Category Archives: tequila

Tequila. Champagne. Good times.

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Every year my pals host an Oscars viewing party with cocktails themed around the top ten nominated films. This year, their take on the film Hell or High Water was a minerally, bubbly, earthy glass of deliciousness they called Tequila or High Water. I loved it, and immediately demanded the recipe. As it turns out, it’s a variation on a French 75 that’s sometimes called a Tequila 75. Like a French 75, it should be made with Champagne but can be made with good old sparkling white wine if you have Champagne tastes on a sparkling budget. We went with the latter, but if you’re on the red carpet and someone else is paying for your drinks then hell, go with the high(cost) ‘water’, baby.

INGREDIENTS

30ml tequila

15ml lime juice

15ml sugar syrup

Champagne or sparkling white wine, to top up

GLASS

Champagne flute

METHOD

Chill the Champagne flute. Add tequila, lime juice and sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake it like you mean it, then strain into the chilled flute and top with whichever bubbly you can afford.

RECIPE BY

There are recipes all over the internet for this cocktail – I googled ‘tequila Champagne cocktail’ and found this one here.

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Tequila Surprise

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Here’s an easy twist on the once-trendy tequila sunrise that might just bring it back into vogue – or, at least, into Cosmo. (It’s already winning points for its ability to inspire both a terrible magazine pun AND a cocktail pun in one phrase.) Adding orgeat or falernum (use whichever you have on hand) adds a luxurious or tiki vibe, respectively, to this brightly coloured crowd-pleaser.

INGREDIENTS

30ml tequila

15ml orgeat or falernum

5ml grenadine

fresh orange juice (enough to fill the glass)

GLASS

Rocks/tumbler

METHOD

Half-fill the glass with ice. Add the tequila, orgeat or falernum and enough fresh orange juice to fill the glass, and stir. Pour the grenadine over the back of a bar spoon – it should slowly settle into the glass to create the ‘sunrise’ look.

 

RECIPE BY

I really shouldn’t take credit for just adding an ingredient to a classic cocktail…but I will.

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Averna y Tequila

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A while ago the lovely Ginny* over at Coupe Half Full mentioned a full-on cocktail called Averna y Tequila. There’s no messing around here – you can guess the main ingredients by the title – and as I already had both Averna and tequila handy I thought I’d give it a go. The only thing missing was fresh grapefruit juice and enough bravado to try this beast.

As it turned out, I didn’t need the bravado. Although perhaps not a particularly sophisticated cocktail, it’s a very drinkable one. The tequila’s minerality and slight smokiness is highlighted, so if you like tequila there’s a good chance you’ll like this cocktail. And the bitterness of the grapefruit juice is offset by the caramely notes of the Averna, which, despite belonging to the Amari – or bitter liqueur – family, is relatively sweet and flavoursome (it is not as bitter as Campari, for example, the Amari most people are familiar with). The downside? There’s no real mystique about this drink; each flavour is fairly discernible, so when you tell someone what’s in it, there’s only an, ‘Oh right,’ as a response, rather than that lightbulb moment some drinks elicit (you know, that delighted, ‘OH!! Right!’ you sometimes get). Maybe that’s the problem with naming the drink after its principle ingredients – it removes the element of surprise. But if that’s the only problem with this drink then I have no problem with it at all. In fact, I think I might have another. Cheers!

INGREDIENTS

1.5 oz (45ml) silver tequila

1 oz (30ml) fresh grapefruit juice

3/4 oz (22ish ml) Averna

GLASS

Rocks/old fashioned/tumbler

METHOD

Shake all ingredients together with a heap of ice. Strain into a glass that’s half-full of fresh ice. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit. (In summer, this might be good as a long drink, served in a Collins glass and topped with soda. If we ever get a hot day here – hello, Melbourne, I’m talking to you – I’ll give it a go and let you know the result.)

RECIPE BY

I followed this recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/drink/ciao-averna-3-great-cocktails-italian-liqueur

CROCODILE PROP BY

The wee beastie in the photo was handmade by the talented Made by Rozzle.

*Not only does she write sublime posts about cocktails, she has Gin in her name. Awesome.

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Mezcal Margarita

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According to bucketloads of experts, it’s hard to achieve anything in life unless you have a goal. This is probably why, every time a workplace performance review comes around, I am asked to set myself some ‘measurable and achievable’ goals. Apparently, ‘don’t get fired’ is not a good enough goal, despite how hard it can be to achieve, and ‘world domination’ is not achievable, so this year I have set myself a goal of trying to get better acquainted with tequila. It is both measurable and achievable so I’m not sure why my boss was so cross when I submitted it to her but at least I did not get fired (thereby achieving one of my previous goals. If I keep this up I might achieve world domination).

