For National Tequila Day, we offer a recipe for a classically mouthwatering margarita, as well as tequila-infused salsa and even chocolate truffles.
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Rob Landers and Suzy Fleming Leonard, Naples Daily News
It’s not an official holiday, but some would argue it should be — Jul is National Tequila Day.
The day is meant to honor the centuries-old spirit distilled from blue agave. What would a perfect celebration look like? I’d begin in the morning with a tequila sunrise, in the afternoon enjoy a margarita, and for a night cap, a splash of anejo over ice, all while dining on dishes in which the spirit is mixed in marinades, salsas and more.
Now that’s a celebration.
Tequila is a form of mezcal, another spirit distilled from agave. However, mezcal is not tequila. Tequila can only be made with blue agave and can only be produced in certain areas of Mexico, making it a so-called spirit of origin. The Mexican government set those standards, among others, in the early 1970s.
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Agave is a type of succulent, not a cactus as commonly thought. Similar to the mezcal-tequila relationship, all cacti are considered succulents, however not all succulents are cacti. Setting agave apart in this definition are its leaves. Leaves are not an attribute of cacti.
Cacti are still used around the world to make tequila-inspired spirits.
In Bonaire, a Dutch island in the southern Caribbean, The Cadushy Distillery uses local cacti to make the island’s version of tequila. They also make spirits such as vodka, gin, whiskey, beer and flavorful liquors.
Americans are wild for tequila. According to International Wine and Spirit Research, tequila sits in the No. 3 spot behind vodka and whiskey respectively and continues to grow in production, consumption and sales.
One of the reasons is the spirit’s versatility in flavor profiles and cost. Blanco is a category that is generally affordable, lighter and best for mixing in cocktails. On the other end of the spectrum, anejo tequila can rival high-end whiskeys in cost and complexity of flavors. It’s better suited for sipping.
Tequila is also favored by consumers who prefer a so-called cleaner spirit, and it’s lower in calories, mixers excluded.
The margarita is the most famous tequila-based cocktail. For something that is seemingly so simple, it can be disastrous when the bold-flavored ingredients are not in balance.
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The classic margarita uses blanco tequila, lime juice and an orange-flavored liquor such as Grand Marnier.
The brand’s “Grand Margarita” calls for:
1 part Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
1 part tequila
½ part fresh lime juice
lime, sliced for garnish
To make the drink, fill a wide, shallow dish with two to three millimeters of fine salt. Cut a lime in half at the width and rub around half of the rim of a margarita glass. Cut a thin, crosswise slice from one of the lime halves for garnish. Holding glass upside down, dip the wet half delicately into the salt. Shake Grand Marnier, tequila and lime juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass and apply lime garnish to the rim.
To make the margarita mixing easier, Volcan De Mi Tierra tequila offers a summer Surf Kit. It includes goodies curated from the surf scene in San Diego, California: YeahBah sunscreen, an Urban Beach House beach towel, Collins & Coupe margarita mix, and Volcan’s blanco tequila. Just add ice.
Available through Cocktail Courier for $83.99, the kit is festively and neatly packaged. It makes a great summer party gift.
Tequila with food
Another fabulous find for tequila lovers comes from Chef Dave Martin. Martin made a name for himself on the inaugural season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and has published “The Tequila Diet,” a new book full of stories, information and recipes surrounding tequila. It includes everything from cocktails to casseroles and desserts.
Mix a drink or pour your tequila over ice and try your hand at these recipes from Martin’s cookbook to celebrate National Tequila Day.
Recipe: Yellow Salsa Fresca
Makes 1 1⁄2 cups
1 cup ripe yellow tomato, small dice (gold tomatoes might be easier to source based on the season)
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1-2 teaspoons red Fresno chile, seeds removed if you don’t want the heat
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons tequila
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper blend
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Grab a medium-sized bowl, set up your cutting board and chop up all your veggies and chilies and drop them in along with your seasoning, lime and tequila. Adjust seasonings accordingly. This works great over fish or with the tequila-marinated steak or as a salsa for chips.
Recipe: Hatch Green Chile Truffles
Makes 32 1-ounce truffles
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons tequila
3⁄4 cup roasted hatch green chilies (finely chopped), fresh or canned
1⁄4 teaspoon green-chili powder
1 cup good quality semisweet chocolate (a blend of 72% and 51% works great), chips or chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1⁄2 cup dark cocoa powder, Dutch process
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
kitchen gloves for rolling
small cookie scoop
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring cream, butter, tequila, chilies, powder and salt to a heavy scald to infuse the flavor of the chilies. In a non-reactive bowl, pour the hot cream mixture over the bits of chocolate and stir with a whisk without adding too much air while stirring.
Place the mixture in the fridge to set up for at least an hour or quick chill in the freezer. Scoop small round truffles using the small cookie scoop, then roll in cocoa mixture and sprinkles and set aside for service. Truffles can be kept in the refrigerator but should be brought to room temperature or set out for at least 10 minutes, so that you get the full chocolate flavor.
Gina Birch writes about food, wine and spirits for The News-Press and at thebirchbeat.blogspot.com. Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook.