First in my roundup of summertime cocktail books is Joanne Weir’s enthusiastic primer Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails, and Bites. In case you should miss it, the James Beard award-winning writer has become an evangelist for 100% agave spirits. Don’t bother her with the golden mixto tequila one usually finds in happy hour margaritas. “Only a fool,” she insists, “would drink mixto.” Mixto, made from almost half sugar, is the common stuff that has helped bestow tequila with its race-to-the-bottom-of-the-bottle, girls-gone-wild, I-don’t-remember-how-I-got-here reputation.
Tequila is a solid introduction for drinkers who want to expand their understanding of how to enjoy this Mexican spirit. It’s not the last word in tequila or even history, but the book primes the conversation by outlining the production and characteristics of blanco (or plata), reposado, añejo, and extra añejo tequilas, suggesting ways to enjoy them as flights, and then diving into recipes.
To that end, Weir has enlisted some of today’s better-known bartenders to present tequila cocktails. Now, a tequila cocktail isn’t as easy as it sounds. Gin is a fantastic mixer, as is rum. And vodka? Making tasty vodka drinks is no harder than combing your hair. But tequila can be troublesome, its big flavors prone to shouldering into and overwhelming a drink. Other than margaritas and shots, most drinkers aren’t sure what to do with it. Why fix, the thinking goes, what ain’t broke?
Well, because the world is tastier than frozen margs.
Enter mixologists such as Lucy Brennan (Mint) Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club), James Meehan (PDT), and Philip Brady (Death & Co.). In all, almost two dozen well-known enthusiasts step up to the challenge of crafting tasty tequila cocktails. Herein you’ll find the Aperol Sunset, la Chupparosa, the Chartreuse-spiked Kama Sutra, and the Surly Temple (ok, perhaps the girls still go just a little wild). Duggan McDonnell of San Francisco’s Cantina, offers his
All the King’s MenAnd because this isn’t a one-tequila-two-tequila-three-tequila-floor celebration, but an introduction to more sophisticated drinking, Weir offers cooking recipes. Gonna drink? Gotta eat. All her recipes—from red chile pepper pickles and chorizo hand pies to carnitas and, yes, even cupcakes—include 100% agave tequila, sometimes at multiple stages. I’ll pass on the tequilamisu, but with recipes for ceviche, grilled steak, and chilled melon soup that won’t heat up the kitchen, Tequila makes for some inspirational summer reading.
1 ½ oz reposado tequila
½ oz Averna
½ oz ruby port
1 tsp agave nectar
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 oz ginger beer
1 paper-thin ginger slice, for garnish
Combine tequila, Averna, port, agave nectar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Cover and shake for five seconds. Simultaneously strain the mixture and pour the ginger beer into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with the ginger slice.
Goes well with:
- Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History by Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata & Gary Paul Nabhan.
- Tequila: A Traditional Art of Mexico edited by Alberto Ruy-Sanchez
- Dianne Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking
- Patricia Quintana’s El Gran Libro de los Antojitos Mexicanos (in Spanish)