Often sold in comical, sombrero-wearing bottles, tequila has finally shrugged off its ‘one tequila, two tequila, three tequila floor’ reputation and is now where gin was a few years ago: deservedly enjoying a revival. (Thankfully, that revival has also led to it being sold in much better packaging, such as these beautiful bottles by Milagro.) I admit I’m late to the tequila trend but that’s largely because up until now I’ve been busy drinking gin instead. I also admit I know very little about tequila and even less about mezcal (you can read about the differences between them here), and what I’ve learned so far amounts to this:

  1. Tequila and mezcal are both made from agave plants. By law, tequila can be made only from a specific type of agave: blue agave. Mezcal, however, can be made from any agave. Therefore, all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
  2. Tequila tends to be lighter than mezcal, which can be as smoky as a Scotch and kinda heavy on the palate. Which means, according to the bartenders at the Everleigh, that if you want to experiment with mezcal-based cocktails you might be better off using half mezcal and half tequila so the end result is not so overpowering. (This is what the Everleigh crew did when I asked, vaguely, for ‘Something with mezcal in it’ during my last visit – which was, of course, strictly for research purposes. How else do you expect me to achieve my goal?!)
  3. Any goal is more easily achieved with a visit to the Everleigh, aka my spiritual home, especially if that goal is to drink fabulous cocktails, such as the one below, which was inspired by their advice of mixing tequila and mezcal together.

MEZCAL MARGARITA

INGREDIENTS

Caster sugar and a wedge of lime, to rim the glass

25ml tequila

25ml mezcal

15ml mandarin vodka/triple sec/Cointreau

15ml freshly squeezed lime juice

30ml freshly squeezed orange juice

10ml sugar syrup

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Rub the wedge of lime around the rim of a cocktail glass, then dip it in a plate of caster sugar. Pop the glass into the freezer to chill.

Shake all other ingredients together in a shaker that’s half-full of ice. (Mandarin vodka or triple sec will add a nice high note of citrus to the drink, making it good for summer; Cointrea has a bit more depth and makes for a more interesting drink – and perhaps a bit better suited to cold weather.)

Strain into the glass and enjoy! Or don’t. That depends on whether your goal in life is to enjoy things or not…

TASTES LIKE

A much more mature margarita than the kind you used to get at Mexican family restaurants (shudder). The mezcal’s smokiness comes through nicely, but the citrus balances it out. It’s bright and refreshing, but definitely one to sip and savour, not quaff (unless drunkenness is your goal).

RECIPE BY

This recipe is loosely based on a Blood Orange Margarita recipe that appears in Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

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Spiced Agave Old Fashioned

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This is such a modern version of an Old Fashioned that it should probably have another name, but apart from that I can’t fault it. And, like a traditional Old Fashioned, it lends itself to lots of variations. Use reposado (aged for at least two months) or añejo (aged for at least 12 months) tequila and you’ll get a light, flavoursome cocktail that conjures up images of autumn bonfires at sunset; there’s a bit of baking spice in there, some smokiness, and a sweetness that verges on burnt caramel but is balanced out by earthy overtones. Use whisky instead of tequila for a more straightforward, wintery drink, or go with rye whisky for a gingerbready flavour hit that’ll become your new go-to drink before you’ve got halfway through it.

COCKTAIL INGREDIENTS 

60ml tequila, whisky or rye whisky

10ml spiced agave syrup (recipe follows)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

orange peel twist, to garnish (optional)

cinnamon stick, to garnish (optional)

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

First, make the spiced agave syrup (recipe below).

Next, measure 10ml spiced agave syrup into a heatproof cup. Add about 10-20ml boiling water and stir to dissolve the syrup. You’re doing this because agave syrup tends to form a clump and not mix well when you add it to ice and spirits; but if you dilute it just a bit, it works fine. Wait for it to cool a bit before using it in the cocktail – otherwise it’ll just melt the ice.

Add the cooled and dissolved syrup, spirit of choice and bitters to a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. Stir well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass that’s half-full of ice. Garnish with the orange peel twist and cinnamon stick, if desired.

SPICED AGAVE SYRUP INGREDIENTS

200ml agave syrup (there are two kinds available, light and dark. I used light. According to the label on the bottle, the dark kind has a ‘wilder, earthier’ flavour.)

