Highland Margarita

Photo courtesy of Jeanette E. Spaghetti, some rights reserved.

As I left work today I was convinced it was Wednesday (I blame the recent spate of bank holidays) and as such was excited to come home and write up this week’s #MidweekManhattan. Unfortunately it is in fact only Tuesday, so you will all just have to come back again tomorrow to find out what whiskey/vermouth delight I have in store for you this week.

I did, however, start thinking about an emergency T-theme for Tuesday (it’s been a long week already). The obvious choice was tequila, but I don’t have any in the flat. I then considered #TuesdayToddies but even with the recent inclement weather that should probably wait til the autumn.

So after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing (and some help from @princessofVP) I settled on the first post in the (probably not at all regular) #TuesdayTequila series!

Without any tequila.

That’s right. It’s called ‘artistic licence’.

Everyone knows the Margarita as the pre-eminent tequila cocktail and staple of the ‘sours’ stable. A classic drink, and one of the few that has spawned its own unique glassware, the Margarita dates back to the 1930s, and is a Mexican variation of the earlier American classic, the Daisy (which uses brandy in place of tequila). Coincidentally (or decisively depending on your view of Margarita-lore) the Spanish for daisy is margarita. The traditional Margarita starts with a salted glass:

  1. Frost the glass by rubbing a lime wedge round the outside of the rim.
  2. Dip the glass in a saucer of coarse salt (try and avoid getting any on the inside of the glass).
  3. Add a large measure of tequila and a measure of each of triple sec and lime juice and a barspoon of agave nectar to a shaker of ice.
  4. Shake well and strain into the frosted glass.
  5. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Of course a Margarita can be frozen, flavoured or served up with a salt foam float, but not being a massive Tequila fan – I blame too many years working in an Irish bar dealing out shots of the cheap stuff – and living in Scotland, I prefer a whisky-based drink, and for that I turn to the Highland Margarita.

First salt your glass as above (it wouldn’t be a Margarita without it):

Then mix your drink:

  1. Add a large measure of Scotch whisky*, a measure of triple sec and a measure of lemon juice to a shaker.
  2. Add ice until the shaker is 2/3 full and then shake well.
  3. Strain into the chilled and salted (margarita) glass.
  4. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.
If you’re feeling adventurous a barspoon of ginger liqueur is a nice addition, either added to the mix before you shake, or layered in after the pour.

* This being a Highland Margarita, a Highland single malt would be apposite (I use Oban as a matter of course), but this drink will work just as well with whichever type of whisky (or even whiskey) you prefer.

Syrups

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup (sugar and water) is a key component of a whole host of cocktails, and is, as the name suggests, so simple that you may as well make it at home rather than splash out on the pre-made stuff.

The basic ‘recipes’ for simple syrup are one part sugar to one part water; two parts sugar to one part water or four parts sugar to three parts water.  Of these the 2:1 version is the standard mix used in the vast majority of cocktails.  But a teaspoon of 4:3 simple syrup is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar, and is my preferred ratio.

As I mainly drink whiskey based drinks, I don’t have a problem with using any left over sugar I have lying around.  If you’re looking to make syrup for use in clear drinks (such as a Mojito), you might want to stick to white cane sugar to avoid getting a yellowish hue!

To make the syrup:

  1. Add four parts sugar and three parts water to a pan.
  2. Gently heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour into a clean resealable bottle.

A dash or two of vodka will help the mixture to keep longer if you’re not a prolific drinker as it will prevent the the growth of bacteria or mould.  As a result, the mix should keep for an indefinite period (especially if refrigerated).

If you’re looking to experiment, consider adding vanilla, lavender, cinnamon or some loose leaf tea to the mix and create a new flavour profile for your syrup.

Sour Mix

Sour mix is a key ingredient for a world of sour drinks (think Margarita, Whiskey Sour and Cosmopolitan).  It is almost as easy to make as simple syrup, as all it requires is the addition of lemon juice:

  1. Add two parts lemon juice and one part lime juice to two parts of your simple syrup.
  2. Stir well and pour into a clean resealable bottle.

Use the sour mix in place of the sugar and lemon/lime juice where required.

The Cosmopolitan

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya, some rights reserved.

The Cosmopolitan was introduced to a generation of young women as Carrie Bradshaw’s drink of choice, but before it found fame on the Upper East Side, it had its beginnings in the mid-1980s as a pretty pink (and easy-drinking) alternative to the Martini for those who wanted the glamour of drinking from a martini glass, but weren’t fans of the eponymous drink itself.  As a result, the “Cosmo” gets a lot of bad press among ‘serious’ cocktail writers who dismiss it as a cocktail for people who don’t like cocktails.

The Cosmopolitan is now usually listed as one of the ‘sours’ family of cocktails, alongside the Margarita (which replaces vodka with tequila), and the Kamikaze (which excludes the cranberry juice).  In many ways therefore, it is a useful gateway drink to a world of cocktail discovery, and it is certainly more popular in my house than a large number of ‘more serious’ drinks.

The other side to that coin is that the drink has started to become a victim of its own success.  In its celebrity champion’s own words:

Miranda: “Why did we ever stop drinking these?”

Carrie: “’Cos everyone else started.”

By the time Sex and the City had reached its peak, the Cosmopolitan was found on every basic cocktail menu around the world.  This spawned a world of below par Cosmos that suffered from the use of cheap ingredients, sour mix and an over-reliance on too much cranberry juice.

I was always taught that a Cosmopolitan should be mostly vodka, with considerably less triple sec and cranberry juice, and consequently follow a 2:1:1 ratio.  If you’re looking for something a little easier on the palate, don’t move further than a 1:1:1.5 ratio:

  1. Pour a large measure of vodka, a measure of cranberry juice and a measure of triple sec into a shaker of ice.
  2. Add the juice of half a lime and a dash or two of orange bitters.
  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.
Citrus vodka works best if you have it, and a wedge of lime perched on the edge of the glass is also acceptable in place of the twist of orange but not nearly as much fun.

If you’re looking for a more grown up version of the Cosmpolitan, you could do worse than mix yourself a Xanadu Fancy – a drink that I discovered on the menu of the much lamented Raconteur Bar in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge neighbourhood:

  1. Add a large measure of vodka, a measure of aperol, orgeat, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake hard for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.