Tools of the Trade – Citrus Juicer

Just like anything else that you really enjoy and want to be good at, it all starts with the right tools. I’ll start this category off with one of my favorite tools. The one that I find near impossible to do without, and that’s my juicer. Not just any juicer, but the handheld manual juicer. Also known as a lemon/lime squeezer or Mexican citrus press. It’s fast, portable, and easy to use. Personally, I think it’s better than any electric juicer, which I have, or citrus reamer, which I also have. It’s portability and ease of use is what makes it so great for me. The design of the handheld juicer allows you to get just about every ounce of juice out. Once you’ve used it enough, you get pretty quick with it. You figure out how to place it in the device to get the most juice out of the fruit.

Using the press for juicing citrus fruits doesn’t get any easier? Cut the lemon or lime in half, put one half in the press and squeeze. That’s all there is to it. Many of the presses are made so it doesn’t break the skin on the fruit. They round out the press on the top lever so it presses the fruit more evenly. This is important because if you break the skin, the oils from the skin can give the juice a bitter taste and detract from the tartness of the fruit, which is what you’re looking for.

When I’m planning on making a lot of citrus based cocktails, I always squeeze the fruit the night before. That way I’m not trying to juice fruit while making cocktails at the same time. Especially, when I use key limes. You need a million of these compared to only a few regular limes. Having the juice ready the day before, means you just poor and go like all the other ingredients in your cocktail. I also store my juice in nice looking bottles for presentation.

Since the citrus presses don’t come with instructions, remember, the sliced side faces down towards the holes in the bottom of the juicer. Looking at the shape of the juicer you might think the round of the lime or lemon fits into the round of the juicer, but that is not the case. There are a few different versions and colors, but make sure it’s large enough to accommodate lemons and limes and make sure it is heavy duty. The last thing you want is for it to break in the middle of squeezing. They aren’t very expensive, so you may even consider a couple of them. One for you and one for someone else to help or one to take with you when you travel. Trust me, once you’ve used one of these, you’ll never want to squeeze another lime or lemon by hand again.

Lemon/Lime Squeezer

Lemon/Lime Squeezer

 

Decorative Glass Bottles

Decorative Glass Bottles

Amazon – Lemon/Lime Juicer

Cheers!!

 

Prickly Pear Margarita

Well, today was a pretty good day. Why was it so good you ask? Because I made my first prickly pear margarita and it came out really good for my first one. I see them in the store all the time and I heard great things about them so I thought I’d give it a shot. I also had a frozen one at a Mexican restaurant some time back and I remember it being very refreshing and different. So, I bought them without having a clue as to what to do with them. I didn’t know how to prepare them so I went seeking guidance and wisdom from the mighty Google. As always I was presented with many options and luckily I chose wisely.

Preparing them for the margarita was pretty painless. I just peeled them with a normal potato/apple peeler and then put them in a blender and pureed them. Once that was done I doubled strained them into a container to remove all of the seeds. That part was quite time consuming because it’s so thick and the strainer would get clogged. Nothing a spoon couldn’t clear up, though. Any way, here is the lovely concoction. The color is really pretty so it naturally presents quite well.

Prickly Pear Margarita

My First Prickly Pear Margarita

Prickly Pear Margarita

My first Prickly Pear Margarita

Now for the recipe:

  • 2 oz Tequila
  • 2 oz Prickly Pear Juice
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice (Kiwi is my preference. More tartness)

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker (Boston is my preference) with ice and shake to chill. Maybe about 10 seconds or so.

Double strain into an ice filled margarita glass.

Enjoy!!

Friends and Family

Last weekend we visited some friends in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and had the best time. These are long time friends that are more family than friends. So much so that when the kids call them Mr. or Mrs. it causes me to pause for a moment because I expect to hear aunt or uncle. The time we spent with them made the fight with traffic and weather well worth it. What’s so great about it is that we didn’t do much, just sat around jaw jacking about nothing and laughing hysterically about it. They are that family where at first meeting you feel so comfortable you’d swear you’ve know them for years.

One other thing we did was make amazing margaritas. They too share a love for great tasting cocktails and that weekend we had some wonderful frozen margaritas. The first margarita was a hibiscus margarita. Not only did the margarita taste delicious, but the salt mixture around the rim was quite amazing too. Once I get my friends permission, I’ll share that recipe in another post. This was my first time tasting a cocktail with hibiscus in it and it was really good. They were made using real hibiscus leaves not store bought syrups or other artificial flavorings. It was pretty crazy how strong the hibiscus came through. She flavored the margarita using a hibiscus simple syrup. Another example of the fun you can have experimenting with simple syrups as described in my other post, Simple Syrups. As strange as it may seem, the taste of the hibiscus actually reminded of the flower. It was light and fruity but the flavor was bold and vibrant. It really stood out on its own being supported by the other flavors, especially the lime.

