So Cinco De Mayo is here! It might be nearly over here in the UK but over in the USA it’s just about time to prep your drinks and start upon your drinking night…
My addition this year is a simple yet often overlooked tweak to make your lovely cocktail a little more… punchy.
Recently I was out for a meal at Chiquito’s (a Mexican/Southern American themed chain restaurant here in the UK) and my tipple of choice whenever visiting this particular branch is their exceptional Dark N’ Stormy. They use Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, and of course Goslings ginger ale – What you have to use to create a Dark n’ Stormy, and call it so.
Well I finished my first one and, sporting my Mexican sports jacket (I purchased it during the 2014 world cup – it’s a delightful shade of green) I asked the waitress if she would mind asking the bartender to make me a Dark N’ Stormy, but with a tweak… She told me they can if they have the means, so I asked for a Dark N’ Stormy but for Tequila instead of rum, I said I wasn’t too fussed on what tequila, just whatever the bartender thought would work best.
Now I don’t know what tequila the bartender used, nor did I remember to ask on my way out (a mistake on my part – although I’d had a few and was with friends). All I know is that it tasted fantastic, and worked wonderfully! So whilst I do not know what tequila was used (I’ve left that to your own tastes) I have included a recipe I know to be pretty accurate to what I had:
Cinco De Mayo Special: Mexican Storm
50ml Tequila (your favourite)
150ml Ginger Ale/Beer
15ml Fresh Lime Juice
Pour the ginger ale/beer into a half filled tall glass.
Squeeze in the lime juice and top up with the large slug of tequila.
Garnish with a slice of lime and serve with a couple of straws.
This cocktail is so simple it’s a wonder it isn’t used more often in the world of cocktails. Supplementing tequila for rum in this case means your drink packs a little more of a kick, as well as making it instantly Mexican themed…
So next time you order a Dark N’ Stormy, switch out the rum for a nice quality Tequila, preferably your favourite, and you may never go back. I know I’m sold!
Do you know what the best thing about Tequila is? It’s perfect for sharing.
It’s a rustique, down to earth (literally) spirit full of flavour. Keeping this in mind I’ve gathered (what I feel are) 10 of the best summertime tequila cocktails… I won’t spoil the surprise, but the top spot belongs to my very own creation… (Yeah, Yeah I know it was a fix from the start, but there are still 9 other fantastic cocktails).
10. Santa Maria
45ml Reposado Tequila*
30ml White Port
15ml Velvet Falernum
15ml Simple Syrup
1 lemon – Juiced
Top up Ginger beer
Taking inspiration from the Tequila Highball, this cocktail mixes intricate flavours with sweet and spicy ingredients and tops it off with a great Reposado (or ‘gold’) Tequila.
Garnish: Wipe the lime wedge around the rims of all 4 of the glasses and then dip them in the caster sugar. Drop in a cocktail cherry just before serving.
Cocktail: Mix all the main ingredients together in a jug (over ice) and divide equally among the 4, ice-filled, glasses.
8. Red Ruby Tequila Cocktails
250ml Reposado Tequila
750ml Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
4 tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
Mix the ingredients in a jug, over ice, and divide equally into 4 separate glasses. Garnish with an Orange twirl…
Top Tip: Using Reposado (rested) tequila really add some fantastic flavour (and a nice little kick) to this already great drink. Add a little splash of soda water to make it a little more refreshing…
7. Classic (Perfect) Margarita
Drinks as particular as this require a very well balanced combination of ingredients, and for this reason I have used the term ‘measure(s)’ so as its clear that for every measure of tequila you use the relative amounts of Lime & Cointreau…
1.5 measures Silver (Blanco) Tequila
1 measure Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
0.5 measures Cointreau (try not to use triple sec)
Shake the ingredients over ice, until the tin is well iced. Strain the mixture into a salt rimmed, margarita glass (or small rocks glass for a slightly different look).
Top Tip: Only salt rim half the glass in salt. This way the consumer of the drink can decide on how much salt they want.