2 cinnamon quills

2 star anise

pinch of freshly ground white pepper

METHOD

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Infuse for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. Allow to cool, then remove star anise and cinnamon and pour into a sterilised glass jar or bottle. According to the recipe book, it should keep in the fridge for about two weeks, but I’ve kept mine in the pantry for about that long with no problems. I also left the cinnamon sticks in the jar, in the hope they’d balance out the slightly-too-strong star anise flavour – which they did.

RECIPE BY

Both these recipes are in a little booklet called Simply Perfect Cocktails by Gee David. I’m not sure if it’s available for sale, sorry – my copy was included as a freebie as part of an order of spirits and syrups from Barware.

 

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Tommy’s Margarita

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A few years ago at Top Shelf* (a festival of boutique spirits and drinks held right here in Melbourne, which I have previously summarised as the best day of the entire year), the delightful Jason Crawley (MD of The Drink Cabinet and all-round clever-pants when it comes to anything alcoholic) presented a talk that was titled something like ‘The top five drinks to order to impress your bartender that show you are not just some schmuck who orders Cosmopolitans because you still think they’re original and interesting’ (look, I can’t recall the exact title, it was a long time ago and I was drunk, but you get the general idea, right?).

One of the cocktails he discussed – and then passed around for taste-testing – was Tommy’s Margarita, which I finally got around to making this week. It’s nothing like the kind of margarita you used to get at crappy Mexican restaurants in the ’80s –  all blended ice and fruit flavouring and colours that don’t exist in nature, served in a vessel the size of your head with a warning that drinking more than one will render you useless for the rest of the day in the office. Rather, it’s a sophisticated way to get acquainted with good-quality tequila, which has finally broken free of its ‘lick, sip, suck’ reputation (a method for getting wasted incredibly quickly involving licking salt off your hand, sipping tequila and sucking on a lemon or lime wedge) and an ingredient that until fairly recently had been hard to obtain here – agave syrup.

Now, I’m no detective but it seems like a mighty odd coincidence that just as Melbourne (or, perhaps, most of the world) worked out that tequila is actually an artisan product with as many terroir-based nuances as fine wine and deserves to be treated as such, the ‘no sugar’ movement over in ‘I’m Determined To Be Annoyingly Healthy And If That Means Denying Myself Simple Pleasures And Demanding Odd Ingredients Such As No-Added-Sugar-Soy-Carob Sprinkles On My Decaff Dandelion Chai Soy Latte Then So Be It Land’ was taking off, resulting in more and more ingredients such as agave syrup becoming readily available and, ironically enough, just begging to be used in cocktails.

Which I have done, following Jason Crawley’s lead.

I think you should, too, for the Tommy’s Margarita is absolutely delicious and deserves to be drunk even if you are not trying to impress your bartender. It shows off the tequila’s minerality and smokiness and has a nice balance between mellow and tart. It can be drunk with ice cubes in the glass (great in summer) or without (perfect in winter). Yeah, yeah, this goes against most recipes, which say it should be served in a chilled glass, sans ice, but we’ve tried it each way and we think it works. Experiment and find your own preferred serving method! Oh, and in case you’re wondering – Tommy’s Margarita was invented by Julio Bermejo in the 1990s, who named it after his family’s restaurant and bar. You can read more about it here.

This particular recipe is from Eau De Vie, one of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars. If you’re ever in town, don’t be put off by its location (down an alley and through an unmarked door, as many of Melbourne’s bars are) or the long queues – it’s most definitely worth a visit.

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TOMMY’S MARGARITA

Unlike other margaritas, this is traditionally served without a salt rim on the glass….although it is delicious with a Maldon sea salt rim, or a Smalt smoked salt rim, or a combination of both.

INGREDIENTS

50ml Reposado tequila

25ml lime juice

20ml agave syrup (we used dark agave syrup)

GLASS

Rocks or old-fashioned

METHOD

Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake like mad. Strain into a rocks glass – it’s up to you if you have ice in the glass or not.

TASTES LIKE

Well, that depends on which tequila you use, whether you use dark or light agave syrup and the age of your lime. An older lime (with yellowed skin) is generally more mellow than a young one (with green skin). Various tequilas all have their own flavour. Serving the drink with/without ice will alter how you taste it, too. Your best bet is to make one and sip it slowly and see for yourself why this is a modern classic. As a rough guide, a Tommy’s should show off the tequila’s flavours – think smoke and minerals – and temper them with a smooth sweetness, perhaps a slight caramelly earthiness, even,  from the agave, and just enough sourness from the lime to liven things up. Sometimes we get notes of apricot loaf and sponge cake coming through; sometimes it’s all about the minerals; sometimes we sounds like a pack of wankers who should piss off and go have a drink. That’s ok – we get the hint. Cheers!

