Today’s drink comes from The Blind Pig Restaurant + Bar in Orange County, Calif. It features strawberry shrub, a sweetened drinking vinegar that’s 1) relatively easy to make and 2) extremely popular with the craft cocktail set. With temperatures high, forget a drink that makes your teeth feel sticky — cocktails made with shrub manage to taste fruity without being overly sweet.
Fixx the Shrub by Jeff Baitx
1.5 oz Cimmaron Tequila
1 oz house-made strawberry shrub
.25 oz lemon
.25 oz honey
Whip and shake all ingredients, and pour over crushed ice.
Spray with Scotch mist, and garnish with a slice of strawberry and thyme sprig
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So asks Little Neddy Nederlander, played by Martin Short, in Three Amigos! Seconds later, he and his friends each hook down a shot and go into a fit of convulsions. For years, that “tequila is harsh and its drinkers are hardcore” thought process was the general attitude toward the spirit in the United States. It was for getting wasted and mixing in margaritas. In recent years, boosted by the craft cocktail revolution, people have gradually come around to understand that good tequila is every bit as nuanced as good scotch, rum, or gin.
Today, the U.S. celebrates National Tequila Day — making this as fine a time as any to learn about the drink and gain an understanding of its different variants.
SOME QUICK FACTS
- Tequila is region specific. Just like champagne needs to be made in Champagne, France, and Parmesan cheese needs to be made in Parma, Italy, tequila needs to be distilled in or around Tequila, Mexico. Note, it needs to be distilled there — it can be bottled anywhere, and there are other labeling tricks and workarounds that make this whole subject somewhat complicated.
- Tequila is made from the piña (inner core or “head”) of the agave plant, most typically blue agave. An agave plant takes years to mature and can’t be harvested too early — proper fermentation requires the right mix of carbohydrates and sugars.
- The fact that tequila is distilled from agave marks it as a mezcal. But not all mezcal is tequila.
- Tequila is clear after distillation. If you’re drinking tequila that’s gold, it means it was either A) artificially colored or B) colored by its time in a barrel.
After getting a little background, The Matador team showed us what to look for in our tequilas.
- Gold Tequilas. In general, avoid this stuff. If the label marks it as 100 percent agave, then you can assume it gets the gold color from being a mixture of blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas. That’s great. But if you’re seeing super cheap “gold tequila,” the hue comes from caramel coloring and sugar. These gold tequilas are made from as little as 51 percent agave.
- Blanco, Silver, or Platinum tequilas. This is “pure” in that it’s not taking on flavor from the barrel it’s aged in. Silver tequilas are common for margaritas because they don’t have any of that smoky/woody taste. Still, a silver tequila doesn’t have to be harsh. Blue agave is sweet and a good blanco will retain that — often tasting almost vanilla-ish.
- Reposado Tequilas. Reposados are rested in barrels somewhere between two months to one year. The barrel aging allows the spirit to smoothen, gives the alcohol that gold color, and adds flavors drawn out of the barrel. Barrels and casks often have a second life — tequila might be stored in a barrel that once held bourbon (actually, this is quite common because of the sweet deal that the Kentucky Cooper’s Union has). The flavor of a reposado is balanced between the barrel flavor (which could manifest in a variety of ways) and the agave flavor that is so present in silver tequila.
- Añejo Tequilas. There are a few big keys to añejos: 1) They’re silky smooth, 2) they take on a lot of nuance from the barrel, and 3) they’re aromatic. Aged from one to three years, añejos can seem distinctly smokey or oak-y or caramel like, depending on the barrel they were aged in. The smoothness here is a big draw. It’s nice to sip your tequila methodically and not cringe afterwards.
- Extra Añejo Tequilas. These are aged at least three years and feature all of the smoothness and barrel-infused taste mentioned above. You’ll also find these to be the most expensive — not just because of the aging (although that’s part of it), but because distilleries only let their best stuff sit for this long. This is a relatively new designation and has become increasingly popular in the United States, as the average tequila drinker grows more and more savvy.
Recipe for the ‘Armadillo Sour’ from ARC in Costa Mesa, Calif.
1 oz. Blanco tequila
1 oz. Amaretto
1/2 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 egg white, whipped
2 dashes Mayan bitters
Garnish with an orange twist and a bar spoon full of creme de cacao.
