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Dos de Mayo

May 2, 2013

Tonight is the beer and game dinner at the City Beer Hall. I’m quite excited. Mrs. Fussy will not be coming with me so there will be nobody to stop me from taking pictures of my food in public.

She hates when I do that.

With any luck a few of them will come out and I can share those with you tomorrow. But even if the pictures fail, I promise to take notes and give you some highlights of the experience.

Saturday is the Kentucky Derby and Sunday is Cinco de Mayo. So while it may be a little unorthodox to read about booze on a Thursday morning, you’ll either have to do it now, or bookmark this page and come back to it later. But nothing is going to stop me from writing about tequila. Not even the derby.

See, bourbon is something we always have on hand. In theory, I could make a mint julep whenever I wanted. In practice, I never have the mint, the proper glasses, or the desire to prepare the ice in the traditional fashion. If you think you might have made a mint julep in your life, watch this and get yourself schooled in the form by the master.

Tequila, on the other hand, is something I love, but generally only buy once a year. Cinco de Mayo is like the bugle call of summer cocktails. And as always, as the date approaches, I was compelled to head down to the liquor store for my annual bottle.

Last year I did not buy the Milagro blanco. That was a mistake. Its bright floral and spicy notes are enchanting, and at around $20 for a bottle, I’m happy to sit around and sip it straight or use it as the base for a cocktail.

If anyone wants to buy me a bottle of the Corzo blanco, I wouldn’t complain. But until I can find a way of making this food writing thing profitable, I’m not going to be dropping forty dollars on unaged tequila.

Anyhow, this begins the season for margaritas. They have to be the world’s most popular cocktail. But that’s a tragedy on many levels.

First, there is the scourge of margarita mix. It’s even more vile than sour mix, which is saying a lot. And there is far too much of it in the world. Finding a place that makes margaritas using juice squeezed to order is a remarkably hard thing to do. And even then, the balancing act between sweet, tart, boozy and cold is a lot trickier than one might expect. There are problems with sloppy rimming of salt. The use of ice cubes that are too small and water down the drink.

Not to mention, in the heat of the summer (or a Mexican spring) you probably want something a bit more refreshing than this sweet, tart, strong, and cold cocktail.

That’s why I endorse the tequila rickey over the margarita. It’s simple. It’s easy to make. It’s hard to screw up. It’s delicious. And it’s all about being refreshing. If you stir it with your finger, besides a tall glass all you need is tequilla, lime, seltzer and ice.

You may need some food to go with the booze. I’m going to direct you to five authentic Mexican recipes by Pati Jinich. She’s the one who helped me identify the huitlacoche on the Roxbury corn a few seasons ago. Check them out, and go cook her food.

In other cocktail news, I would be remiss not to point out that on my last visit to Empire Wine and Liquors I finally saw a bottle of the rumored Noilly Prat extra dry vermouth. In theory this is supposed to be the vermouth cherished by martini drinkers for decades that was tragically pulled from the U.S. market.

My first take is that it’s much lighter in color and flavor than the “Original Dry” which, ironically, is the newer sweeter version of the French producer’s dry vermouth. This is a good thing. However, it doesn’t quite seem light enough. My taste memory seemingly is trying to tell me that the discontinued version was even drier still than what’s on the market today.

The next test will be to use it in a martini. When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes. Now be safe out there, and maybe I’ll see some of you later tonight for beer and boar bacon.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2013 9:52 am

    OK, I *probably* agree with you on the cocktail issue, but remember, derby and cinco de mayo are NOT mutually exclusive! We combine regularly with great success. I also encourage you to try planting your own mint — it is a loyal friend, once you put it in a spot it likes it will never leave you alone again. Also useful for mojitos and mint pineapple salsa. Whatever you may say on the cocktail front, when it comes to desserts, derby pie kicks flan’s butt any day of the week. Just sayin’. You are officially invited to our derby party next year! I’ll prove it. :)

  2. May 2, 2013 10:30 am

    Man, I still think you can’t beat a well-made margarita on the rocks on a hot summer night. It is messy, but worth it. If you haven’t tried it, Cazadores Reposado is a really lovely, moderately priced tequila (look for the deer on the bottle).

    I’ve started experimenting with martinis at home (gin only!)…I’m currently having a love affair with all things capers and recently picked up a beautiful jar of caperberries in Great Barrington last week and decided to dirty my martini up with that. After concocting a delicious salty cocktail I googled and realized someone had already dreamed it up it’s called a filthy martini. Frankly I don’t care what you call it, it’s delicious. Don’t worry, though, I’m still making classic stirred martinis at well. Gotta get through that bottle of vermouth!

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