Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Texican Martini

Can we talk about tequila? I think I finally acquired a taste for tequila right about the time I stopped drinking bad tequila. I remember my first Tequila Sunrise cocktail handed to me in a college bar in Illinois while celebrating my 21st birthday. I wasn’t a fan. I had a preference for rum at the time. A few years later as a graduate student in Austin, I discovered the Mexican Martini (also called the Texican Martini). I remember sitting in the tiny space of the Cedar Door, way back when it was just the original little, red building right off Lamar Boulevard, and being served the shaken tequila and lime cocktail poured into a coupe glass and garnished with jalapeno-stuffed olives. I used to take visiting friends and family there because everyone needed to know about the Mexican Martini. So, yes, I came around to tequila. These days, I love tequila poured over icy lime granita, tequila cocktails with everything from coffee to ginger ale, and even sipping good tequila straight. I know the differences among blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas, but there’s always more to learn. I was delighted to read about how tequila is made and how the process has changed over the years in the new edition of Viva Tequila! by Lucinda Hutson. I received a review copy of the book. Lucinda has been visiting Mexico for years, and she transports the reader there with stories about agave fields, cantinas, and distilleries. With the huge growth in the tequila industry in recent years, the traditional, artisanal process of making it is no longer always the norm, but standards are in place to ensure quality. There is an Appellation of Origin with a defined territory for the production of tequila, and the Consejo Regulador del Tequila enforces regulations such as proper labeling of aging. Lucinda recommends, as do I, avoiding all mixto tequilas which are blends and sticking with true 100% blue agave tequila. 

The book covers the uses of different types of agave plants which are used for three primary fermented beverages in Mexico: pulque, mezcal, and tequila. While pulque and mezcal are made from a variety of agave plants, also called maguey, tequila is only made from blue agave. An interesting comparison was given for lowland versus highland tequila in the state of Jalisco where most tequila is made. Lowland varieties tend to be “bold, dry, spicy, peppery, assertive, herbaceous, and earthy” while highland options from an altitude of 6,000 to 7,300 feet above sea level are “round, sweet, fruity, floral, herbaceous, and aromatic.” I’d like to spend more time tasting and comparing bottles from each region. In the recipes section, there are suggestions for fresh fruit juices, hot sauces, and homemade syrups to use for mixing cocktails. And, there are styles of imbibing and drinks to sample from both sides of the border. There are traditional margaritas; less traditional ones; frozen options; a recipe for a pitcher of margaritas; ideas for infusing tequila with chiles, fruit, or herbs and cocktails for using it; punches for parties; and after dinner drinks. The recipes continue into the kitchen with tequila flambeed queso, Smoky Chipotle Tequila Marinade, gazpachos with tequila, a citrus flan with tequila, some margarita cookie bars I want to try, and more. 

I had to start by mixing up some Texican Martinis which are inspired by the very ones I mentioned from the Cedar Door. Here, Lucinda offers a recipe for a Spicy Mexican Seasoned Salt to coat the rims of the glasses, and she includes a recipe for a homemade Sweet and Sour syrup if desired. I like my tequila cocktails on the tart side, so I opted to use just a small amount of agave syrup rather than the sweet and sour syrup. I went with a lowlands, reposado tequila this time. My garnish was, of course, jalapeno-stuffed olives in addition to some okra pickles I had just made. Since I definitely am a fan of tequila now, it’s going to be fun to spend more time getting to know it even better. 

Texican Martini
Excerpt from Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures by Lucinda Hutson (Copyright 1995 and 2013 by Lucinda Hutson) used by permission of the University of Texas Press. For more information visit

I first tasted a Mexican martini at Austin's Cedar Door Bar and Grill. Since then, the bar has changed locations four times, but they still serve their famous drink in shakers for patrons to pour at the table. Today, many venues offer a version of this martini on their menu, but often loaded with sweet and sour made from a mix. Here's mine: it's sophisticated, spicy, and sexy! Rim a chilled glass with salt, garnish with skewered jalapeño-stuffed green olives, and start grilling the steaks! 

Cantina Classic Spicy Mexican Seasoned Salt or commercial brand, for rim 
2 ounces tequila reposado 
1 ounce fresh lime juice 
3/4 ounce orange juice 
1/2–3/4 ounce Cointreau 
1/2–3/4 ounce Cantina Classic Sweet and Sour, or agave syrup to taste 
1 tablespoon chilled brine from best quality jalapeño-stuffed green olives 
Garnish: skewered olives, pinch of Spicy Mexican Seasoned Salt 

Rim chilled glass with seasoned salt. Pour ingredients in shaker tin, add ice cubes, and shake until frosty. Strain into prepared glass, with or without ice. It's fun to serve from mini-shakers for guests to shake and pour at the table. 

