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The great upgrade debate

Master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim explains why spending more on your cocktail is a good thing.


You’re at the bar. You’ve just ordered your margarita. And now, as usual, a panic washes over you. Maybe I should have upgraded, you think.

The upgrade, as it pertains to cocktails, is almost exclusively reserved for margaritas. Any place with a decent tequila list will give you the option of subbing in a different tequila of your choice. Problem is, it comes at a price.

Is it worth it? We asked one of the most famous bartenders in the world, Tony Abou-Ganim, author of The Modern Mixologist (Agate Surrey, $35). “I have a problem with the word upgrade,” he says. The word makes it about money, Abou-Ganim says, not about the tequila. And when it comes to tequila, he finds the value not on the price tag but “in the bottle.”

Still, he’s a fan of the upgrade for the simple fact that “I can have a different margarita experience by changing the tequila.” If he upgrades from a silver to a reposado, for instance, he changes the margarita from fruity and bright to lush and oaky. Or, if he switches from a reposado to a silver, the other way around.

It comes down to “what am I in the mood for,” Abou-Ganim says. And if you so happen to be in a cheap mood—well, then, that’s valid, too.

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