With over fifty years of combined experience in the beverage industry, the authors of this book have put together 72 exciting recipes that go way beyond the classic margarita to celebrate Mexico’s cocktail culture.
Included are traditional, craft, and spicy drinks such as the Blood-Orange-Cinnamon Margarita, San Fresa Frizz, and Smokey Pablo. The authors also cover the history of tequila, explain the difference between different tequilas, and offer bonus recipes for aguas frescas, syrups, salts, and some of their favorite Mexican dishes. With color photos throughout, this is the must-have book on the subject, perfect for home cooks, bartenders, and those who just want to know more about tequila and mezcal.
“A Lime and a Shaker showcases the full spectrum of flavors you can achieve when mixing with agave spirits.” —Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book
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Tippling Bros. Margarita Watermelon Hibiscus Margarita Blood Orange-Cinnamon Margarita Savory Strawberry Margarita Margarita con Humo The Margarita the Tippling Bros. Drink at Home Smoke and Spice Tres Viejos Barril Especia Flamenquito Tequila Negroni Tequila Last Word Crippler Tippling Bros. Michelada Michelada Mix Clamato Michelada Kermich Tikimich Jamaicamich Charro Mojado Paloma Oaxacan Sour Guacamole Tradicional Tomatillo Pico de Gallo Tad's Kitchen Sink Turkey Chili
Walk into a Tex-Mex restaurant, one of those loud, festive eateries where waitresses place cast-iron skillets of sizzling steak fajitas in front of hungry, expectant customers, and you'll make an intriguing observation. Beyond the mounds of refried beans, Day-Glo orange cheese–draped enchiladas, and baskets of salty tortilla chips, a glass will be a fixture at most tables — likely rimmed in salt, probably oversized, perhaps filled with slushy remnants — that elicits joy among patrons old and young: the Margarita.
This ubiquitous cocktail, an emblem of Mexican-American culture as familiar as a mariachi band's vibrant serenade, is a mainstay at the diviest of taco shacks, the most corporate of cantinas, and the fanciest temples of haute mole-slinging Mexican cooking. But how did this drink, a simple libation that typically — but not always — marries tequila with orange liqueur and lime juice, acquire such universal popularity, such mainstream adulation from a motley group of fans?
It's a simple sour, yet when crafted properly —as we will show you through multiple variations — it's an exquisite drink. Ordering a Margarita also has far more profound consequences. In essence it conjures a mythical world that lies south of the border. One sip channels the glittering pool of a posh, mid-century Acapulco resort; another conjures memorable, carefree spring breaks. And so we continue to savor America's most-called-for cocktail because we like its alluring balance of sweet and sour, amplified by a pop of salt — and because we like the power it has to take us to Mexico without ever having to reach for our passports.
"MAKING" THE MARGARITA
The first printed mention of the beloved Margarita didn't appear until 1953, in the December issue of the men's magazine Esquire, which playfully compared the drink to a beautiful woman worth knowing. "She's from Mexico, señores, she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative," the tagline read. By this time, a postwar era of domestic bliss and rosy families, the Margarita was prevalent. Still, no one could precisely put a finger on the reason it had become such a hit during pool parties and burrito dinners. Although the tales are plentiful, none has ever been proven as the authentic answer to the Margarita's murky origins. Let's delve into a few of these colorful yarns, shall we?
In one version, the drink was made in honor of 1940s bombshell Rita Hayworth, who, as a teenager performing in Tijuana at the Agua Caliente Race Track, was known by her real name, Margarita Carmen Cansino. Another gives barman Danny Negrete the credit for whipping up the concoction at a hotel in 1936 as a wedding present for his sister-in-law Margarita; another popular theory pegs wealthy Dallas socialite Margaret "Margarita" Sames as the drink's heroine. Supposedly, in 1948 the consummate hostess served it to friends at a party in her Acapulco hideaway. In yet another well-circulated vignette, Carlos "Danny" Herrera made the Margarita on the fly at his Tijuana restaurant Rancho La Gloria for a demanding wannabe actress who claimed to be allergic to all booze except tequila.
