Thursday 25 July 2013

Some tequila cocktails

A Matador cocktail

Asked to name a tequila cocktail, most people would pipe up with the Margarita (roughly two parts tequila to one part lime juice and one part triple sec, with an optional salt rim, though some nowadays advocate replacing some or all of the triple sec with agave syrup). It’s a great platform for tequila, with a natural harmony like that between rum, lime and sugar in a Daiquiri. And indeed salt and lime, Matthias Lataille of Olmeca Altos (see the last post) tells me, are staples of the cuisine in Mexico. But can you name any more tequila cocktails?

For the Mexican-themed New Sheridan Club party Matthias had come up with some suitably vintage drinks, the first of which was the Picador, from the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book. As you will notice, it is identical to the Margarita, though with no mention of salt. Most of the (many) theories about the origin of the Margarita hail from the 1940s, and usually revolve around its being named after a customer called Margarita/Margaret—for example, that it was created in October 1941 at Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico, by bartender Don Carlos Orozco for Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador. But the Picador predates those, although the book gives no information as to the drink’s origins.*

¼ fresh lime or lemon juice
¼ Cointreau
½ tequila
Café Royal Cocktail Book (1937)

Also in the same book is the Toreador, which essentially takes the Picador and replaces the Cointreau with that other great period ingredient, apricot brandy. I really liked the idea of this one, but I’m not sure there is really a synergy between tequila and apricots.

½ tequila
¼ apricot brandy
¼ fresh lime or lemon juice
Café Royal Cocktail Book (1937)

El Diablo is a long drink that seems to have been born in California in the 1940s. This is the recipe from Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink (1946), with US ounces converted to millilitres:

A Margarita (left) and a Mexican Mule
El Diablo
45ml tequila
15ml lime juice
15ml crème de cassis
Ginger ale
Add all to an ice-filled tall glass and top with ginger ale

Some would boost the tequila to 50 or 60ml and double the lime and maybe the cassis too. Others use ginger beer instead of ginger ale. Sometimes the cassis is dropped in at the end and allowed to sink, like the grenadine in a Tequila Sunrise. It’s a nice drink, though for me the most interesting aspect is actually the pairing of tequila and ginger, so it’s not surprising that Matthias’s final drink is not really a period one exactly, but a tequila version of the Moscow Mule (which in itself is a vintage drink):**

Mexican Mule
50ml Tequila
15ml lime juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Ginger beer
Build in highball glass and top with ginger beer. Some add the Angostura on the top at the end

During my own experiments I made the discovery that tequila goes rather well with pineapple juice. But I should have guessed that I was not the first to notice this, and in fact there is a well-known cocktail called a Matador, which effectively replaces the triple sec in a Margarita with pineapple juice, though some recipes include triple sec as well, and it can be served long on the rocks too. Here is the recipe from Trader Vic’s Bartending Guide (1947):

30ml Tequila
60ml Pineapple juice
Juice of half a lime
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass

A Paloma made with pink grapefruit juice and
Briottet pink grapefruit liqueur
Some would use more tequila than this, so it’s worth experimenting. But get the balance right and it’s a great combination. Personally I think it works better if you nudge the tequila to 45ml and the pineapple to about 70ml, then add a generous teaspoon of maraschino: the sweetness and subtle cherry favour fill a gap.

So which of these is the way that Mexicans drink tequila? None, apparently. Matthias tells me that the most common drink is the Paloma, which combines tequila with grapefruit soda, such as Fresca, Squirt or Jarritos, plus a lime wedge. You don’t seem to be able to buy grapefruit soda here, so a common alternative is to use grapefruit juice and soda water, plus something to sweeten it.

Makeshift Paloma
2 shots tequila
2 shots grapefruit juice
½ shot lime juice
¼–½ shot sugar syrup or agave nectar
[½ shot grapefruit liqueur]
Soda water
Shake everything but the soda and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with soda

Some serve this with a salt rim too, or just add a pinch of salt to the mix. Trying it out, I feel the basic recipe lacks heft in the middle, and it works better with a little grapefruit liqueur (Briottet do one)—the sweetness balances things a bit and it stops the grapefruit character from being watered down by the soda.

* It has also been observed that the Margarita is not very far from a Daisy, a Victorian drink where citrus and a syrup or liqueur are added to a base spirit: and “margarita” is Spanish for daisy…

** The story goes that the Moscow Mule was invented by John Martin, who bought the rights to Smirnoff from impoverished Russian Rudolph Kunett in 1939, along with Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub in Hollywood, which had its own brand of ginger beer. Head bartender Wes Price says that they invented the cocktail as a way to promote two products that were proving hard to shift. To seal the drink’s image they came up with a signature vessel, a copper mug with a kicking mule engraved on it—this was apparently prompted by the fact that Martin had a girlfriend who had inherited a copper factory that made copper mugs that were also proving to be poor sellers. In a stroke of genius Martin bought an early Polaroid camera and would get barmen to pose with one of these mugs and a bottle of Smirnoff. He’d give them one copy of the photo and take another copy to the next bar, to show them what their competitors were up to. It worked.


  1. Wonderful cocktails, especially Picador. I'll try it in my bar. Thx you!

  2. Wow great receipe..I try it my self..Thanks i bookmarked your post also..

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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