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Friday is here again — which means that as the afternoon winds down, “drinking” will begin its steady march up the ranks on the mental to-do lists of millions of people worldwide.
This weekend’s cocktail comes from Andiron Steak & Sea in Las Vegas — where it’s served in a fancy copper goblet for two. You can serve yours in separate glasses…unless you have a fishbowl handy.
Pineapple Bump from Andiron (Las Vegas, Nev.)
2 oz. Absolut Elyx vodka
2 oz. Normandin Mercier Pineau des Charantes (it’s an aperitif made with white grape juice)
3 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Pok Pok Som (apple drinking vinegar)
2 oz. fresh lemon sour
2 oz. Fever Tree club soda
In a cocktail shaker, combine first five ingredients. Add ice, cover, and shake. Add club soda and strain over fresh ice into two Collins glasses—or copper pineapples, if you’re so lucky. Garnish with a lemon wheel. Serves two.
PLUS A FREE JOKE
My dad was driving to work last week when my mom called him on his cellphone. She had been watching the local news and now she was in an absolute panic.
“Ralph,” she said, “be careful! Some maniac is driving the wrong way on I-5!”
“Mary,” my dad said back, his voice trembling, “it’s not just one maniac, there’s hundreds of ’em!”
AND HERE ARE A FEW LONGER UPROXX STORIES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
- Horror Filmmakers Discuss The Legacy And Influence Of ‘The Shining‘
- The Art Of Murdering Kevin Bacon: An Oral History Of How ‘Friday The 13th’ Became A Horror Classic
- From The Pantry To A Peabody: The Wonderful Story Of ‘Dr. Katz Professional Therapist’
- The Story Of The Wrecking Crew: The Unknown Studio Musicians Behind Some Of Music’s Greatest Hits
- The Best That Never Was: Shining A Light On Raymond Lewis, L.A.’s Legendary Street Baller
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Comic-Con has taken over downtown San Diego — which is fun, but can get a little stressful. How many Harley Quinn cosplayers can you take photos with before you need a little breather?
If you’re in downtown San Diego, drop by Rustic Root for a Comic-Con cocktail. If you’re not getting your nerd-on, live vicariously by making it at home — it’s only got three ingredients [bartenders seem ready to pander, but not to trust Con-goers with anything more complicated than simple syrup and lemon. And ice]. Scroll down for a second option + last week’s drinks.
1.5 oz Old Forrester Burboun
.5oz simple syrup
.75oz lemon juice
Mix in a bucket glass with ice. Garnish with lemon peel.
Next door, at Don Chido, they’re offering the slightly more complicated El Chapulin Colorado — which the bartenders claim has a tenuous Con tie-in (it’s named for a TV character who parodies superhero movies).
El Chapulin Colorado
1.5 oz Casamigos Blanco Tequila
2oz hibiscus water
.5 oz lime juice
A dash of orange bitters and a splash of cranberry. Stir with ice.
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Alright let’s be real, the official drink of July Fourth is beer — preferably consumed while barbecuing ribs, leading a “U-S-A!” chant, and firing off a Roman Candle.
If you opt for hard liquor, whiskey is the obvious choice. Especially if it’s made in this country in small batches. This week, in honor of American excess, we’ve got four craft cocktails instead of one. Each is based around a different brand of bourbon and is perfect for toasting the rocket’s red glare.
by Chef Ferrel Dugas of Commander’s Palace (New Orleans, La.)
1 ½ oz. Benchmark Bourbon
½ oz. praline liqueur
1 oz. sour mix
1 ½ sticks of muddled thyme
Top off with Champagne
Muddle the thyme. Add the first four ingredients into a shaker, along with ice. Shake and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne. Garnish with a spring of fresh thyme.
By Derek Mercer of Spiaggia (Chicago, Ill.)
2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz ginger-cardamom syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash of Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
Splash of soda
1/2 of a lemon peel-with a peeler. Start from one end of the lemon and peel all the way around until half of the lemon is peeled.
Combine bourbon, ginger-cardamom syrup, lime juice, and bitters with ice in a shaker. Shake. Add a splash of soda to the shaker and swirl to combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust if necessary. Strain into a Collins glass with ice. Express lemon oil over drink and around rim. Garnish with lemon peel in the Horse’s Neck style. Serve.
