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cinco de mayo:
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Cocktail Pairings for

Cinco de Mayo


by Tejal Rao
April 2007

If Prohibition taught us anything, it’s that low-end alcohol can be the creative starting point for serious cocktail culture. While gin, vodka, and whisky quickly moved on from their skanky bathtub status to high-end distilleries where they became the muses for expensive, grown-up cocktails, tequila lagged. In dank student basements, tequila seemed condemned to a lifetime of salt-licking, lime-sucking cronies. But those days are over. High-end tequila has survived its bruised pop culture image (thank you Mel Gibson) to become the darling of professional bartenders. And for those bars with access to a kitchen there’s an added bonus: tequila pairs well with food.

Mixologist Leann Berry of Ciudad in Dallas is working on her first book, pairing cocktails with food. While rum makes an appearance, tequila dominates her menu. Berry makes several trips a year to Mexico for tequila tastings, specifically to the highlands of Jalisco where the blue agave necessary for its production grows. “I love the versatility of tequilas – hands-down they make the most interesting drinks.” Her menu is divided into three columns: Blancos (aged less than 60 days), Reposados (aged for 2 months to a year in oak), and Añejos (aged from 1 to 10 years). Berry describes La Familia Reserva, the most expensive Añejo on her list at $19, with the seriousness of a wine taster: “rich as copper and full-bodied with dark caramel, herbal agave, salty minerals, and brown spices.” Not for body shots, this one.

Mixologist Junior Merino is known in the industry for his high-concept cocktails, “right now I’m working with tequila because Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner and it pairs naturally with Mexican cuisine.” Specifically Merino is into Siembra Azul, a small batch tequila made with 11.5 kilograms of agave per liter. He goes with the Blanco, for its mild herbaceous notes and bright citrus, when making a light match with crabmeat. In his Orchestrated Harmony cocktail, Merino mists the glass with Herbsaint liqueur and fills it with a muddle of Blanco tequila, lychee, pineapple, cilantro, grapes and lemon. The green, grassy notes and fresh citrus compliment Chef Miguel Espinoza’s Jicama-Crab Rollito and echo the cilantro flavor without overpowering the delicate crabmeat. With his Nuezes cocktail, Merino intensifies the sweet and savory suggestions of pale caramel, milk chocolate and nuts inherent to the Siembra Azul Reposado tequila with a rim of walnut liqueur and crushed candied pecans. He serves it with salmon and grouper coated in two sweet, smoky, and intensely flavored salsas – amplifying the flavor of both cocktail and dish.



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» Orchestrated Harmony
Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef Inc.
» Paired with: Jicama Rollitos Stuffed with Crabmeat and Cilantro Sauce
Chef Miguel Espinoza, Café Frida – New York, NY
» Pomegranate-Pasilla Amor
Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef Inc.s
» Paired with: Duck Breast Tacos Marinated in Pasilla and Mezcal
Chef Miguel Espinoza, Café Frida – New York, NY
» Los Agaves
Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef Inc.
» Paired with: Shrimp in Milk Salsa
Chef David Suro, Los Catrines Tequilas Bar – Philladelphia, PA
» Nuezes
Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef Inc.
» Paired with: Braided Salmon and Red Grouper with Poblano and Chipotle Salsa
Chef David Suro, Los Catrines Tequilas Bar – Philladelphia, PA
  • Single Origin Mezcals
  • Patricia Quintana Technique
  • Junior Merino Rising Star Mixologist
  • Summer Drinks Party
  • Mexico City Travel

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