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 COCKTAILS

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Have a Tequila 

Cocktails Anyone?
by Sheila Swerling-Puritt

Forget those cool rainy days we have been having. Bring on summer, even if you have to conjure it up in a glass. The zesty taste of citrus accelerates the imagination into action.

Now don't roll your eyes when I suggest Tequila as the base for delicious summer cocktails. Tequila has a personality that is independent and fun. Its bright and lively flavour complements food containing avocado, tomatoes, chicken or pork.

Tequila is Mexico. Not Tijuana, but a sophisticated country and culture you should take the time to explore.

Price isn't always a good way to judge tequila. Fancy packaging is now common with premium tequilas. The elegant bottles, while adding to the visual appeal, don't necessarily add to the basic quality of the product. Taste is the deciding factor. Each style of tequila has its own individual character. The young unaged Blanco tequilas have a more distinctive agave flavour. This flavour shines through in mixed drinks. My choice for drinking the product neat with a chaser is the Reposado. That tiny bit of barrel ageing takes the edge off the tequila for me, resulting in a mellower taste. Many Añejos impart too much oak and can overpower the natural agave flavour in a cocktail. I prefer the really good ones, which have the smooth and elegant characteristics of a fine cognac, served after dinner in a snifter. Buying Tequila which is 100% blue agave may be a bit more expensive, but trust me, it's worth it!

If you're not sure what brand to buy, experiment at your local bar. Make sure they don't serve you a Mixto, which is made with 51% agave. There is a definite difference in the taste.

Presentation of the cocktail is the first seduction. Inexpensive hand-blown Mexican glassware helps set the mood. Pony glasses or sherry glasses could stand in for the Mexican shot glass (caballitos) as an elegant way to sip tequila. Garnishes seem to make the cocktail taste even better. Pieces of red bell peppers cut into abstract shapes, fresh flower blossoms, sprigs of fresh herbs such as lemon verbena or mint. If you want to rim your margarita glass with salt, use kosher style or coarsely ground sea salt and fresh lime. I personally think that the salt and lime used this way masks the flavour of premium tequilas.

My friends in Guadalajara taught me to always keep my tequila bottle in the freezer ready for action during the cocktail hour. Here's a simple change from the ritual uno, dos, tres drinking of tequila.

Tequila maven Lucinda Hutson's traditional Margarita

    Per glass
    Ingredients:
  • 1½ ounces Blanco (silver) Tequila
  • ½ ounces Cointreau
  • 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed.*
    *Taste before serving because the acidity of limes varies greatly. It's easy to add more lime or to sweeten it with more Cointreau.
    Preparation:
  1. Combine with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake well.
  2. Strain into a Margarita glass.

Preparing frozen Margaritas in the blender with ice cubes, while fun to drink, I believe dilutes the drink and robs it of its character. But if that's what you are looking for, then let me suggest Jose Cuervo's Margarita Mix, which can be purchased in most liquor outlets. I have tried dozens of Margarita mixes on the market and I still think this one comes as close as you can get to the real taste. A recipe for the Margarita is printed on the back label.

The recipe for this delicious Sangrita chaser, which follows a shot of tequila, comes from the well known upscale Mexican Adobo Grill located in Chicago, Illinois.

Sangrita

    Ingredients:
  • 2 medium cucumbers,* each about 1½ inches in diameter (*regular, not English)
  • ½ dried ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup tomato juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. minced onion
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    Preparation:
  1. Cut two 3½-inch lengths from each of the cucumbers to use as cups. Cut a tiny piece from each end so it will sit straight. Peel the pieces leaving a 1½-inch band of peel at one end of each. Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds, stopping just before reaching the bottom. Refrigerate the cups for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the ancho chile over moderate heat until it begins to blister, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer the ancho to a work surface to cool.
  3. In a blender, combine the orange, tomato and lime juices with the onion and Worcestershire sauce. Crumble in the toasted ancho and purée.
  4. Strain through a coarse sieve. Season the sangrita with salt and pepper and chill for at least 20 minutes. (The sangrita can be refrigerated overnight).

For more information, you can contact Sheila at spuritt@hotmail.com.

 

 

 

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