadow, that of the mountain also called Tequila, falls over this great region. That terrain of hard beauty is as hypnotizing to contemporary travellers as it was in centuries past. 

Almost all of the Tequila is manufactured in Tequila, a small town in a valley west of Guadalajara, in Jalisco state, Mexico.  The largest consumer of tequila is the US and then Mexico.  Two of the largest and well known tequila brands being Cuervo and Sauza.  It takes a minimum of 8 years to make a bottle of tequila.  It is distilled from the roasted center (piña) of the blue agave plant.  Tequila is a Geographical Indication (GI) belonging to the Mexican Government.

Panning the camera back to India, we see a man in search of bringing this Mexican buzz to India.  In the process, he went the whole 9 yards:

From growing the blue agave Indian equivalent to also manufacturing the liqueurs essential for a great margarita.  

While doing some spirit and soul searching in India, Desmond appears to have had an ‘aha’ moment.  In his own words:

A random question was triggered off in my mind, for no apparent reason: why is Tequila®, a globally known alcoholic beverage, made in only one country (Mexico), whereas almost any other equally well known alcoholic beverage (whisky, vodka, rum, gin, champagne, wine, beer) has multiple producers in multiple countries?

Researching this, I saw photos of the blue Agave used in Mexico and had an ‘aha’ moment – I was sure I had seen similar Agave plants growing in India during my childhood. Having some general knowledge about these matters, I immediately looked up a map of the world and traced the latitude lines for the Agave growing regions in Mexico (Jalisco & Oaxaca) across to India. They crossed right through the Deccan Plateau! Looking at the other key parameters for the possible migration of plant species, I found startlingly close matches in terms of soil, rainfall, temperature, altitude i.e. key geo-climatic factors.

I concluded that I must have seen these plants while traveling through the Deccan on trains in my youth!  I continued my research for the next few years and collected enough information to develop a process for making Agave spirits from the blue-green Agave, if only I could find it in India! Shortly after moving to Goa, and meeting the right people who could help me find and experiment, we set off on a road trip into the Deccan, armed with all my data files, in search of the blue-green Agave – lo and behold, we found some within a day!

Thus the desi-avatar of the tequila was born.  The amazing details are as intoxicating as the brew itself!  But a margarita needs it’s liqueur, right?  Desmond went the whole hog and manufactured that as well.  In his line DesmondJi Orange Liqueur, you will find the Cointreau equivalent.   In Desmond’s words:

Having successfully made very high quality Agave spirits by 2007 in R&D mode, I realized that the main use they were put to was in the making of Margaritas. For the classic Margarita, one needs a good Orange liqueur like Cointreau®*, Grand Marnier®*, Triple Sec, or Blue Curaçao.

I wanted a world-class Orange liqueur to go with my world-class Agave spirit to make world-class Margaritas in India!  So I contacted a couple of the French producers of renowned Orange liqueurs and requested them to consider making their products in India, so that the cost to the Indian consumer would be affordable. They ignored me.

Having researched the making of these liqueurs, that lack of response was all the impetus I need to say ‘What the heck? I’ll make these on my own, with oranges from India.’ I quickly chose the Nagpur Orange as my basis and over the next few years developed what I believe is a world class Orange liqueur and Blue Curaçao liqueur. I now had two of the key ingredients of my classy Margarita, made entirely in India with Indian raw materials! The third, fresh lime juice, is readily and affordably available in India.

So, here’s a toast to a new and exciting India.  The one that breaks free, the one that races ahead.  Amidst the heat and dust of modern India, give me a margarita!


DJ’s basic 100% desi-margarita

    • Lime juice, freshly squeezed from one lime
    • DesmondJi 100% Agave, one part
    • DesmondJi Orange Liqueur, half part

Blend these into a margarita glass, with some crushed ice.  The rim of the glass laced with salt, makes for a basic, classic margarita.

PV’s DJ Agave Grilled Lime Shrimp

  •  500 gm medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 60 ml DesmondJi 51% Agave
  • Juice of two limes
  • salt + pepper + cumin + one green chili to taste

If you do not have a measuring cup, you can fall back on approximations. Cup your hand and pour the the DJ into it. That should approximate 50 to 60 ml. Two cupped handfulls will be the olive oil. Fresh ground pepper on the shrimp looks magical. Cumin adds a subtle flavor and it was actually lost to my tastebuds. One level teaspoon would suffice. I left the head on the shrimp, for effect.

Mix all the ingredients together for the marinade and add the shrimps last.  Let it marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.  The original recipe calls for a refrigeration of 2 to 4 hours.  I am not sure if that is necessary other than the fact that the cold shrimp may behave differently to the high heat of the grill.  Worth a try.  The shrimps turned out succulent and great.

Here they are, fresh from my local Meat Mart and ready to be deveined:

 shrimp deveined

After marinating it for about 20 minutes, I threw the lot on my weber grill on a moderate Indian charcoal fire:

shrimp on the barbie

Took them off the grill while they were translucent.  The aroma was splendid, the flavors, well, you will have to try it yourself, and let me know!

DJ's Original BBQ Agave Lime Shrimp

I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you mate, if you are having a DJ-margarita! Cheers and a Happy New Year!

If you have a recipe suggestion with a DJ involvement, please send in your suggestions and I would be glad to post them here. Some accompanying pictures would make it 100% authentic!

I met Desmond in Bangalore and we took a few pictures in front of an agave plant that started it all! He said he bought it at Lalbagh and planted it about six years ago




  1. The process: India vs. Mexico
  2. All you wanted to know about tequila
  1. Thanks for this informative background piece on us, Peter, and especially for posting those tasteful pics, both of the bottles/guitars and your DJfied grilled shrimp 🙂

    Cheers and best of the season to you, your near and dear ones, and blog readers!

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