RECIPE BY

This recipe is in Eau de Vie‘s beautiful book Cocktails done the Eau de Vie Way by Sven Almenning (2013, the Speakeasy Group).

*Top Shelf has since changed its name to the Australian Drinks Festival. You can (and should) buy tickets here.

The Littlest AD

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Years ago, the 52 Cocktails crew went drinking every week at a student pub with a great pal called AD. It was the kind of pub where the bartenders would have a drink with you, the whole place was covered in kitsch Aussie memorabilia and if you ordered the same drink often enough it’d get named after you. That’s what happened to AD, who once asked for a Tequila Sunrise, but made with vodka and served in a pint glass. While this may sound as twisted as some coffee orders these days (‘I’ll have a decaf latte with biodynamic almond mylk sprinkled with sugar-free soy carob, thanks’), the bartenders took it in their stride and served the huge, colourful drink without even rolling their eyes. AD took a liking to it and ordered it again, and from that point on it was known as the ‘Little AD’. Similar stories abound about how cocktails get their names, but unless the drink spreads to other drinking establishments it dies out and the name dies out along with it. And since that much-loved student pub is now a gastro-pub, with none of the kitsch decor remaining (and possibly the staff have moved on, too), it seems the Little AD is no more.

At least, that was until recently, when the 52 Cocktails crew had a measly one shot of tequila left in the bottle and a few bits of half-squeezed citrus lying around, and a challenge was thrown down to use everything up in the one drink.

The result was reminiscent of the Little AD, in that it was a successful experiment that used some key ‘sunrise’-style ingredients (namely OJ and grenadine), and so it was named the Littlest AD in honour of AD and his original cocktail. It’s sweet and tastes a bit like a Mai Tai, but with a mineral element coming to the front of the palate courtesy of the tequila.

INGREDIENTS

45ml blanco tequila (we used Espolon Tequila Blanco)

Juice of half an orange (roughly 90ml)

15ml sugar syrup

5ml orgeat

1/2 teaspoon grenadine

GLASS

Rocks

METHOD

Half-fill a rocks glass with ice, add all ingredients and stir.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

It’s easier to make this than it is to order it at a bar. So go on, make one!

RECIPE BY

Proudly created by 52 Cocktails

PS Oh, and that bar we mentioned? It’s the Lincoln in Carlton, Melbourne. It’s still around, and it turns out the kitsch decor was hiding a gorgeous art deco interior – go have a look, have a drink (there’s a short but decent cocktail list, along with a great range of wine and beer) and definitely have something to eat – the food’s great. Just don’t ask for a Little AD or you might be disappointed!

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El Diablo

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Devilishly easy to make and even easier to drink, El Diablo is a drink I put off making for a long time because (a) I bought some blackcurrant liqueur (Cassis) and then couldn’t remember which recipe I’d bought it for, so it sat forlornly in the fridge where it got mocked for being ‘adult Ribena’, and (b)I’m an idiot (see (a) for proof of this).

Then, while having lunch at Mamasita (a Mexican joint in Melbourne that, at the height of its fame, you had to queue for hours to get into), I tried this magical yet unlikely combination of blackcurrant liqueur, tequila and ginger beer and immediately knew I had to replicate it at home.

Mamasita’s looks way better than mine – they present theirs with half a spent lime shell filled with Cassis for you to add to the drink as you wish – but I think mine tastes just as good, and it’s less fiddly to serve. Lots of recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of tequila to Cassis (eg 60ml tequila and 30ml Cassis), but I found that was too blackcurrant-y, so I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit, going for a 3:1 ratio instead.

INGREDIENTS

45ml blanco tequila (we used Espolón)

15ml Cassis

lime wedge

ginger beer (we used Bundaberg)

GLASS

rocks

METHOD

Half-fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the tequila and cassis; squeeze the lime juice directly into the glass and drop the rind in, too. Top with ginger beer, stir gently and serve.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Easier than selling your soul to Satan. Not that we’d know from experience, of course…
RECIPE BY

52 Cocktails adapted this one from a bunch of other recipes. You can adjust the tequila-to-Cassis ratio as you see fit, add more lime or serve it in a long glass with more ginger beer to make it suit your own satanic purposes!

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