Margarita

In my last column, I endeavored to impart a bit of cocktail education to my readers – with a brief discussion of things like why is a cocktail called a cocktail and the difference between shaken and stirred. I figured if the kids had to be learning at home it was only fair that the over-21 crowd had to do a little home schooling too. If you are a regular reader, you might recall that I ended the column with my intention of seeking out “do-it-yourself haircut” instructions on the internet. I am happy to report that I found a number of websites and YouTube videos that talk one through the process of cutting one’s hair.

I am even more happy that this column runs WITHOUT a photo, since my talents apparently do not extend to haircutting …

I heard from a few folks who were totally confused by my brief discussion of bitters, which, I admit, is understandable. It used to be that the term “bitters” was understood to mean either Angostura or Peychaud’s (and usually Peychaud’s would be specified). Nowadays, there are a plethora of bitters of almost every flavor; I myself have a dozen variants. Why? Well, people got more interested in crafting cocktails and bartenders got interested in creating bitters with interesting flavor profiles … and the rest is history. Speaking of history, historically bitters were aromatic compounds, alcohol-based, that infused a drink with that certain something that made them exceptional. I think of it as adding “umami” to a drink – that fifth flavor that just elevates practically every ingredient to the next level.

These days, though, the bitters you add might be blood orange or chocolate or “Cajun” (a flavor I still haven’t figured out what to do with, though I can’t bring myself to just toss it). All these flavors simply enhance whatever ingredients might be in your cocktail. If you don’t happen to have blood orange bitters you can either contact me for a loaner or just add a bit more orange juice. You’ll be fine either way.

OK … that’s enough libation education. We’re not going for a doctorate here after all. That’d be a great degree though, wouldn’t it – Ph.DC (Doctor of Cocktails). Great, that is, unless you’re the parent footing the bill for that advanced education.

Cinco de Mayo ushered in margarita season earlier this month, and I am ready! It’s a cruel twist of fate that May 5 finally fell on Taco Tuesday – and Corona doesn’t mean a frosty Mexican beer anymore. With that in mind, I tried a new twist on the traditional margarita that is both refreshing and a little uppity on the sophistication scale.

HIGH FALUTIN’ MARGARITA

1-1/2 oz. blanco tequila

1/2 oz. St-Germain elderflower liqueur

1/2 oz. agave nectar

3/4 oz. cucumber puree

3/4 oz. lime juice

Dash chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender with 5-6 ice cubes. Blend on high until smooth and icy. Pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a cucumber spear, one end dipped into chili powder, and coarse salt. That end protrudes from the cocktail – offering a glimpse of the flavors to come.

This drink has it all – a classy look, a little sweetness, a little spice – and yet it’s still, definitely, a margarita.

You can whip up cucumber puree by putting some peeled cuke in a blender and pureeing. I didn’t see the need for an extra step so I just put my cucumber in with everything else and blended really well. Then, I strained the mixture to remove any solids.

One thing I’ve learned during this pandemic is that we will do whatever it takes to give ourselves a certain degree of comfort – be it hoarding toilet paper, lounging in our jammies all day, or repeatedly gazing in the refrigerator when not even hungry. This decadent concoction might just serve to provide a degree of comfort you didn’t previously know existed; it’s that good.

IRISH COFFEE ICE CREAM FLOAT

1 can Nitro cold brew coffee, chilled

1 pint Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream

½ oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream

½ oz. Jameson Irish whiskey

Choose a tall glass and add 4 oz. of the cold brew coffee. Gently plop in a generous scoop of ice cream. Pour the Bailey’s and Jameson over the ice cream. Then carefully fill the glass with the remaining cold brew coffee. Add a straw and enjoy. If you’re with someone and you like them (and social distancing is not a requirement) add two straws.

Nitro cold brew coffee is the latest iteration in the cold brew coffee craze. La Colombe makes a version, as I’m sure do others, that is very tasty. In addition to the mellow and mild flavor of cold brew, the product is infused with nitrogen. Guinness has a similar process that tries to recreate that draft beer experience in a can. Basically, the nitrogen adds a frothy texture to the liquid, coffee or beer. This recipe will work just fine with regular cold brew coffee but will not be as light and bubbly.

Like all of us, I have been cooking and eating practically every meal at home. I have ventured out on a few occasions to get to-go orders from local restaurants. Bonefish has some excellent offerings that my wife and I have enjoyed, and I am always happy when I see the Porch truck on my morning bicycle ride (‘cause then I know what I’m having for lunch). By the time you read this many establishments will hopefully be re-opened for business, maybe not quite as usual, but open – HALLELUJAH! I personally can’t wait to see my favorite servers and (especially) bartenders again. I enjoyed the take-out from Halyards, but I miss sitting at the bar and talking with Maxie. I just hope I’m still recognizable – despite my “Corona cut” hair style.