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Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Cantarito!
Summer drinking season has officially started.
Greetings, Wonketeers, and happy Cinco de Mayo! I’m sure you’ll have the chance to drink many delicious margaritas today, but let me offer you something a little different. It’s a tequila fruit punch that’s sweet, tasty, and strong — the signature drink and namesake of my favorite local Mexican joint, Los Cantaritos. Here’s the recipe:
2 oz Cazadores reposado tequila
2 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz lime juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz blood orange syrup
3-4 drops saline
Jarritos grapefruit soda
2-3 shakes Tajin
Shake all ingredients except for the soda. Pour into a clay cup or double old fashioned glass over ice. Top with the soda and tajin.
Blood Orange Syrup
1 oz fresh blood orange juice
1 oz sugar
Heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Keeps refrigerated for 2-4 weeks.
Traditionally, this cocktail is served in a jarrito de barro — a clay cup. The cups are soaked in ice cold water before service. The earthenware vessel holds its temperature much longer than a glass one. If you’ve got a nice piece of pottery that can hold a large-ish cocktail, this is the place to use it. A double old fashioned glass will work if you don’t have earthenware on hand. Beware serving this in a highball. You’ll be left with a lot of space, and topping off with Jarritos will end up overwhelming the drink.
I’m usually a strong advocate for fresh juice in all my drinks, but juicing four fruits for one cocktail is a bit much. I compromised and used bottled orange juice in this case; the grapefruit and lime are too important to skip, and the blood orange syrup will find its way into plenty of other drinks. I am strongly tempted to swap out the orange for pineapple juice at some time; I’ll let you know how it goes.
The reposado tequila completely vanishes in this cocktail, in a good way. You won’t notice the alcohol until you stand up and wonder where the floor went. Vodka or white rum would work if you’re desperate, but you’ll lose some of the essence of what makes this cocktail special.
There’s no clear origin for this cocktail, beyond “sometime during the Mexican Revolution.” The most repeated version is that it was created to reward the troops after a difficult battle in Jalisco state. It's seen more often in rural roadside bars rather than urban restaurants and cocktail spots. I am struck by how balanced it is as a tiki-style cocktail. A classic Caribbean punch features “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.” You have to squint a little bit to make all the definitions work, but the lime, juice, and tequila are all the right portions here, and the fire from the Tajin is welcome. I’m hard pressed to find a better hot-weather quencher.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Bartender shot. Makenna was a great bartender for the night. Best smile I've seen behind the stick yet. Matthew Hooper
Cazadores reposado tequila: A good reposado still has an agave note, but it’s far more mellow than blanco tequila. If you want a big tequila note, use El Jimador blanco tequila. Use white rum or vodka in an emergency, but doing so will cost you some of the soul of this cocktail.
Grapefruit juice: Fresh does matter here; fresh grapefruit juice and bottled are very different things. I simply squeezed the fruit by hand; using a juicer risks the chance of getting bitter pith into the drink. Allergic to grapefruit? Grab a margarita. No one will judge.
Lime juice: Always use fresh. Plastic bottles? Plastic juice. Say it louder for the folks in the back.
Orange juice: Orange juice always bothers me as an ingredient. It’s not acidic enough to balance a drink, and it’s a little too sweet to stand on its own. It does provide a little more fruit-juice volume in the glass here, but swapping it for more grapefruit or some pineapple juice would be fine.
Blood orange syrup: This rich, jam-like syrup will creep into a lot of good cocktails over time; I’m sneaking it into my Cuba Libres now. As an added benefit, the dark red color makes this drink grapefruit pink — the “correct” color for a grapefruit drink.
Saline: Not a lot of salt, just enough to punch up the sweet flavors. Swap in a pinch of sea salt if needed.
Jarritos Grapefruit Soda: Jarritos is a total sugar bomb of a soda, which is what’s needed here. Don’t add too much; an inch in the glass is enough. Squirt will do as well. Avoid any pink-colored “grapefruit” soda. I tried a few in the course of making this recipe. They’re awful.
Tajin: Don’t skip this. The pucker and spice balances the drink. A good restaurant will rim the jarrito de barro in liquid tajin and add a healthy shake to the glass.
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