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We're offering three tequila cocktails that go way beyond the standard Margarita. Don't get me wrong, I love a good fresh-squeezed Margarita but tequila has a lot more to offer if you dare to venture off the beaten bath. First up, a little about the different types of tequila. Enjoy these agave spirits mixed up or sipped straight up.
Tequila is distilled from blue agave which grows wild all over Mexico. No wonder those clever Aztecs found good use for this plentiful succulent, with pulque, an ancient agave spirit thought to be a gift from the gods.
The best quality tequilas use 100% blue agave. They are bottled in Mexico and use no added sugars other than from the blue agave. Mixto are tequila blends that use different sugars with a minimum of 51% blue agave. These are good for mixed drinks and Margaritas but when you're looking to create a truly special cocktail it's worth the extra money to use 100% blue agave tequila. Keep both on hand and you'll be ready for anything.
Blanco or Plata (white or silver) are not aged and appear clear, it has a fiery quality, with a full-on agave flavor. These are available in both 100% agave and mixto.
Joven Abocado (gold) which means young and smooth tequila are caramel in color and while they are not aged, the added coloring and flavoring mellows them out a bit. They are almost always mixtos and work well with fruit-based concoctions.
Resposado (rested) tequilas are aged from two months to a year in oak barrels, making them mellow and smooth. These are available in both mixto and 100% blue agave, which is lovely for sipping.
Anejo (aged) as it's name implies these deluxe tequilas are aged for at least one year and up to 5 years in wooden barrels. They are typically made with 100% agave, but some coloring and flavoring is permitted. The best of this bunch achieve the perfect balance of tequila and woody notes. They are as worthy of sipping as any good cognac.
Mezcal (the one with the worm) tends to have a deeper, smokier flavor than tequila because the agave is roasted instead of oven-baked. it is usually only distilled once, making it stronger and harsher than most tequila. Look for mezcal that comes from Oaxaca, Mexico. This region produces some of the best small-batch mezcal worth trying.
Let's move on to the cocktail recipes! Every bar worth it's salt needs a good citrus press. Many cocktails call for fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice and we've got the tool for the job, the Cuisinart Citrus Press. This sturdy enameled cast-aluminum press makes short work of halved lemons or limes with a powerful hinged design that squeezes every last drop and, thankfully, leaves the seeds behind.
3 Tequila Cocktails that are not your typical Margarita.
How 'bout we really up our tequila game and add The Last Palabra to our cocktail repertoire? This is a truly amazing spin on the gin-based, prohibition era cocktail, The Last Word. It's main attraction, and only difference besides the addition of pineapple from the original is mezcal or tequila, which replaces the gin.
We first discovered this cocktail cutie, the drink, not the bartender, (sorry Casey) at one of our go-to suburban Philly restaurants. Located on King Street in Malvern, Restaurant Alba is a true oasis in the burbs. Their featured cocktail is a fine Negroni, and who can argue with that? But, for me, one drink that stands out among Alba's creative cocktail menu is The Last Palabra.
This cocktail has the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, like it's namesake, but the Mezcal adds a smokey quality that is quite unique and very pleasing. The Luxardo brings a hint of sweet, while green Chartreuse adds an herbaceous note and the lime juice provides the perfect amount of tartness to balance it all out.
The Last Palabra
Pour the following ingredients into a shaker that is filled about half way with ice. Then, shake ingredients well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. The coupe cocktail glass is perfect for this drink. Then garnish with a cocktail cherry and a small wedge of pineapple, if available. SALUD!
¾ oz. Pineapple infused Mezcal (add ¼ oz. of fresh pineapple juice if you don't want to bother infusing the Mezcal.)
¾ oz. green Chartreuse
¾ oz. maraschino liqueur
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
A (much-needed) Rest in the Woods
I created this 3-ingredient cocktail when I needed a break from bourbon. I know, I know, believe me it doesn't happen often! The Anejo’s woody notes stand up well to the other classic components of an old fashioned, but the tequila brings a welcome change, especially during the warmer months.
Add Anejo Tequila, maple syrup and 3 to 4 dashes of Orange Bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir thoroughly. Then strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube and garnish with an large orange peel. Use a good vegetable peeler instead of a citrus stripper and you'll get a nice wide piece of citrus peel for your drinks. You can forego the pitcher and make it straight in your glass, just give it a good long stir with a cocktail spoon. Now go forth and rest among the trees.
3 oz Anejo Tequila
¾ tsp maple syrup
3 to 4 dashes Orange Bitters
French Margarita (St. Rita)
This refreshing star starts with 100% agave silver tequila and pairs it with one of my favorite cocktail mixers, St. Germain. If you’ve never had it, this French liqueur is pleasantly sweet, floral (from elderflower), and surprisingly versatile. Adds much more flavor to your glass than plain simple syrup as this cocktail will attest. Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Serve with or without a salt rim, straight up or over ice. Now, are you ready to be refreshed?
1 oz St. Germain (Elderflower Liqueur)
1 ½ oz Silver Tequila
¾ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
Salt for rim (optional)
I know you're gonna ask, so here is the original Prohibition-era gin-based gem, The Last Word! It's origins start at the Detroit Athletic club during the dark days of temperance. Bathtub gin may have a gotten a bad rap but this divine concoction is in a class all it's own.
The Last Word
Add all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds, (you know the drill- sing Happy Birthday twice). Double strain* into a chilled coupe or other festive stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry. Repeat after me, No more worries, wash all my troubles away.
¾ ounce gin
¾ ounce green Chartreuse
¾ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
*Double or fine straining calls for using a small fine sieve when pouring your shaken or stirred concoctions into your glass. The first strainer stops the ice and the fine sieve catches the unwanted bits of herbs, spices, and bits of fruit and the like from making your cocktail.
Every good cocktail starts with the proper proportions of liquid ingredients, so the jigger is the bar's best friend. We have a sleek no-fuss stainless steel Double Jigger from our friends at OXO that offers multiple measurements and pouring ease.
Cheers (Now, this really IS the last word, promise!)