Flavoured recipes: There are literally hundreds of flavoured margarita recipes out there and I’ll be honest, most of them are awful…
Some, however, are surprisingly refreshing; like the Chilli & Cucumber Margarita.
The best thing about this recipe is that all you’re actually doing is adding some a cucumber & Chilli mix into a classic Margarita recipe (like the one above).
Here’s how you prepare one, for yourself (or friends):
1) Chop up some chilli (or use dried chilli flakes if you’re too lazy) and mix with some diced (de-seeded & peeled) cucumber,
2) Leave to chill for between 2-4 hours.
3) Then just add a couple of tablespoons to your shaker before mixing up your margarita and mix away!
4) Enjoy you’re rather different Margarita.
6. Classic Tequila Slammer
1 Part Tequila
1 Part Soda Water
Build in a glass, cover with a napkin, lightly slam on the table and then take it down in one gulp.
Top Tip: For a twist on this classic cocktail; try using flavoured sodas. Grapefruit & Orange an easy twist, but for some great tasting drinks be a little wild, try something like hibiscus soda or lychee.
5. Tequila Sunrise
150ml Orange Juice*
1 teaspoon Sugar Syrup (simple syrup)
1 teaspoon Grenadine Syrup
Garnish: 1 slice of lime
Combine the orange juice, tequila and sugar syrup over ice in a glass, and then gently pour in the grenadine. Garnish with a slice (wheel) of lime.
4. La Pinela
Drink: 45ml Silver (Blanco) Tequila
45ml Fresh Pineapple Juice
15ml Licor 43
15ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Cinnamon Syrup
Garnish: 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Combine the sugar and ground cinnamon on a plate and wipe the rim of the glass with the lime wedge, then rim half of the glass with the sugar/cinnamon mixture and fill the glass with ice.
For the drink; combine all the other ingredients in a shaker and shake until the tin is iced (20-30 seconds). Strain it into the ice filled glass. Finish with a lime wheel.
1 teaspoon fresh Lime Juice
30ml High-Quality Tequila (Silver)
Using a lime wedge, wipe the rim of half the glass, and dip it in coarse sea-salt. Then fill the glass with ice, adding the lime and tequila shortly after. Top up with the grapefruit soda and stir before serving. Garnish finally with a floating lime twirl/slice.
Top Tip: For an added kick, scrape out the inside of half a lime and fill it with a shot of tequila, floating this on top with a splash of salt will look stunning and supply you with an added ‘cocktail’ version of that classic tequila shot…
2. Zapatos Nuevos
120ml Silver (Blanco) Tequila
30ml Agave Nectar
500g (2 cups) Seedless Watermelon Cubes
30ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
Garnish: 2 basil leaves
Fill two highball glasses with ice and leave to one side. Then blend all of the ingredients until smooth and pour into the ice filled glasses. To garnish, gently slap the basil leaves between your hands and wedge just inside the glass for an added herb-hit…
1. Sonoran Iced-Tea
25ml Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
25ml Disaronno Amaretto
12.5ml Silver Tequila
12.5ml Lime Juice
60ml Fresh Cranberry Juice
60ml POM Pomegranate Juice
Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker and shake until the tin is well iced. Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Serve with 2 straws and garnish with a lime wedge and cocktail cherry.
Top Tip: For a slightly different version try substituting POM: Fresh Pomegranate Juice in for the cranberry juice, or even go half ‘n’ half (30ml of each).
Well sometimes I like a change. A change is good right?
This post is all about the ‘outing’ for my 26th birthday. I’ve always wanted to go to Chiquitos and try their cocktails, and as I rarely get to treat myself to a meal out; I felt it was the right time for a Mexican.
First let’s talk about the food, it’s unusual for me to discuss food on this blog I know, but for the sake of this post please allow it…
“Southern Fried Chicken breast and BBQ Pulled Pork”
…with skin on fries, onion rings and coleslaw.
