We’ve all made mistakes. Many of those mistakes were accompanied by shots of cheap tequila. We don’t have to talk about it.
But tequila doesn’t deserve all the blame for those things you did on the dance floor, and it’s time you made up. In recent years, people have begun to realize that agave spirits (tequila and mezcal) are too good to be gulped in the dark and chased down by table salt and brown-edged limes. This is a good thing, because tequila and mezcal are as worthy of appreciation as more austere spirits like Scotch and whiskey. But even high-quality spirits can be aggressive if you’re sipping them straight, and nobody knows that better than the people who made them.
In Mexico, fine tequila and mezcal are typically served with a side of sangrita, a flavorful little beverage that translates to “little blood.” Traditional sangrita packs a punch, made with sweet pomegranate, sour Seville orange, and spicy Mexican chili powder. This flavor combination is meant as an accompaniment, not a chaser, meant to harmonize with the earthy heat of the spirit and curb a little of its bite.
But you don’t have to go all the way to Jalisco to enjoy your agave like a grownup. If you’ve already exhausted your repertoire of tequila cocktails, whip up a batch of homemade sangrita and sip the rest of that bottle with sweet, spicy satisfaction. This cocktail recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients, so you won’t have to worry about juicing your own pomegranates or scouring the store for Seville oranges.
- 1 orange
- 2 limes
- .5 oz. pomegranate juice
- .5 oz agave nectar (or honey)
- dash of cayenne pepper
- pinch of salt
- Juice orange and limes into a bowl with pomegranate, agave, cayenne, and salt
- Whisk together until agave nectar and salt are fully dissolved (heating the nectar in the microwave for 5-10 seconds beforehand will speed this process)
- Adjust seasoning to taste, then strain through a fine mesh strainer and store in refrigerator
Many tequila bars and Mexican restaurants north of the border offer sangrita, and it often drinks like a tiny little Bloody Mary. This is because American sangrita often contains tomato, adding a savory quality to the sweet/sour/spicy combination in the traditional recipe. Rather than getting mired in the “right” way of doing things, let’s focus on the mission here: to make a decent dancing partner for your favorite mezcal or tequila. There’s plenty to love about a sangrita with tomato, and if that’s your thing, go wild. You can add a touch of tomato juice, or go full farmer’s market and incorporate fresh seasonal tomatoes into your mix. Feel free to get creative with different fruits and veggie combinations to achieve the sweet/sour/spicy flavor profile. There’s no reason you can’t substitute mango for pomegranate, or go green and make it a kiwi. This recipe uses cayenne for simplicity, but you can hit your local Mexican market to find a more authentic and varied selection of peppers.
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