Ginger-Cardamom Syrup Recipe
4 cups of simple syrup (1:1)
1 cup of peeled and sliced ginger
5 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
6 limes, zested
Combine 2 cups simple syrup, ginger, bay leaves, and cardamom in a blender. Blend for 10-20 seconds. Add the rest of the simple syrup and in a pot, lightly simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add in lime zest. Steep and let cool to room temperature. Fine strain. Label. Date. Refrigerate.
Don’t feel like battling Fourth of July traffic? If you live in the Chicago area you can have this drink delivered to you at home.
Stars and Stripes
By Mixologist Gary Hayward of Embers Ski Lodge (Nashville, Tenn.)
“The U.S. palate is famous for its appreciation of big flavors. I wanted to combine some of the most popular flavors of the last three years — chai, vanilla, orange– and (obviously) whiskey!”
1.5 oz Angel’s Envy bourbon
.25 oz Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth
.5 oz egg white
3 oz Stars and Stripes syrup*
1 orange peel
.5 oz port
Combine bourbon, vermouth, egg white, and syrup into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Use an eyedropper to collect and “drag” port across the frothy layer of the cocktail, creating “stripes.” We used a small star-shaped cookie cutter to create the orange peel garnish. Salute and enjoy!
*Stars and Stripes syrup
.5 L water
.5 L white sugar
2 oranges, zested
2 limes, zested
2 chai tea bags
1 earl grey tea bag
Zest fruit and combine all ingredients. Leave to rest for one hour and strain syrup into a container. Makes one liter which can saved and be used for approximately 11 drinks.
St. Regis Smash
2 oz. Breckenridge Bourbon
½ oz. Disaronno Amaretto Liqueur
2 dashes Peach bitters
7 mint leaves
Fresh sour mix (1:1 ratio sugar to lemon and lime)
Peach with maple sugar pinch, strawberry, sprig of mint
In an Old Fashioned glass muddle mint leaves and Amaretto Liqueur. Fill the same Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice. In a mixing glass, add bourbon, peach bitters and homemade sour. Shake with ice. Strain into the Old Fashioned glass, then stir. Garnish with peach slices, strawberry, and mint sprig. Add maple sugar on top of the peach slices for extra flavor.
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With incredible news coming out of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning being celebrated in a million wonderful, inspiring ways, we looked for the perfect cocktail to sustain you through a weekend’s worth of celebratory toasts. Mark Brinker of Chicago’s Barrelhouse Flat came through with the recipe for “Barbie Dream House,” which Brinker promises is every bit as much fun as its name.
Revelers in Chicago can order knowing that proceeds from the drink will go to the historic nonprofit Chicago House, serving individuals and families “disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness and/or gender nonconformity.”
Barbie Dream House
by Mark Brinker
.5oz El Dorado 5yr Rum (or other amber rum)
.75oz Lemon juice
.25oz Raspberry syrup
Regan’s Orange bitters
Combine spirits, ice, and a dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters in a cocktail shaker. Shake to combine and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Peel orange, drag swath of orange peel around the rim of the glass, and then insert the peel into the drink.
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Assuming you aren’t already meeting your alcohol needs in powdered form, you might be in the market for a cocktail this weekend (we know Harrison Barnes is). With that thought in mind, we’ve decided to post one craft cocktail recipe each Friday.
Since this weekend leads directly into the first official day of summer, we asked Ronald Patric of Lock & Key, a speakeasy in Los Angeles, to share something bright and crisp. He calls the drink the “Copacetic Twist” and makes it with gin, grapefruit juice, lime juice, grapefruit liqueur and muddled basil leaves.
Here’s Patric’s recipe:
by Ronald Patric
1oz Grapefruit juice
3/4oz Lime juice
1/4oz Pamplemousse grapefruit liqueur
1/4oz Simple Syrup
3 Basil leaves, muddled
Shake and double strain
Garnish with grapefruit twist
If you’re in LA, check out Lock & Key, where you’ll find a Prohibition-era vibe, friendly bartenders and some smooth ’90s hip-hop. Before you go, drop in on the Lock & Key website for live music and events.