I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Mexico to learn how to make tequila. I always liked sipping on tequila, but now I am in love with it.
Tequila is like wine, it is a simple process. It is made by hand and reflects both the terroir of the highlands or the valley soil in which the blue agave plant is grown, and the heart and soul of the distillers. It is a fascinating industry that combines old-fashioned traditional methods, and new science and technology in equal parts. It is also delicious and fun to drink.
While I was in Jalisco — the state that almost all tequilas come from — I visited the Patron distillery. Among the many things that I learned, I discovered that they have four tequila-based liqueurs called Patron Citronge. As I tasted, it occurred to me that the tequila liqueur might be a great substitution for the Grand Marnier that I usually use in a margarita. I liked the idea that the primary spirit stayed the same. (Tequila with the Patron liqueur vs. Brandy in Grand Marnier).
My thought was that the tequila liqueur would add just the tiniest amount of sugar and a fruity component to compliment the tequila and citrus juice. So, the skinny margarita would be a little smoother than the traditional tequila and lime juice version with no need to add agave syrup or sugar. I couldn’t wait until I got home to test my theory, so that night, I asked Oscar, the bartender, to help me make “skinny margaritas” with the four flavors of the liqueurs; orange, lime, mango and pineapple.
Oscar happily agreed and made four margaritas, the only difference being the flavor of the liqueur. A group of us tasted them all blind, and the overwhelming winner was the mango liqueur. When I came home, I made a batch of the margaritas using Meyer lemons because they are sweeter than a traditional lemon or lime, and the juice would highlight, not overpower, the delicate mango flavor.
The results were even better than what I envisioned and I hope that you will agree. This new margarita is going to be my choice for Cinco de Mayo and the upcoming summer months. The drink is refreshing and smooth without being sweet at all. You can taste the real ataulfo (a.k.a. champagne) mangoes that the liqueur is made with and the sweet-tart Meyer lemon juice is just sour enough to make it a margarita.
When I thought about how to garnish the margarita, I decided to incorporate a tip from the master tequillier of Cazadores. Tania Oseguera is one of the few female tequilliers and her favorite accompaniment to sipping tequila is to dip the edge of a cut orange in ground cinnamon. This beats the heck out of the lime and salt tradition, and complements the rich fresh flavors of the tequila. Even though it was designed for a glass of neat tequila, I decided to try it with my Mango Margarita. I used a slice of the Meyer lemon since I already had one cut, but you could use Tania’s favorite, the orange. Both work well for this cocktail. Cheers!
‘SKINNY’ MANGO MARGARITA
Servings: 2 drinks
1.5 ounces favorite Silver Tequila
1 ounce Patron Mango Liqueur
2 ounces fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice
Meyer lemon or orange slice, cut in half for garnish.
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a short “rocks” glass filled with crushed ice. Dip the side of the Meyer lemon or orange slice into the cinnamon and garnish the glass. I make a cut in the center of the slice with a paring knife so that it slips over the rim of the glass more easily.
Chef’s Note: One ounce is equal to 2 tablespoons. If you don’t have an ounce measure, you can use a tablespoon.
Nutrition information per serving: 101 calories; 0 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 1 mg sodium; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 0 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”