Yes, it's May 5th today, so that means that for the past few weeks your hosts here at Cocktailians have been bombarded with press releases for seasonal drinks. Some holidays have natural cocktail themes -- Irish whiskey for St. Patrick's Day, et cetera -- but others don't. (You should see some of the more inane ones we get, like the red-and-blue Fourth of July cocktail with white fondant-icing cut-out stars oozing down the side of the cocktail glass, or the tragically misguided attempt at a St. Patrick's Day cocktail from a French vermouth concern, or the innumerable red and blue cocktails sent to us just before the last election.)
Cinco de Mayo works well, though -- it's a celebratory holiday that's pretty much an excuse for Americans to celebrate Mexican culture. (did you know that it commemorates the date of the Battle of Puebla, and is pretty much only celebrated around Puebla in Mexico? I'd thought it was Mexican Independence Day till I looked it up...turns out that's September 16th. Knowing is half the battle.) And the natural way to celebrate is with tequila and other mezcals -- definitely a subject worthy of attention and future research.
The obvious and classic drink to use is the Margarita, of course -- it's hard to improve on a classic New Orleans Sour family drink (as Gary Regan classifies it in The Joy of Mixology, New Orleans Sours are made up of a base spirit, lemon or lime juice, and an orange-flavored liqueur like triple sec or curacao. The Sidecar, Cosmopolitan, and Corpse Reviver No. 2 all fit into this category.) And I like the classic proportions of 3:2:1:
1 1/2 oz. white tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Salt rim optional -- I don't like it, but some do. I'll sometimes toss a tiny pinch of kosher salt into the shaker in lieu of the salt rim. An ever-so-tiny pinch of salt can work well with Martinis too, by the by.)
It seems to be a trend lately to use agave nectar as a sweetener in this drink, and while I like the poetic nature of having agave supply both the base spirit and the sweetener, it's hard for me to move away from the wonderful orange flavor of Cointreau -- which is plenty sweet on its own.
Throwing a party? Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a good recipe for Margaritas by the Gallon -- I keep meaning to throw this together for a big shindig sometime.
Also, the good folks at Herradura sent over an interesting variation that they call the "Cincorita": a Margarita with a Chambord float on top -- just a half-ounce of the stuff, 'cause its flavor can kind of take over any drink. Looks nice, too. I'm not sure I'd go with the lime garnish (though it also looks nice) -- a good Margarita, more than most other drinks, is the effect of perfectly-balanced citrus/liqueur/base spirit alchemy, and I'd be worried that a lime wedge would tempt people to squeeze it in the drink, which would screw up the proportions. Maybe just a lime twist or curl instead?
There are other celebrations of the day: Astor Center is throwing an Agavefest that looks like fun (drat that my day job is in actuality an evening job, so I'll be slaving over a hot Mac while this is in session.)
And I might not be able to look at this till I get back from work, but I also see that Cointreau is premiering the first installment today of a three-part short film about the backstories behind various Cointreau cocktails. The film stars burlesque queen Dita von Teese, who stars as socialite Margarita Sames, who supposedly came up with her eponymous cocktail in Acapulco in 1948. (This is just one of the five origin stories for the drink that Gary Regan has identified...but it was also substantiated by a 1991 article in Texas Monthly.) Actually, when I look at the press release in a bit more detail, it states "In a departure from her burlesque performances, Dita keeps her clothes on for Cointreau in this new video." Bummer.
You will note, of course, that I have avoided all mentions of "margarita mix" or frozen Margaritas up until now. This is entirely intentional. (Frozen Margaritas can be fun, but are better left to a bar with an industrial-strength blender. Pre-made "margarita mix" isn't worth it; stick to the good stuff, and it's not like limes are hard to squeeze. And good liqueur and fresh-squeezed lime juice beat artificial colors, sugar, and citric-acid powder any day.)