Sure, tequila shots are great and margaritas can’t be beat – but seriously, once you’ve had a Tequila Sunrise, is that all there is when it comes to tequila-based cocktails?
Recently, I took a class called “The Cocktails That Made Tequila Famous” with mixologist Elayne Duke at The Astor Center of New York City and happily, I can report that the answer to that question is a resounding “HELL NO!”.
Upon entering the class, we were greeted with our first cocktail of the evening, The Sangrita — 2 oz. Jose Cuervo Reserva Platino with Served with a 2 oz. shot of fresh sangrita mix, which is made as follows:
- ¾ cup tomato juice
- ½ cup orange juice
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon of onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of hot sauce
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, chill in the fridge before serving.
In the course of introducing us to different tequilas and different tequila cocktails, Duke also educated us on the history of tequila. It turns out that before the Mexicans learned how to make tequila, they accidentally stumbled upon another type of libation derived from the same agave plant that gives us tequila. Pulque is fermented agave nectar; it was discovered when a lightning bolt split and cooked an agave plant. The result of the yeast being added to the sugar of course produced a rudimentary drink which contained anywhere from 3-4% alcohol.
The Spanish, with the knowledge of wine making, came to Mexico in the 1500’s and a pot still with the agave to create something that would come to be called vino de mescal. This, it would turn out, would be the origin of what would become the tequila that we would know today, before its manufacturing process was refined and improved upon over the years.
Next, we made what you might call a “healthy margarita” because it uses agave nectar instead of Triple Sec or Cointreau, both of which have a higher sugar content; the agave nectar, by contrast, has a lower glycemic index, maintaining sweetness while decreasing the actual sugar content.
- 2 oz. Don Julio Blanco
- 1 oz. Lime Juice
- 1 oz. Agave Nectar
Shake it with ice, then strain and serve in an ice-filled rocks glass with a lime wedge as garnish.
Next was perhaps the most refreshing drink of the evening …
- 2 oz. Don Julio Blanco
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- ½ oz. lime juice
- 1.5 oz. fresh pink grapefruit juice
- 3 dashes of grapefruit bitters
- Top with soda
Combine all ingredients (except the soda) into a cocktail mixing glass, shake with ice, strain into your glass filled with fresh ice; top it off with the club soda. Serve in a highball glass rimmed with sea salt and garnish with a lime wedge and straw.
Our final cocktail of the evening was still made with Don Julio – but this time, using their reposado, which can be aged anywhere from a couple of months up to a year.
- 1.5 oz. Don Julio Reposado
- ½ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- Ginger Beer
- Top ½ oz. Crème de Casis
This one is stirred in an ice-filled mixing glass, then served in a highball glass and garnished with a lime wheel.
By the way, just in case you’d like to view the Powerpoint slides that accompanied the evening’s presentation, please be sure to follow this link: Tequila and the Cocktails That Made It Famous
Well, I guess that’s about it for now, Drinking Made Easy fans. Until next time, please remember the words of the great French philosopher Rene Descartes, who said, “I drink, therefore I am!”
The Virtual Nihilist
New York City, NY