I’ll be the first to admit, I am not the world’s foremost cocktail guru or highfalutin’ “mixologist,” but I certainly do appreciate the creative minefield placed before a person when confronted with a stocked liquor cabinet and endless wealth of fresh complementary ingredients. And you know I live for every opportunity to saddle up and ride roughshod over the creative plains!
Of course, I’m also smart enough to know when to hedge my bets and I am always respectful of context. And, for those not-insignificant reasons, on this Sunny Cinco I offer you the safety of a margarita – with the inebriated insanity of The Boss.
Never content to sidle up to convention, this is not merely a margarita. This is a margarita experience. The way this icy concoction hits the tongue with frigid cold before heating your taste buds with just enough caliente to get your attention is a gastronomic event that even I’m proud of. And the inspired incorporation of three different derivative cactus flavors into one drink is more than enough to bring a little Mexico north of the border…any border.
And who are we kidding… A margarita spicy enough to send you running for yet another drink? If I have not just invented the world’s first efficient perpetual motion device, then at least I have invented its comparable fuel source!!
Prickly Pear & Habanero Margarita
(Serves 4 heavy-hitters…or a couple dozen Canadians)
2 cups filtered water
18 Tbsp (9 oz) premium silver tequila
8 Tbsp (4 oz) fresh lemon juice
8 Tbsp (4 oz) fresh lime juice
8 Tbsp (4 oz) fresh prickly pear puree
4 Tbsp (2 oz) habanero simple syrup (below)
4 Tbsp (2 oz) amber agave nectar
6 Tbsp (3 oz) Cointreau or Citronge
Bring two cups of water and one habanero, halved, to a rolling boil. Take a deep breath before approaching the pot to remove it from the heat and let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Airborne capsaicin vapor can set off a coughing fit like you’ve never experienced, even for accomplished chiliheads.
Once manageable, run the habanero “tea” through a sieve to strain out the solids.
Recover one cup of this habanero water and return it to the pot with one cup of turbinado cane sugar. Bring this back to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat to cool. You have now made a hair-on-your-chest, ass-thoroughly-kicked simple syrup with a great, earthy flavor and spicy, vegetative notes. You are awesome. Here, have some tequila.
Skin your prickly pear fruit, being careful not to lose too much of the flavorful pouch of liquid in the center with the seed mass. As prickly pear fruit contains so much water, liquefying them in a blender is a pretty quick project. After blending into a puree, force the mash through a sieve with a flexible spatula and be sure to recover any of the puree that has made it through the sieve and stuck to the opposite side. We are really just trying to get it all separated from the seeds and any stringy fibers that are left behind. You should be left with a watery puree that has a similar acidic kick to lemon or lime juice, but a distinct cactus aroma and a wonderful color.
At this point, mix all your measured ingredients into a bowl and stir. If you’re using a blender and ice, you can add it all in and go crazy. If you want a very smooth and silky margarita (i.e., if you want to roll like The Boss), and you own a sorbet & gelato machine, incorporate the ice bath method used in my sorbet recipes to bring the temperature of the mixed solution to as close to freezing as possible, stirring every couple minutes to keep the cold distributed. When chilled, toss the mixture into your sorbet maker (I always prefer to turn mine “on”, but, ya know…) and let it run until it hits the slushy consistency you’re after.
Now, I know my regular readers well enough to know they don’t need a lesson on salting a margarita glass but, for anyone here by accident, I prefer to moisten one half of the glass edge with a lime wedge and dip it into kosher salt. If you’ve worked your butt off to make an earth-shattering and awesomely thematic margarita, you don’t want its subtle, textured glory swept under an overwhelming carpet of sodium chloride…even if it is pretty bitchin’ premium sodium chloride.
Stay thirsty, my friends…and remember to bring along an extra cerveza to wash away the heat. You’re welcome.