This one of many choices from their Tex-Mex menu, it wasn’t too spicy but had just enough kick to let you know it had something about it. Pretty much everyone in our group had pulled pork of some variation on their plate so we definitely worked them hard on this dish.
It was a great tasting meal. One which, when compared to other similar restaurants (such as Frankie & Benny’s) was far superior in every way. The member of staff we had was friendly and happy to help however he could, as well as suggesting the best way for us to order so as to save a little more money. So to summarise: Fantastic food, fantastic service and overall a fantastic day out.
So now let us move on to important section: the cocktails…
The first thing I do in places like this, is pick up the drinks menu and flip straight to the cocktail section. No, not because I’m set to get hammered, but I in fact like to have a brows and see what cocktails they have from a professional point of view. You can really tell a lot about the companies stance on cocktails from their menu: If it’s just classic cocktails like the Margarita and sea breeze then you know they don’t really care as much as they should (you’ll also find their beer/wine selection is rather large too). However if they have some themed cocktails and even a nice selection of the relevant themed spirit (in this case it’s a Mexican restaurant so Tequila would be the spirit of choice) then you know they have thought a lot about what they can offer and what cocktails are within the theme. Unsurprisingly I prefer the latter when I check out a restaurant.
If I go to an General American (U.S.A.) themed bar, id assume bourbon/vodka drinks would be the specific spirit, likewise I went to an Italian restaurant I’d like to see some Amaretto, Limoncello, Grappa & other aperitif’s on the menu. It’s a simple case of fitting the specific spirits to the theme, something a lot of restaurants do not tend to do (I find Frankie & Benny’s are guilty of this among others).
Chiquito’s have a very extensive collection of ‘themed’ and ‘neutral’ cocktails, as well as having different sections for vodka, rum and, of course, several pages dedicated to tequila (including the very nice touch of offering a cheeseboard style selection of their ‘premium’ tequilas).
Even with all the choice on offer (around 14 pages give or take), from great sounding cocktails like: “The June Bug” and the refreshingly sounding “Key West Cooler”. Yet it was surprisingly easy to pick the first cocktail the “Dark ‘N Stormy”.
Now in my true ‘Rum bandit’ form, I went straight to the Rum section of the menu. This was met with what can only be called ‘fate’. At the top of the list, was a pretty looking recipe going by the name of “Dark ‘N Stormy”.
Now I’ve been making these at my home with real (freshly squeezed) lime juice, fiery ginger beer and a whole host of sugar syrups/cordials for flavour tweaks (my favourite recipe is below)…
My Favoured Home-Made Dark ‘N Stormy Recipe
2 measure Kraken Black Spiced Rum
1 measure Elderflower cordial
½ measure lime juice
Top up Sainsbury’s Fiery Ginger beer
Build this drink in the order given, over ice in a tall Collins glass. Top up with the ginger beer and stir before serving with 2 straws and a lime wedge for garnish.
So naturally I felt impelled to try this first. I see from the menu that they make it with proper Bermudan Rum, Goslings Black Seal Rum – no less, and mixed in with Goslings Ginger Beer.
Now that’s all well and good (COCKTAIL SNOB ALERT), but the picture shows it also having a lime wedge floated on top (in an attractive jam jar glass as well) but there is NO mention of the Falernum that should ideally be involved (although in almost all cases simple sugar syrup would be used – although they make no mention of this either)…
Note: Sugar Syrup/Falernum (slightly alcoholic Bermudan sugar syrup), are in fact optional ingredients and as such did not affect the review at the end of this post…
As far as I could see their typical recipe is as follows:
Chiquito’s Dark ‘N Stormy
1 measure Goslings Black Seal Rum
Top up Goslings Ginger Beer
Wedge of lime to garnish.
Now this recipe is basic, at best. Taking into consideration the prices and the fact that the drinks come secondary to the food; the drink is pretty good. Simple and effective, it’s not going to win awards, but what they lack in detail they make up for by serving it in the pretty jam jar glasses.
