Thursday, 18 April 2013

Ay Caramba.

To date, this blog has featured all the cocktails I personally wanted to try, which seems like a good place to start. Hence, they have all tended to be zesty, fruity, occasionally with floral or herbal undertones and built around vodka, gin and rum. While this seems to me to be more than enough to work with, I am willing to concede that there is far more to be discovered in the world of mixology and so, like the intrepid explorers of yore, I am donning my pith helmet and venturing out into the jungle of wild and untamed spirits. That said, I am not veering into totally unchartered territory, as all of this weeks picks are indeed zesty and fruity, but I am ringing the changes by making margaritas, which, as I'm sure you know, all feature, tequila.

The very mention of tequila, sends an involuntary shudder down my spine and sadly, not in a good way, but it was not always so and I am hoping, that with the right ingredients, I can rediscover my love of it once again. Let's hope so, because I now have a whacking great bottle of the stuff to get through! Once, in a time before children, before hangovers gained such an intensity as to render all cognitive behaviour, impossible, tequila was an oft time companion in the relentless maradi gras that was my life, but over familiarity does indeed, breed contempt and our relationship has been frosty, to say the least, since 2003. However, cocktail aficionados, assure me that the problem lies, not with Tequlia itself, but with the quality of tequila we buy - although I suspect, my personal issue was one, more of quantity, than quality, but moving on....

Tequila is distilled from the heart of the blue agave, a large succulent plant found in Mexico and must be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco to qualify as genuine. It is sold as either 100% agave or mixtos, which must be at least 51% agave and the rest being made up of other sugars. There are then five sub categories that the pure tequila is divided into, according to age. For a smoother, more palatable drink (yes please) you should look to buy a 'resposado' or 'anejo' tequila. The 'resposado' has been aged for a minimum of two months, but less than a year, in oak casks and the 'anejo', a minimum of one year, but less than three.

I had wanted to head to Amathus for a bottle of their superb Calle 23 Resposado tequila, but time constraints were such, that I could venture no further afield than my local Tesco, where, by fortune, they had a bottle of Sierra Resposado, complete with amusing, Mexican hat lid, more than adequate, I hope for mixing up a few tequila cocktails.

So, to begin with, we are going to make a margarita. There are so many variations on the basic drink, which consists of tequila, triple sec (or similar orange liqueur), lime juice and salt. This first margarita is called a Puro Margarita and does not use triple sec, but rather, the sweetness comes from the addition of agave syrup, which, if you haven't heard of it before, is a natural sweetener, made from the agave plant and with a much lower GI than sugar. It is readily available in larger supermarkets and of course, health food stores.

Puro Margarita


1 oz lime juice
Zest of  1/2 a lime
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 oz agave syrup
2 oz tequila Resposado

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker
Half fill with crushed ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs
Strain into a cocktail glass

Now here's the shocker - it's actually really nice. I could definitely detect tequila, but the addition of lime zest, seemed to pick up a spiciness, I hadn't ever really noticed before, with tequila and the sweet, sour and salt worked beautifully, together. 

So, flush with success, I am moving on to a variation on the theme and making a Cherry Margarita. This recipe calls for 8 cherries and I am using freshly frozen cherries, not least because they appear to  be more expensive, pound for pound, than plutonium, at the moment, but also because they actually break down more easily and the whole thing can be made in a shaker. This recipe also calls for Luxardo's maraschino liqueur, which I purchased as a miniature, to try out, a few weeks ago, from Just Miniatures, and in fact, have almost finished it, so may be investing in a full size bottle soon.

Cherry Margarita


8 frozen cherries
1/2 oz sugar syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Luxardo's maraschino liqueur
1 1/2 oz tequila Resposado 

Run cold water over the cherries in a sieve and pat dry
Add the cherries and sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker and muddle until the cherries are fairly pulped
Add the remaining ingredients and top up with crushed ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into a cocktail glass

Again, I surprised myself by really enjoying this. If I had any criticism, it was that it was a little sweet for my taste and possibly could have benefited from less added sugar, but the colour was so magnificent, I could forgive it that.

This last cocktail is adapted from a daiquiri recipe, favoured by Ernest Hemmingway, but the the rum is substituted with tequila. I like to think that Hemmingway, the alcoholics' poster boy, would have approved. I imagine he would have probably approved, had I substituted the rum for turpentine, in the appropriate circumstances....

Hemmingway Margarita


2 oz tequila Resposado 
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz Luxardo's maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz sugar syrup

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill to half way, with ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into a cocktail glass

This, I thought, was delicious - sweet, but not cloying and very refreshing. I do believe, Hemmingway would have happily sunk a few of these and no doubt written some outstanding work of fiction, whilst pie-eyed. I, on the other hand, am struggling to finish this post after sharing all these with Mr TG. 

So, in brief, tequila isn't half as dreadful as I thought and I would happily whip up any of these cocktails to entertain guests. Of all of them, I would choose, as my number 1, the Puro Margarita - the addition of lime zest, elevating it from Cheesh and Chong, to Frida Kahlo.

And finally, I couldn't write about tequila, without a nod to the classic, shot, with salt and lime. I find it hard to believe there's a person of drinking age, alive, who hasn't tried this - possibly with disastrous consequences- but, just in case, here it is...

Tequila, Salt and Lime


1 oz tequila Resposado 
1 wedge of lime
1 pinch of salt

Pour the tequila into a shot glass
Take a pinch of salt and put it on the back of your opposite hand
Throw back the tequila shot in one gulp and immediately suck on the wedge of lime

Now, I have to be honest and admit that I did not try this one at home, but I did sniff the glass and was surprised to find that I did not retch. I think my days of tequila shots are well and truly over, but I may well make the Puro Margarita, part of my cocktail repertoire.I hope that you get the chance to try these out for yourself and please let me know your thoughts. Drink responsibly and have an amazing weekend x

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