Drink of the Week: The Tequila Sunrise

It's another Tequila SunriseMade in the usual way, on the rocks in a Tom Collins glass, the Tequila Sunrise is bit like the very well known Eagles song. A quintessential expression of 1970s culture, a bit over sweet and self-indulgent, but it goes down easily enough.

Still, as revealed to me by cocktail guru David Wondrich, there is a way to make this drink that makes it a thing of beauty and as pure and sweet as anything by East L.A.’s favorite sons, Los Lobos. It’s even better with an interesting tequila, but more about that in a bit.

Below is my simplified and, if I must say so myself, absolutely marvelous version of Wondrich’s take on this latter day cocktail classic.

The Tequila Sunrise

1 1/2 ounces white tequila
3 ounces orange juice (very preferably fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon grenadine

Combine tequila and OJ in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Add 1 teaspoon grenadine directly to glass. Let it sink to the bottom of the drink. If you’ve squeezed the OJ yourself from really good oranges, prepare for some ambrosial goodness in a pretty glass.

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This week’s DOTW is very much brought to us by a brand new upstart variation on Mexico’s national liquor. If you remember your high school Spanish, you’ll know that’s calling Peligroso “the dangerous tequila” is as redundant, bilingually speaking, as talking about the La Brea Tar Pits. (I’m fond of noting that since “La Brea” means “the tar,” “The La Brea Tar Pits” translates as “The The Tar Tar Pits.”)

Even so, I really do quite like the free booze I received from the new chicos on the tequila block. With only two percent more alcohol than standard tequilas, this dangerous tequila isn’t really all that terribly peligroso at 84 proof in a world of 90+ proof gins and 100 proofs bourbons and vodkas. Nevertheless, the extra bit of alcohol does make for a livelier flavor that definitely compliments this version of a tequila sunrise, cutting through the sweetness of the orange juice and grenadine. In my tequila sunrises, it was definitely more than a cut above the cheaper, well known brand X agave spirit I also made it with.

That being said, even more than upgrading the tequila, the biggest favor you can do for this drink is to squeeze the oranges yourself. Even though I now own a hand juicer, I have to admit that it’s fairly labor intensive. This was especially true the first time I made this as I was actually making two drinks and juice oranges are currently out of season. Fortunately, the current crop of navel oranges available down here in Southern California are delightfully sweet and juicy enough for our purposes — though this drink will be easier to make when the Valencias return.

I also tried my version of a Tequila Sunrise with some store bought “not from concentrate” juice. Unlike Wondrich, I found it produced a very respectable result, though admittedly a few steps down from the stuff I squeezed my own self.

For me, the more garden variety on-the-rocks highball glass version of the drink is a let down even with fresh squeezed juice. However, if you insist on making it that way, use the same proportions as listed above. Just be sure to stir your orange juice and tequila together before adding the grenadine to create your sunrise effect.

And now I leave you with my kind of musical accompaniment to a Tequila Sunrise.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Mary Pickford

The Mary PickfordIt’s Oscar weekend and the modern day quasi-silent film, “The Artist” is looking to take many, if not most, of the little gold men. It’s therefore kind of hard think of a better selection than this delightfully subtle and sweet, if now obscure, classic named for the single most famous woman in the silent cinema. It’s true that few of Mary Pickford’s hits — the ones that haven’t been lost, anyway — are often watched today, even by many crazy cinephiles like me. Indeed, as far as I can figure out not even the wondrous and far more classic-cinema knowledgeable Self-Styled Siren, Farran Smith Nehme, nor the sharp witted and more free-roaming Marilyn Ferdinand have written much about her films.

Nevertheless, Pickford’s legacy looms large in Hollywood even nearly 120 years after birth. She was, if nothing else, one of the co-founders of United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin, director D.W. Griffith, regarded as the inventor of the movies as we know them, and her then husband, Douglas Fairbanks, the movies’ first true action superstar.

Less fortunately, Mary Pickford was also known to partake a bit too much. If you’re going to be gossiped about for your drinking, the least they can do is name a really good drink for you, and this one is really good.

A word of warning for the deeply insecure: Writer Wayne Curtis, who enjoyed today’s DOTW in the city where it remains most popular, Havana, Cuba, described it thus: “Another lost cocktail of Prohibition, which is pink and ladylike and served with a large wedge of pineapple.” Okay, so this is a rather delicate drink, and this a blog post for an online men’s magazine, but this is one beverage that proves the value of staying in touch with your feminine side. It’s extremely good.

The Mary Pickford

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 tsp grenadine
1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 piece pineapple (optional garnish)

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake like crazy and strain into a cocktail or wide-mouthed champagne glass. You can serve the pineapple on the side, or be crazy like me and drop a chunk into the actual drink. Be sure and toast America’s sweetheart when you take your first sip.

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First of all, I’d like to give props to my friends representing Denizen Rum for suggesting this drink. It’s not just because they were nice enough to send me a free bottle and plenty of recipes that I say this drink worked probably especially well for me because of the Denizen I was using. (I was all out of the other stuff.) There’s nothing wrong with Brand X, but I really do think the somewhat zippier flavor of Denizen is adding a little extra something to my Mary Pickfords. (Though, after writing that, I feel as if I should be looking into a camera and holding up the bottle as I remind you that Denizen is available online for an extremely reasonable price here.)