Although technically speaking the above recipe is the classic Dark ‘N Stormy recipe, the drink I was given contained no lime, in fact the first one had a lemon slice instead. Whilst it may only look like a superficial mistake, the taste the lemon (or worse yet a lack of lime) gave to the drink skewed the flavour slightly. It is a shame as they are one of the very few places licensed to sell Goslings in the UK. The only thing I will say in their defence is that it was first thing on Easter Sunday that we had this meal. And as such, I shall return next week to see if the lime improves the flavour from the drink I had (in which case I shall publish a re-review of the cocktail).
Next up: Mai Tai.
Now this cocktail is rather famous as rum based exotic cocktails go. Bought for me by my friends (after several ‘this is the one I will have next’ comments) this drink was slightly longer and fruitier than expected. Also it’s worth noting that there was a flavour I could not quite put my finger on, and it kind of ruined the drink if I’m honest. All in all it came down to the drink having too many flavours and nothing to tie them altogether (like some fresh lime juice for example).
Compare these two very different recipes:
Classic Mai Tai recipe:
1 measure White Rum
1 measure Golden Rum
1 measure Dark Rum
½ measure Lime Juice
½ measure Orgeat Syrup
½ measure Orange Curacao
Top Tip: this is the most universally accepted ‘Trader Vic’ style Mai Tai.
Chiquito’s Mai Tai recipe:
Note: I couldn’t gauge the amount of each ingredient used in the Chiquito recipe, although I assume it was similar measurements to the classic (with some fruit juice to lengthen the drink).
The thing with the Mai Tai is that back during the day, the recipe was kept secret. This mean recipes had to be made by taste, and well, let’s just say sometimes you’ll get Pineapple juice, but most of the time (rightly so) you wouldn’t.
The problem I have here is that the drink was slightly too sweet, and there was nothing holding all the flavours together. If you work for Chiquito’s then take note: take out the pineapple juice and maybe try something like cranberry juice, although it would be further from a Mai Tai, it would taste ten times better (especially when you add in the lime juice). I suppose the thing with ‘tiki’ style drinks like these is that tropical juices have the ability of lengthening the drink, without taking away from its exotic taste, which is obviously what they’ve gone for.
I believe that is what Chiquito’s have done with their version, made it both economically viable as well as easier on the alcohol so it is more popular among those not use to it (people who will try it when eating there – as opposed to off the street drinkers).
Next up: the Alabama Slammer
This cocktail is vodka based but still slightly fruity. I thought this to be a pretty good end to the trials, as it was rather exotic but also had a slightly deep south feel.
Chiquitos Alabama Slammer recipe:
Note: Again I couldn’t gauge how much of each ingredient was used, but I’d imagine it was 2 Vodka, 1 SoCo, ½ Amaretto, 2 OJ and ½ Grenadine… although that’s just an educated guess…
Now for the hard part… Let me explain: As with most cocktails, especially ones not commonly known, the difference in recipes can be endless. Most of these recipes use the same ingredients, but in different amounts, whilst some use completely different ingredients altogether…
The most consistent recipe I could find actually included Sloe Gin:
A classic Alabama Slammer cocktail recipe could be:
1 measure Southern Comfort
1 measure Vodka
1 measure Amaretto
1 measure Sloe Gin
2 measures Orange Juice
Top Tip: the vodka and SoCo measures in this drink are interchangeable. If you prefer more SoCo then balance the alcohol more to your tastes, just make sure it still works out to the same measure amounts, i.e. 1.5 measures SoCo – ½ measure vodka).
Note: For any of you out there thinking “that sure looks a little like a Long Island Iced-Tea” you’re kind of right as some people do in fact call it the Long Island Iced Tea of the south…
Chiquito’s Mexican Bar & Grill; a summary of the day…
So Chiquito’s is a well-known bar/restaurant chain over here in the UK, arguably not as popular as Frankie & Benny’s (although they are both owned by the same parent company!). My personal preference (along with most of my friends’) is Chiquito’s. This is not just because of their superior menus (both food and drink menus are much more thought out) and food quality, but also the quality of their staff. The members of staff in Chiquito’s always seem like they enjoy working there, which I always find is better for morale in any business (and its customers). You also get a sense of knowledge from most of their staff.
