Margaritas evolve with new flavors, approaches (recipes)

The Fresno BeeApril 28, 2014 

Blended, on the rocks or made with muddled jalapeño, the margarita has come a long way.

This classic drink is a favorite of those looking for an intoxicating mixture of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It doesn't hurt that margaritas get their punch from the potent and smoky flavor of tequila.

And while the drink's origin may be a bit hazy — some say it was the brainchild of a Tijuana restaurant owner in the 1930s — the margarita has not lost its popularity.

"Who doesn't love a margarita?" asked Gaby Dalkin, cookbook author and Los Angeles-based food blogger. "It's one of the best cocktails out there because it's so simple yet it can be jazzed up in any number of ways. Plus it's the perfect drink for spring and summer."

Dalkin, who writes whatsgabycooking.com, said it's the ever-increasing combination of flavors that continues to win people over. In some bars it isn't unusual to find as many flavors of margaritas as Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors.

Even those trying to watch their calories have a margarita for them: it's called the Skinny margarita. While recipes differ, Dalkin uses: fresh lime juice, a touch of agave nectar, tequila and a splash of sparkling water.

"It's simple, easy and delicious," she says.

Alisa Manjarrez of Fresno is a fan of the classic-style margarita. One of her favorites is called the Border and it's served at Plaza Ventana in Fresno. It includes tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and Grand Marnier. The drink is put in a shaker and poured at your table into an ice-filled glass rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime.

"I really like that flavor of sweet, salty and tart," she says. "And I especially like it on the rocks because you can taste all those flavors."

David Borunda, owner of the Plaza Ventana restaurants in Fresno, says the key to a good margarita is the tequila. The restaurant that has two locations — 3173 W Shaw Ave. #101 and 5088 N Blackstone Ave. — uses several different types of tequila, including Dobel, a crystal-clear aged tequila.

"The better the tequila the better the margarita," Borunda says.

Like other restaurants, Borunda serves several types of margaritas, including some new flavors: prickly pear and jalapeño. The prickly pear is a red-colored, light-bulb shaped fruit that grows on cactus and tastes a little like watermelon and raspberries. The drink has a refreshing and fruity taste.

The jalapeño margarita is like fire and ice. The mashed hot pepper adds a good dose of heat to your mouth only to be cooled off by the rest of the icy drink.

"It definitely has a little kick to it," says Plaza Ventana bartender Gabriel Sandoval. "But the overall flavor is really good."

Also expanding the margarita boundaries are the owners of Casa Corona in Fresno and Salsa's Cantina in Clovis.

At Salsa's, 410 Clovis Ave., there are 31 different flavors of margaritas, including strawberry mango, peach and the house special that includes several fresh fruits.

"People tell us that they really like all the flavors, and once they try one, they get hooked," says Jesse Mendoza, manager of Salsa's.

Elsa Rodriguez Killion, co-owner of Casa Corona, says one of the new waves in margaritas is adding a 7-ounce Coronita beer to the drink. At Casa Corona they have dubbed the drink the Mendozer. The restaurant has two locations in Fresno: 7044 N. Cedar Ave. and 1724 W. Bullard Ave.

The drink looks like a regular margarita but has an open bottle of Corona tipped into the side of the glass. A clip keeps the top of the bottle submerged in the glass.

As you drink, the flavor of the beer slowly seeps into the drink, giving it that distinct Corona flavor.

"It really has become popular," Killion says. "It is like two drinks in one. And it has that wow factor."

Tangerine margarita

3/4 cup tequila

1/2 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons clove-infused simple syrup (see note)

1 teaspoon freshly grated tangerine rind + more for garnish

Ice

Add all ingredients to blender. Blend. Add enough ice to make slushy. Garnish by grating tangerine rind over each glass.

Note: For Clove-infused simple syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

15 cloves

Combine water, sugar and cloves in a medium saucepan. Boil until sugar has dissolved, stirring frequently. Let sit for at least one hour. Let cool, strain and store in refrigerator.

Peach & black pepper margarita

2-3 cups frozen peaches (cut fresh peaches into large chunks and freeze the night before)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup black pepper infused tequila (see note)

1/4 cup triple sec

1 tablespoon sugar

Kosher salt

Pepper

Add peaches, lime juice, tequila, triple sec and sugar to a blender. Blend. For rim: Mix salt and pepper on a plate, rub rim of each glass with a lime and dip into the mixture.

Note: For black pepper infused tequila

1. Grind 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

2. Add them to a small mason jar

3. Fill jar to the top with tequila

4. Let mixture sit in a dark place for at least one week and filter before using!

Strawberry jalapeño margarita

12 strawberries, green tops removed

1 thinly sliced ring of jalapeño pepper (about 1/2- inch thick)

2 limes, juiced

2 tablespoons agave nectar

4 ounces silver/blanco tequila

Combine the strawberries and jalapeño pepper in a small blender and blend until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender into a shaker.

Add the lime juice, agave nectar and tequila and a handful of ice. Secure the lid on the shaker and shake for 30-60 seconds to mix and chill the margarita.

Strain the juice out and serve over ice.

Tip: instead of lining these margaritas with a salt rim, try combining equal parts salt and sugar for a sweet and salty rim.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, brodriguez@fresnobee.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter. — Flannery and Katherine Good, www. fashionablybombed.com — Flannery and Katherine Good, www. fashionablybombed.com — Gaby Dalkin, www.whatsgaby cooking.com

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