Some quick words about the other ingredients. Whatever you do, don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with the maraschino syrup that drowns the unnaturally red cherries we all know. It’s an entirely different animal and a lot more interesting. I was using Luxor Maraschino. I’m not sure if there any other brands widely available.

Also, if you like a redder drink that looks more like the one in the picture, there’s an alternate recipe which is a bit sweeter but also very good attributed to the New York bar, PKNY, which boosts the ingredients up slightly to 2 ounces of rum, 1 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice, and a quarter ounce each of the maraschino and grenadine. (Naturally, they make their own grenadine and use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, though I didn’t and it was still good.) If you enjoy the Mary Pickford, you might also want to take a look at El Presidente, which we covered a few weeks back.

Finally, If you’re curious to get a glimpse into what the big deal with Mary Pickford was, you can see her accepting her special Oscar in 1976. It’s worth a look and only a touch “Sunset Boulevard“-esque.

  

Drink of the Week: El Presidente

El PresidenteThe name of today’s DOTW notwithstanding, this post is not brought to you by the ongoing Republican primary or anything else happening in the world of U.S. or Latin American politics. Instead, we all should thank the good people of Denizen Rum. As always, I appreciate the free bottle but I also appreciate the very reasonable price tag for a fifth which, depending on taxes in your area, might give you enough change from a $20.00 for a Double-Double at In ‘n Out. That’s something because this is tasty stuff, a bit more sophisticated and complex than your standard Bacardi, but in the friendliest way.

On to the cocktail, which was supposedly invented by a Yankee bartender working in Cuba. As per Wayne Curtis, back when little Fidel Castro was not even old enough for his first game of sandlot baseball, Cuba’s somewhat beleaguered President Gerardo Machado, offered one of these to our own el presidente, Republican Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal remembered that there was this thing called prohibition going on and politely declined.

Nice story, but my first attempt at the drink seemed to explain why El Presidente has become a relic stateside. I found the classical recipes to be sweet to the point of being cloying — and that’s something considering my sweet tooth.

I therefore followed the lead of booze blogger Matt Robold and halved one sweet ingredient, orange curacao, at his suggestion. I liked that version better but I decided to also halve the amount of grenadine he suggested. I found something close to perfection when made with the Denizen rum. This version works slightly less well with plain old Bacardi, but it’s still very nice.

El Presidente (impeached, but not deposed)

1.5 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce orange curacao
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you want to be traditional, stir for a very long time over crushed or cracked ice, or you can do like I do and shake it vigorously, though the drink might not look as pretty if you do. Your call.

Strain into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Fire up original mambo king Perez Prado on the music player of your choice, imagine a day when Cuban cigars are no longer contraband, and have a sip.

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If you want to go more traditional/way sweeter, the classic version offered by cocktail super-historian David Wondrich simply doubles the amount of curacao, and I think 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably the same as the “dash” of grenadine he suggests. I will say that, while I loved my version of the drink, at no point was I able to achieve the orange color the drink has in most (but not all) photos. Mine was more of a pale pinkish hue somewhat as you see above, even with just a tiny amount of very sweet, very red grenadine. It tasted amazing, so I can live with that.

One quick suggestion, if you are determined to go with the full 1/2 ounce of orange sweet stuff, you might do as some have suggested and substitute Cointreau for the curacao. It’s not bad.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Bacardi Cocktail

Bacardi CocktailIn many respects, I’m still just finding my way around the world of cocktails but one thing is now clear to me: you can’t really separate mixology and marketing. As with so many drinks, the precise history of our Labor Day weekend selection, the Bacardi cocktail, remains pretty much a complete mystery, but clearly the manufacturers and promoters of the best known brand of rum must have had some connection to the formulation of this simple and surprisingly delightful concoction, a pretty basic variation on the booze, tart citrus juice, and sweetener formulation of so many fine drinks.

The Bacardi cocktail is nevertheless a special case in the annals of alcohol marketing. In 1936, just three years after the repeal of prohibition, a lawsuit was brought and the New York Supreme Court actually ruled that this drink must be made with Bacardi rum or it’s not a Bacardi cocktail.

The Bacardi Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces of Bacardi light rum (use another brand at your own legal peril!!)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grenadine.
Maraschino cherry (extremely optional garnish)

Combine rum, lime juice, and grenadine in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously, and pour into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Do not be alarmed if the color is a bit more pinkish and cloudy than the picture above. It’s possible the photographer preferred his Bacardis stirred, not shaken. Regardless, throw in a chemically preserved cherry, if you like, and toast the New York State bar (sorry).

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Apparently back during the prohibition era, some cocktail classicists insisted that a “real” Bacardi Cocktail was made with sugar or simple syrup and not grenadine. I have no real argument with that except that, if you do that, then you basically have our last DOTW, the Daiquiri. I will say that I strongly recommend sticking to these proportions. A little bit of grenadine, it seems, goes a long way. I tried indulging my sweet tooth by using an entire teaspoon of grenadine per 1.5 ounces of rum, and the result was not at all pleasing. Even such a seemingly still small amount of the very sweet syrup created an unpleasantly saccharine drink. Some prefer to use a very small amount of sugar or simple syrup and just a tiny dash of grenadine for color. That might work as well.

Have a good holiday, everyone. Also, be safe on the roads. There are still some people out there who think they can imbibe whatever they like and get behind the wheel. Don’t be one of them.

  

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