In regards to the food served this time around, there was not a complaint to be found. The cocktails were good quality for the establishment in which they were served. Let’s face it; you don’t go to restaurants like this and expect the best cocktails in the world, but you still expect quality. And they were good enough for the quality you’d expect.
Whilst not necessarily all the classic recipes, they have added their own flavours and given them a tex-mex vibe. This makes the drinks a little longer, and arguably easier to drink with the meals, but they make up for this by having a large variety of cocktails using different spirits.
The Tequila: How Mexican do you want to go?
Tequila is by all accounts the most common spirit associated with Mexico. And as a Mexican themed restaurant, you’d assume that chiquito’s would have some variety in the tequila they serve. This is something they have not overlooked. When walking into the bar area and looking across the copious amount of bottles on display you’ll notice the big names; Jack Daniels, Eristoff Vodka, Goslings Black Seal Rum. But look closer and you’ll also see a rather extensive collection of Tequila’s. These brands are listed here (please forgive me for any missed, I didn’t have time to write all of them out):
Jose Cuervo Especial,
Jose Cuervo Clasico,
Gran Centenario Reposado,
Patron XO Café,
Tequila’s ranging from the brand leading ‘Jose Cuervo’ to the Ultra-Premium brand ‘Patron’ as well as a taster selection: choose 4 of their tequila’s to try with various complimenting flavours (citrus fruits & cinnamon).
Now for the cocktail reviews: This is a new feature and I’ve tried to be critical, but in a fair manner.
Dark ‘N Stormy
1 measure Goslings Black Seal Rum
Top up Goslings Ginger Beer
Wedge of lime to garnish.
These scores were given from a critical point of view. Although personally the Dark ‘N Stormy was my personal favourite, it was, overall, the bottom rated of the three. The Alabama Slammer benefitted from a nice garnish (the stemmed cherry added a little class to an otherwise dull drink).
The differences between the Alabama Slammer and Mai Tai were minimal, except for a slightly different taste (which you’d expect seeing as one is a rum based cocktail, the other a vodka one) but not enough to tell the drinks apart. This would not be a big issue if it were not for the fact that the drinks looked exactly the same! Minus the cherry of course!
At the party ‘south of the border’ (http://theferventshaker.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/the-songwriters-shindig-south-of-the-border/) I was tasked with concocting a drink at very short notice. Now given choice of alcohol was restricted to the party’s specific Mexican theme. I wanted to create something with a Mexican feel, but, at the same time, offered something a little different. So I tried mixing the coffee with cranberry. The combination of just those two flavours would have been too dry, but by adding the amaretto the drink has the sugar to balance the cranberry and coffee as well as that extra layer of flavour (with the almond).
Overall the drink balances out well, and is both crisp and refreshing in equal parts.
People would have you think that the cocktails we now call ‘classic-cocktails’ were well researched, highly thought out masterpieces. Whilst in some cases that’s true (and in my opinion they are all pretty much masterpieces) for the most part, they are a result of pure experimental work. And this is exactly how this one came about.
Im not saying this is a classic cocktail, im not that big headed, but it does have something a little different about it, something that I feel most classic cocktails have. In all my years drinking cocktails (I’ve had more than my fair share) I’ve never had a cocktail that tasted quite like this… The Sonoran Iced-Tea is a carefully layered cocktail that hits you in stages of flavour. First you smell the coffee liqueur, then you get hit with the fresh fruity flavours and the dryness of the cranberry. Finally you finish with the Tequila and Coffee liqueur. The main thing about this drink is that it makes you think. It looks like a normal summer evening drink, and it is, but it has a hidden flavour surprise and that’s what I strive for. Give them a try and let me know what your thoughts are. It was very well received at the event, but always I look for feedback where possible!