Serves 1. 

Cantina Classic Seasoned Salts 
Avoid purchasing gimmicky commercial "margarita" salts. Make your own instead; you can create several variations from one master recipe. Add a pinch of these flavorful salts to fruity or savory drinks and spritzers, or use them to rim glasses. Lightly rimming a glass with diluted agave syrup helps homemade salts adhere to the glass, as they have more texture than commercial salts. Experiment with different kinds of exotic salts, sugars, citrus, spices, dried chiles, and citric acid, which adds a lime-like tartness. Try a combination of dried red chiles for color and flavor, such as arbol, cayenne, ancho, puya, or guajillo. Add a pinch of fiery, dried habanero, if you dare. Of course, these seasoned salts are also useful for flavoring foods---I especially like them with homemade chunky salsas frescas. 

Cantina Classic Seasoned Salts: 
Master Recipe and Variations From this master recipe, you can make several versions of seasoned salts. Let it inspire your own creations. In small increments, add more sugar, citric acid, chiles, spices, and other ingredients to suit your own taste. 

4 tablespoons kosher salt 
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest 
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest 
1 tablespoon granulated or turbinado sugar 
1/4 teaspoon citric acid 

Gently grind ingredients in a small bowl, using a bar muddler or mortar and pestle. The citrus zest will make the salt rather moist, so spread on a large plate to dry for several hours, stirring occasionally; add other flavorings. Store tightly sealed. 

Makes about 8 tablespoons. 

Note: If salt does not dry sufficiently, place in a 200-degree warmed oven; turn off heat and allow to dry, then grind gently again before storing. 

Spicy Mexican Seasoned Salt with Chile and Lime 
Though commercial brands of spicy seasoned salt exist, make your own! While these salts are great with drinks, they are also good on popcorn, fresh fruit, salads, and grilled meats. 

Add to 4 tablespoons master recipe: 
1–2 teaspoons sugar 
1/4 teaspoon citric acid 
1 teaspoon fine quality paprika 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground chile de arbol or cayenne 
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground chile ancho 

Follow master recipe instructions. 

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  1. I've never had a Tequila Sunrise. It sounds like the kind of drink you'd sip at an exotic resort. Next time I'm on some fabulous holiday, I'll try one xx

  2. Texican? That is so awesome :D
    And exotic!

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. Tequila is my liquor of choice at the moment also! I can't do shots of it anymore, but tequila infused cocktails are so good. This Texican might have to be made in this NYC kitchen!

  4. Phil is a tequila lover! He is very fond of the Hacienda de la Flor brand, which is pretty expensive, but according to him, extremely smooth...

    I can have a drink every once in a while, and used to enjoy shots, but not anymore. I became a drinking wimp (sigh)

    I will be showing your post to my beloved

  5. Oh my gosh, this sounds fantastic!!!

  6. What a fabulous cocktail! Sounds wonderful Lisa!

  7. Cocktail tentador rico y refrescante se ve muy elegante,hugs,hugs.

  8. Beautiful, refreshing and delicious!The Perfect drink,Lisa!

  9. Looks perfect, gonna try it for sure - thx for sharing! :)

  10. I think my favorite way to enjoy a good tequila is to sip it straight, after dinner... The way you would Cognac. You can really get to taste the nuance and flavors of the gorgeous spirit. Your cocktail looks superb.. Viva Tequila indeed!

  11. I don't how I've managed to never have one of these, but I haven't. Sounds wonderful! I have to make one - thanks.

  12. i don't mind tequila, and i guess that's saying something because i've never really had GOOD tequila. :)
    i like the sound of this cocktail, lisa--the seasoned salt is a wonderful touch!

  13. I tasted my first Wasabi and cucumber martini yesterday but these flavour bursting cocktails would rival that any day! I don't know much about tequila but it sounds as if the book sheds some novel ideas of using it!

  14. Hit me with 2 of these right now! :) Looks so yummy!

  15. I still prefer rum - my favourite drink - the addition of Cointreau here makes this cocktail a little special.

  16. This is perfect for football season!

  17. That is a really cool looking bottle of tequila. I can't say I have evolved enough to love straight spirits but I'm working on it. Lovely looking martini Lisa :)


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