A little sun in January? Yes please! Who could blame me? My first thought after reading Maryanne Carmack’s articles on Mexican cuisine was “so what ‘new’ twist could I put on the Margarita?” While I am not here to debate whether the classics should be left alone or not (I see no reason that we should limit ourselves), I decided that I wanted to create something different.My thoughts turned to the cilantro infused tequila that I made for delicious shots and Mexican styled bloody caesars. Surely this tequila held more possibility.
At home, using one bunch of fresh cilantro (preferably organic) per 750 ml bottle of blanco tequila, I let the tequila soak for 48 hours. I recommend streamlining this process by transferring the tequila into a second wide-mouthed container before adding the cilantro. This eliminates a great deal of unnecessary struggle trying to remove pesky stray cilantro stems. After 48 hours, simply transfer the tequila back into the original vessel with a funnel and a fine strainer.
It seems to me that cilantro has a polarizing effect on most people. The previous paragraph ought to serve as a fairly clear indicator as to which camp I belong to. Another popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine that I don’t foresee myself tiring of anytime soon is chili. While one only needs to add tomatoes to have a decent bloody Mary (or salsa), I want to keep this cocktail light and refreshing while preserving the savory elements of cilantro.
I use a decent blanco tequila in this drink to capture the raw vegetal quality of tequila that has not been coloured by barrel aging. My goal here is to evoke a ‘freshness’ capable of transporting the drinker away from any clouds, rain and dreariness associated with our Victorian winter. To enhance the freshness and visual appeal of the drink I add some fresh cilantro and basil. Muddle fresh basil and cilantro in the bottom of a short rocks glass.Fill with crushed ice and add a generous portion of cilantro infused blanco tequila. Garnish with additional herbs, stir and enjoy.While this simple cocktail is certainly potable, if you’re still thirsty, I want to flesh out the drink with a layer of complexity and lighten it up a bit for you. Both cilantro and chilies have the interesting abilities to create false impressions of temperature. They are also amazing at balancing each other out while dancing across the palate and therefore, I’m going to add a little bit of chili heat by way of a simple syrup.
It should go without saying that red chilies are extremely potent so I only slice up eight for two cups of simple syrup and because this cocktail will only require a dash of the simple syrup, that recipe should be more than ample. Using chili syrup has two distinct advantages. The first is that the syrup (when kept properly chilled) will preserve your chilies significantly longer than your refrigerator could ever hope to and it adds a subtle dimension of sweetness that satisfies the palate.
Although at this point I’ve only used ingredients that are well acquainted with each other, in order to lighten up this cocktail, I’ll need to take a brief trip across the Atlantic. Cinzano Orancio is a light orange flavoured vermouth from the same people who bring us the sweeter Cinzano Rosso. Using Orancio made sense for two reasons: orange and tequila have been friends ever since the first margarita and vermouth’s herbaceous qualities will blend well with the fresh herbs in the cocktail. I want to further tie all of these ingredients together so I will use some Peychaud’s for the herbs and Angostura orange bitters for the citrus. And now, with everything together, I give you… the Mexican Connection.
Muddle 3 sprigs fresh basil
Muddle 8 pieces fresh cilantro
1 ¼ oz cilantro infused tequila
1 oz Cinzano Orancio
⅛ oz chili simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
Fill a tall cocktail glass with crushed ice and top with soda
Garnish with basil and chili peppers Cheers! Aclamaciones!
I met Vincent at Canoe Brewpub after tasting one of his creative concoctions. After making that initial connection with Vinny, I started to make it a habit to stop by his bar and see what new things he is excited about and brewing. You should make it your new habit too! Vinny came to Victoria in 2002 to study Literature and along the way found a passion for bartending. He has been mixing drinks at Canoe Brewpub & Restaurant for four years and has cultivated a love for all things cocktail and spirit. When Vinny isn’t creating drinks at Canoe, he writes about his experiments on his blog. -MC