Tippling Bros. are believers in the adage "never let the truth get in the way of a good story." While these stories make for fine dinner chat, we believe that in order to truly discover the background of the Margarita, we need to go back, way back, to the late 1800s, when a mixed drink category known as the Daisy blossomed on the scene. The Daisy is a classic cocktail that simply unites a base spirit — brandy, whiskey, and gin were all desired choices — with simple syrup, curaçao or maraschino, lemon juice, and soda water. Flash forward to that wild, hard-to-fathom social experiment known as Prohibition, when in 1920 the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors were fiercely banned in the U.S. Had we been alive at the time, the name of our company probably would have been the Bootleg Bros.
Well, booze-loving Americans weren't going to simply kick back and settle on sips of seltzer quietly. Instead, they stealthily paid visits to speakeasies that were doling out illicit liquid, tinkered with their own awful "bathtub" recipes, or hightailed it to foreign destinations like Paris, London, and Havana, where no one wanted for lack of whiskey.
Mexico, particularly just-over-the-border Tijuana, was a hotbed of such liberating expatriate activities. As American barmen set up shop in Mexican bars, one of the drinks they impressed those thirsty socialites-on-the-run with was the satisfying, easy-to-make Daisy. Sometimes they swapped brandy with tequila — they were in Mexico after all — and when they did so, asking for a Margarita, that's Daisy translated in Spanish, became a familiar request. More nomenclature fodder: Like Daisy, Peggy was also a popular nickname for Margaret, so yes, drinking a Tequila Peggy also translates to drinking a Margarita. Had it gone a different way, who knows what we might be calling our favorite tequila sour. This historic footnote may be devoid of romance, yet we wholeheartedly believe that the reason we all crave Margaritas with as much gusto as tacos and hot sauce in Mexican restaurants all boils down to this mere matter of linguistics.
The Sidecar, purportedly created at the end of World War I — the Ritz Hotel in Paris takes credit for its invention, but Londoners were also besotted with it — melds cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice, so some believe the Margarita is a mere adaptation of the classic. Similarly, the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book highlights a tequila drink called the Picador with citrus and Cointreau. While there's no mention of salt, the recipe indeed sounds familiar.
WHAT IS TEQUILA?
As we mentioned at the beginning of the book, the Tippling Bros. like tequila — a lot; so much so that some of our Mexican friends translated our name to its Spanish equivalent, Borracho Bros. The Margarita might be the most familiar vehicle for consuming tequila, but the spirit is far more compelling and complex than its synonymous cocktail. Tequila is a pure, unadulterated reflection of Mexico, the only place in the world where it can be made and bottled. To sip tequila is to drink in the beauty of Mexico and celebrate the passion of its people.
All tequila is distilled from the Weber blue agave plant, also known as maguey, which is sheathed in a rosette of thick, spiny, fleshy leaves with edges sharp enough to draw blood. While there are hundreds of varieties of agave, only the Agave tequilana Weber, variedad azul is allowed in the production of tequila. Some tequilas are classified as mixtos and are made with up to 49 percent of their sugars being derived from sugarcane or other sources. Listen carefully to this part (or read rather, since the book will not talk to you): From this point forward we will not mention mixtos again. Why? Because we don't drink them. Because we don't use them in cocktails. Because we love and celebrate real tequila. What we will talk about from here on in is tequila made with 100 percent blue agave only. Look for 100 percent de agave or puro de agave on the label. Period. To help ensure the tequila you are sipping maintains quality standards, we have the Consejo Regulador del Tequila — or the CRT if Spanish isn't your strong suit — from the Mexican government's Ministry of Economy to thank.
WHERE IS IT MADE?