The more perceptive of you, will notice that the recipe I included in the Mexican Party post did not include the tequila… This is because since then i’ve had time to refine the cocktail to help balance, as well as add to, the layers of flavour…
Sonoran Iced Tea
2 measures Coffee Liqueur
2 measures Amaretto
1 Splash (1 teaspoon) of silver tequila
½ measure Lime Juice
Top up with Cranberry Juice
Shake the first free ingredients well (until the shaker ices up), then top up with the cranberry juice. Serve in a highball glass filled with ice.
So for the second instalment I thought I feed back to you the Mexican themed party I attended for my friend Jack. He asked me to help him create some special themed cocktails for a party he had arranged for some of his university buddies. Now I am not a stranger to parties, nor to catering cocktails for them (I refer you to my first post). But this one is different. It’s the first one I had to cater for that was not directly for my group of friends. I knew of a couple of the attendees but only through passive meetings.
Now the cocktails for this party were all Mexican in theme (sticking with the theme for the party overall), using the various flavours and alcohols Mexico is famous for (I.e. Coffee, tequila, chilli & lime to name a few). From the fruity ‘Twisted Lemon Mojito’ to the quite painful ‘El Agua del Diablo’, the drinks for this event were perfectly themed.
List of cocktails on the menu: (a * denotes those taken from cocktail books – the others are my own recipe)
– Twisted Lemon Mojito
– Classic Tequila Slammer
– Monterrey Martini
– El Agua del Diablo
– Good Morning Paloma
– Tijuana Slinger*
– Mexican Mule
– Navajo Trail*
– El Dorado Fountain
– Mariachi Music Maker
– Mexican Fizz*
– Yellow Bird*
Whilst not all of these were served (Its hard to serve a set menu at a student party it seems– who’d have thought it?), some other ‘off menu’ recipes were made as well as a few improvised creations, for example a lot of people wanted standard mojitos (Which is fine with me as I love making them, and feel I can make a far superior version than most bars will serve you)..
The choices leading towards the recipes chosen for the menu were made to represent the spicier more raw side of Mexico’s culture (tequila and chilli etc…), but as the party continued, it was obvious that a disdain for anything pure Mexican was in the air (a disdain for the stronger, shorter tequila based drinks) and centred more on ‘longer’ cocktails, making use of the vast amounts of mixers available. This was not really a bad thing, as it allowed for more experimentation and for the attendees to get involved with the making process much easier.
Thanks to this experimentation, and the demand for a longer drink, I was able to create one particular cocktail I’m quite proud of. It’s been dubbed the ‘Sonoran Iced Tea’ – although does not contain many of the ingredients you’d find in a classic iced teas – another blog dedicated to this cocktail. The recipe can be found above.
I attended the event for 3 hours, and during that time I created some great cocktails, but more importantly I showed others how to make them, although It’s not even worth taking a poll to see that the mojito was the most favoured drink at the event (everyone wanted a Mojito!).
Once you show people how to mix a cocktail, they can appreciate it more as they enjoy it. The best thing to remember is to explain it as you make it, especially if they want to know. For example; in the mojito’s case, explain why you need certain amounts of sugar/mint/soda etc… They can then experiment to their own tastes and also know what flavours to mix and what ones to keep away from.
Whilst this was my secondary aim, it was an important one, as I wanted to see how easily people can take to a simple cocktail recipe, and how willing they are to adapt it to their own tastes.
As I always say, cocktails are all about experimentation. No cocktail would ever have been invented had it not been for experimentation. The sea breeze would not have occurred if someone had not tried to mix different fruit juices to different spirits.
Anyway, message here is that experimentation is integral to any Mixologist, you just need that little bit of passion and a little curiosity. Either way you need to realise quickly what works and what doesn’t. If you can do that, and do it well, you stand a good chance of creating something special.
So that’s the feedback and feelings resulting from my 2nd ever event! Hopefully you all found it interesting; I shall be doing some smaller easy reading blogs about cocktail recipes I like. Including the new star on the block from this party the ‘Sonoran Iced-Tea’ until then…