Hibiscus Flower

Wild Hibiscus Flower

Hibiscus Margarita

Salted Rim

Salted Rim

Once we ran out of the hibiscus, we began raiding the refrigerator and freezer looking for other ingredients to keep things going – what, it was still early :-). The next margarita on the menu was a mango margarita. It was quite delicious as well, but the hibiscus was still in the back of my mind. For me, making cocktails using the flavor from the fruit as opposed to the fruit itself makes a much better cocktail. Using the actual fruit whether pure´ed, muddled, or blended with the drink, makes the drink too thick and you lose the true flavor of the fruit. One of my next posts will be the remake of my Habanero Strawberry Margarita using a strawberry/habanero simple syrup as opposed to the strawberry extract and muddled fruit and pepper. I will use the fruit and pepper as garnish as opposed to flavoring. I think the cocktail will present better also.

Mango Margarita

Mango Margarita

Sorry, I digressed, but I guess I can end there. If you’re reading this blog I’m guessing you probably love cocktails as much as I do so I’ll leave you with this question. Cocktails are good, but have you ever noticed how much better they taste when you’re among friends and family enjoying their company and letting everything else go? I certainly have. Thanks again to my friends family from DFW for sharing your home, stories, and cocktails with us and I look forward to making more memories.

Friends For Life

Friends For Life

Cheers!

 

Simple Syrup

In celebration of National Margarita Day I thought I would share my recipe for one of the ingredients in a margarita – Simple Syrup. Making simple syrup really lives up to its name – Simple. There is nothing to making simple syrup. All you need is sugar and water – equal amounts of each. For the simplest version of simple syrup, combine equal amounts of sugar and water in a pan on medium to low heat and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. The water/syrup should be crystal clear once all of the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and let cool.

Yep, that’s it. You’re done. I usually put mine in some kind of nice looking container like an olive oil dispenser so it presents better when I have my friends over. They also generally come with a nice pour spout on them so it is easy to pour the syrup and it doesn’t dribble down the side of the container and get all sticky. The other day I was making daiquiris and the bottle I had my syrup in didn’t have a pour spout so I improvised and used a wine bottle pour spout. Not the best look in the world, but it worked beautifully.

Wine Spout
Mango Simple Syrup

So, immediately after I made my first batch of simple syrup I felt I was ready to move on to bigger and better things. That’s when I thought about a daiquiri recipe I found in a book I was reading and it occurred to me, that would be great with strawberry. The next day I ran out and purchased way too many strawberries. I followed the recipe from above but instead of removing from the heat, I turned down the heat and I added my quartered strawberries. Sorry, did you catch that? Yes, I quartered the strawberries before I put them in the pot. By quartering them you give the syrup more surface area to pull that luscious strawberry flavor from. I left the syrup on the heat for roughly five to eight minutes then turned the heat off and let it set until it cooled, tasting every now and then to test the strength of the strawberry flavor.

When I purchase my strawberries I prefer mine to be a little more ripe as opposed to pretty and new. I believe I get more flavor out of them as opposed to the real bright red ones with a little green in them. Although they look nice, they just don’t have that heavy strawberry flavor.

As you can see by the image above, I tried a mango simple syrup. The jury is still out on that one. I tried it in a daiquiri as well, but I didn’t get any mango off of it. I was using a white spiced rum, but I’m going to go out today and get a bottle of white rum without the spice and see if that makes a difference. I’m thinking the spice from the rum overpowered the mango in the syrup. Even if it doesn’t work, I still get a reason to have another daiquiri so it’s a win win for me.

Like I said, simple syrup is truly that – simple. The nice thing about simple syrup is that it is an ingredient in a lot of cocktails and because it is so simple and fairly inexpensive you can experiment with it and not feel too bad when it goes bad. One idea I’m considering now is brewing various flavors of tea and using the tea as my base for the syrup.

There you have it. Simple syrups explained. Simple and inexpensive, but the options are limitless. Now get in that kitchen and let your imagination run wild.

A couple photos of the process follows.

Cheers!

Strawberry Simple Syrup

Strawberry Symple Syrup Pot

Strawberry Simple Syrup Bottle

Agave Loco

Let me start by saying Agave Loco makes me loco!! I love my spirits with a little kick – okay, a lot of kick and this tequila delivers. The great thing about Agave Loco is that it isn’t just spicy, it’s quality tequila as well. Unfortunately I have to special order my bottles (thanks Total Wine) because no one carries it locally. The first time I ordered it, it took forever to get in. Once I finally got it, it was a fantastic day. I had no idea what I was going to make with it, but at this point I was just looking forward to tasting it. As soon as I got home and opened the bottle, I could smell the pepper before the lid was off! Then I tasted it and it was all that I imagined. Keep in mind, this isn’t burn your mouth keep a fire extinguisher handy hot, it’s a flavorful spicy.