Tequila is primarily made in the northwestern Mexican state of Jalisco, in the aptly named town of Tequila. Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas are other tequila-making states, but to date nearly all production centers around Tequila. Just like wine, tequila expresses terroir. According to our friend Scott Baird, one third of the San Francisco–based cocktail consultancy the Bon Vivants, "It's the California wine versus French wine debate. They are both good and any of them are only as good as the ethos and honor of the farmers of the agaves and the people distilling it." Tequila from the highlands, for example, is made from agave grown in red clay soil. Because of the area's elevation, in the evenings it tends to get cool there and winters bring copious amounts of rain. As a result, the flavor profile will skew sweet and bright, with delicate floral and citrus notes. In the lowlands, where agave grows amid lush volcanic earth, the results are earthier, more herbaceous and spicy.
HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN AROUND?
In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadores swooped into Mexico and claimed the country as their own. When they arrived they witnessed a religious ritual that filled their heads with dollar signs. Mexican natives, they noticed, tapped local agave plants for sap, which they then fermented into a milky, foamy drink called pulque. Somewhere along the way, the Spaniards realized that if the plant could be fermented, it could be distilled as well, and they christened the goods vino de mezcal — from this very same spiky but-don't-you-dare-call-it-a-cactus plant (this succulent is actually part of the lily family and is more closely related to aloe and onions than it is to cactus). If they built a spirits business around it, they knew they could amass a fortune. Laborious process be damned, the Spaniards did. They brought disease, raped, pillaged, and murdered, but they also brought distillation.
HOW IS IT MADE?
When a blue agave plant — and only a blue agave plant — reaches maturity, at seven to ten years old, it is ready to be transformed into tequila, an incredibly long time to have to wait for something delicious. Not to mention a long time to sit on a commodity without making any financial gain.
First, the agave hearts, known as piñas, are baked in ovens, or steamed in large autoclaves, so their starches can be broken down into simple sugars. Then they are shredded or mashed (traditionally this was done — and still is by many producers — underneath an imposing stone wheel called a tahona), leaving behind extracted agave juice that ferments in wood or stainless steel vats before undergoing a column or pot still distillation. Sometimes it's bottled straight from the still in its clear, pure unaged form as blanco (white), sometimes called plata (silver); sometimes it's aged in oak to elicit richer results.
WHO IS THE JIMADOR?
He's the man who proves that meticulously crafting things the old-fashioned way always trumps mass-production machinery. This hardy Mexican farmer's domain is the agave field, determining when the plant is ripe. He then brandishes his coa, a flat-bladed steel knife at the end of a pole, to cut the plant's budding flower stalk and deftly cleave off the giant fronds. Next, he thwacks the plant to break the 110-pound piña free from its bundle of knotty, thorny leaves, and hauls it into his basket or the back of his truck. It is grueling, thankless work, wherein long days are filled with bugs, snakes, and assaulting heat. We wouldn't last a day playing jimador; we know, we've tried.
THE GREAT TEQUILA DEBATE
So, when should you reach for the blanco, and when should you reach for the reposado? In general, and as evidenced by the recipes in this book, the Tippling Bros. advocate using blanco tequilas in cocktails. Blancos are lively, fresh, and exciting. They invigorate. And, they work especially well in drinks that are mixed with ripe, fresh fruits or big intense flavors, ones that require shaking and aeration. But sometimes we like to use reposados to cut some of the brightness and add a touch of richness and maturity to a fruit-forward concoction. Have a look at the Little Market. We also like to use reposado tequilas in many stirred cocktails that comprise boozy ingredients, or in seasonal cool and cold-weather drinks. While añejos can be cost prohibitive, there are certainly values to be found out there. Reserve them for silky, stirred cocktails with just a couple of ingredients.
ALL TEQUILA IS MEZCAL, BUT WHAT IS MEZCAL?
Thanks to the growing interest in tequila (which wasn't always the case), its sultry, oft-misunderstood cousin mezcal has come to the forefront, and the Tippling Bros. couldn't be happier. The word mezcal comes from Metl, the pre-Hispanic language used by the Zapotecs, and means "oven-cooked agave"; it spans any distillate from the agave plant. It is important to remember that all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. How can this be? Well, as we know by now, all tequila must be made from blue agave and come from specifically designated regions. Mezcal, however, has much more freedom; it can be made from one of over twenty-five different agave varieties, and while much of it is crafted in the mystical state of Oaxaca, it is made throughout the country.