Agave Loco Pepper Cured Tequila

So far I’ve made Margaritas and Tequila Sunrises. I got the idea of the margarita based on my Habanero Strawberry Margarita. I used the spicy tequila in the margarita as opposed to muddling the habanero. It was really good, but the tequila lost some of its heat once it was mixed with the other ingredients. It didn’t lose any of its flavor though. What does that mean you say? The tequila is very complex because it has flavor and heat. Even if the tequila had no spice it would still be very flavorful.

A couple fun things I like to do when I use it to make margaritas for people, is to give them a whiff before I make it or I surprise them by making it without telling them what kind of tequila I’m using. It’s always such a riot when I see their faces in either case.

I know I didn’t provide a lot of flavor words like it tastes of sweet apples on a clear crisp morning or it tastes of smoked candied cherries, but I hope I gushed over it enough to make you want to try it. The only thing I can offer is if you’re looking for a quality tequila with delicious spice, this is it. If you go looking for it at your local liquor store, please don’t give up if you can’t find it. If your liquor store is willing to do it, they should be able to order it for you. As I mentioned above, Total Wine was more than happy to order it for me.

Well I hope I’ve made a convincing case for you to run out and buy a bottle because it is well worth it. I know you’ll enjoy it and we would all love it if you would share any new recipes you come up with.

Cheers!

Spicy Gran Gala

A couple of weeks ago I went to Fish City Grill, which is one of my favorite seafood restaurants here in San Antonio. There are two reasons they are one of my top favorite restaurants, oyster nachos and frozen margaritas. I’m not an oyster kind of guy, but I am when it comes to these amazing nachos. I don’t know if it’s the batter on the oysters or their homemade chipotle tartar sauce. Either way the combination is pure awesomeness.

Before I get to carried away with the nachos, I’ll move on to the reason for this blog post, their Frozen Gold Margarita (house recipe). So what makes this frozen piece of heaven so great? It’s the little floater they so generously layer on top of an already great margarita. When you order their Frozen Gold Margarita they float it with Gran Gala, a delicious brandy based orange liqueur. However, that’s still not the reason for the post.

The reason is…wait for it…SPICY Gran Gala. That’s right. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they infuse the Gran Gala with habanero and jalapeno. You ever heard the expression, it burns but it’s a good burn? Well, that’s what this was. After tasting the delicious treat I knew I had to go home and start mine – and that’s what I did.

Habanero and Jalapeno in Gran Gala

Ingredients:

Recipe:

Remove the stems and quarter the Habaneros and Jalapeno then add to a 1 pint mason jar and fill with Gran Gala. I put mine away for about two days. I closed the lid on Saturday afternoon and I opened it Monday night. I also put it in a hall closet that no one uses so it would remain dark and it was cool. Personally I use mason jars because they are so versatile. They are air tight, come in multiple sizes, and the lid is in two pieces so you can put a coffee filter over the jar and screw the lid down over the filter for fine straining.

Once I opened the jar, WOW!! It was potent. It tasted as hot as it smelled. I believe one habanero would have been enough or I could have only let it set for one day. It tasted like I licked the habanero. Now comes a critical choice, how much Gran Gala do I add to the infusion to cool it down? If I add too much, when I mix it in a cocktail I could lose all the heat I was going for. If I don’t add enough, then I lose the heat I was looking for in the first place. I think this calls for a lot of taste tests. Not for me of course, but for science. I’m willing to take one for the team and endure the pain of having to drink multiple margaritas.

Well there it is. My Spicy Gran Gala. Nothing fancy, but it sure does taste pretty amazing. I think this will go best with frozen margaritas as opposed to on the rocks. With the heat of the Gran Gala, I think the ice will help keep the heat down as you drink it.

Cheers!!

 

Habanero Strawberry Margarita

This is my first post to the site and I couldn’t think of anything better to start with than my favorite cocktail of my own creation. I came up with this drink by combining my two favorites, peppers and strawberry margaritas. When creating this drink, one thing I wanted to do was use fresh ingredients. Instead of mixes I use fresh strawberries and limes.

DSC_0304

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz 1800 Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz Gran Gala
  • 1 oz Agave Nectar
  • 1 1/2 oz Lime Juice, approx. 1 1/2 limes
  • 1/4 oz Strawberry Extract
  • 1 Habanero
  • 1 Strawberry

Recipe:

DSC_0301

Fill margarita glass with ice to chill.

Quarter strawberry and add to shaker.
Slice habanero and add 2 or 3 slices to shaker (make sure you get some seeds in there for some good heat).
Muddle strawberry and habanero.

DSC_0303

Add the tequila, Gran Gala, nectar, lime juice, and extract to shaker and shake to chill. Pour out ice in margarita glass (I pour ice into a bowl to use in shaker or another glasss later) then pour margarita into margarita glass.

I prefer to pour the whole margarita into the glass as opposed to straining, but you can strain if you prefer.

That’s pretty much it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It’s such a nice flavor with the sweetness of the strawberry mixed with the heat of the habanero. I haven’t tried it frozen yet, but if you do, I’d love to hear about it.

Cheers!!