Another point of difference is how mezcal is made. Piñas are roasted in underground ovens heated with wood charcoal. This lends the spirit its signature smoky notes before being crushed and shredded to yield the fermentable honey water known as aguamiel. It's an extremely primitive process, and the distillation is usually done in equally primitive pot stills with little modern technology. There are extreme differences in flavor profile based on the producers, villages, and types of agave used in mezcal production, therefore the products are all unique and distinct. Our friend Steve Olson of AKA Wine Geek elaborates: "Mezcals from different regions can be produced from a variety of close to forty different magueys, including Espadin, Tepextate, Tobaziche, Barril, Madrecuixe, Arroqueno, Papolome, and the very rare Tobala, to name but a few. The flavors of these handcrafted spirits, like wine, are affected by a variety of factors, such as the age and type of agave, where it is grown, the geography, microclimate, and soil type of the campo de agave, the ripeness of the plant, which might take eight to twenty years or more to reach maturity, and how it is farmed, cultivated, and/or harvested by the jimador or palenquero or magueyero." Tequila, on the other hand, has become a much more modern process and product, but of course this doesn't mean at the cost of the spirit's traditional roots and devotion to craft.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STYLES? AND HOW DO I DRINK THEM?
A white (or silver) tequila hasn't spent any time rolling around an American oak barrel (a used bourbon one is the norm) so its strong agave flavor will add a punch of clarity and purity to Margaritas. Blanco is the purest, cleanest expression of tequila, and there are tremendous ranges in flavor profiles, from bright and crisp with flavors of celery, fresh mint, green peppers, flowers, and cut grass to creamy and rich with lush tropical fruit flavors and deep spicy notes. This makes it all very exciting and a lot of fun to experiment with different brands in your cocktails. We envy you.
Translated to "rested," a reposado tequila is one that has seen the oak barrel for at least two months, but must leave its chamber after a year. As a result it will be warmer, with much-desired touches of spice, vanilla, toast, and smoke, and perfect for a richer Margarita — or any cocktail where a bit more depth is desired.
Pronounced notes of caramel, honey, and oak are de rigueur for an añejo, which ages in an oak barrel for at least one year but no more than three. This one should be savored neat, or reserved for luxurious, spirit-forward cocktails.
Extra añejo is tequila that has been aged for over three years. It's a relative newcomer to the States, having only been a category since the early 2000s. Extra añejo can be exquisite. It can also be painfully expensive, costing hundreds of dollars per bottle. Drink this one, full of rich spice and butterscotch, when your wallet is flush. If you're putting it in cocktails behind your bar, we'd love to take a look at your books.
There are certain things we love and have come to expect at Mexican restaurants — homemade tortillas and piquant salsas among them — and as kitschy as it may be, we dig a good mariachi band circling our table and shaking maracas in full sombrero regalia, with trumpets blaring and giant guitars strumming. It's a form of folkloric expression covering the joy and anguish that have marked the Mexican struggle, and it turns out we have a soft spot for this tradition that traces its roots to hundreds of years ago. Being music lovers and amateur (read lousy, terrible) musicians ourselves, we appreciate the balance of talent, study, and passion with commerce. Mariachi bands are making a living. Luckily we have found another way to make a living, but that hasn't stopped me, Tad, from pretending I'm in a mariachi band from time to time. At the hacienda of Siete Leguas distillery, I wore a sombrero and sang Frank Sinatra tunes — "My Way" and "New York, New York" — with the mariachi band in the midst of a six-hour meal. No fewer than twelve people applauded. On another occasion at the distillery, fueled by terrific tequila, Paul donned a Mexican blanket, at the end of what became an all-night meal. He channeled something deep from within and performed a hat dance. Feet were flying. Fingers were snapping. Men were afraid. An old woman swooned.
Excerpted from "The Tippling Bros."
Copyright © 2015 Tippling Bros., LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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Table of Contents
HOLD THE BOOZE,
SYRUPS, SALTS & OTHER,