GSN Alert: February 22nd – National Margarita Day

1953_12Interestingly enough, the first printed recipe for the Margarita shows up in the December 1953 issue of Esquire magazine (pictured at left) Here’s what they had to say about it: Drink of the Month – “She’s from Mexico, Senores, and her name is the Margarita Cocktail–and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative.”

1 ounce tequila
Dash of Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt–pour, and sip.

Anyone today would certainly recognize that recipe, albeit in a more definitive form (more Triple Sec, no lemon, and no crushed ice).

But, the origins of the Margarita go back much further, probably about 25 years earlier.  No one knows for sure who created the drink, but my favorite theory about the name is that it was originally called a Tequila Daisy.  The Spanish word for daisy is Margarita, and a Tequila Daisy was basically a Margarita (tequila, orange liqueur, sour mix).  In any case, it has become one of the top 10 cocktails of all time.

Here are some modern versions crafted just in time for your celebration:

GildedHareThe Gilded Hare (Courtesy of Matt Grippo at Blackbird in San Francisco)
1.5oz Suerte Blanco Tequila
.5oz Gonzales Byass Amontillado Sherry
.5oz Cinnamon Syrup
.5 Grapefruit
.5 Lime
5 Drops of Bittermens Hellfire Shrub
This winter influenced margarita is a tad complex. Suerte Blanco tequila, amontillado sherry, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon and habanero. Big bright tequila flavors up front and a warm lingering finish of spice and wood with just enough kick to warm your mouth without the burn.

image012 Lemon Basil Margarita (Courtesy of Cointreau)
1 1/2 oz. Blanco Tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
3 basil Leaves
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Shake and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with basil and lemon wheel.

drinkCRUZ Citrus Margarita (Courtesy of CRUZ Tequila)
2 parts CRUZ Silver Tequila
¾ parts agave nectar
1 lime squeezed
½ lemon squeezed
½ orange squeezed
1-2 parts filtered water
A couple sprigs of mint
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

image001Cucumber Lavender Margarita (Courtesy Tortilla Republic, West Hollywood)
2 oz. Casa Noble Organic Tequila (or other 100% agave silver tequila)
2-3 ½ Inch Cucumber Slices, muddled
1.5 oz. Fresh Squeeze Lime Juice
0.75 oz. Lavender-Infused Simple Syrup
(soak 4-5 sprigs of lavender in simple syrup for 2-3 days, or purchased at Farmers’ markets and specialty grocers). Shake. Pour into a 12.5 oz. glass on rocks. Garnish with cucumber and fresh lavender blossoms.

image006The Milagro Blood Orange Margarita (Courtesy of Milagro Tequila)
1 ½ parts Milagro Silver Tequila
¾ part Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1 part Fresh Lime Juice
¾ part agave nectar
Pour all ingredients in a Boston Shaker with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a salt-rimmed rocks glass. Garnish with orange and lime wheels.

image003StrawBeerita (Courtesy of Licor 43)
3 oz. chilled beer, lighter-style lager
1 oz. Licor 43
1 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
3 Strawberries
Directions: Cut strawberries and a few lime slices and muddle in a shaker. Add tequila, Licor 43, lime juice and ice and shake. Pour mixture into a margarita glass and top with beer. Garnish with a strawberry slice and lime wedge.

GSN Review – Cointreau Noir

cointreau_noir_biais-300Cointreau has become the ubiquitous triple sec for use in cocktails.  And for good reason.  You can read my thoughts about it here.  The brand has now branched out into the curacao category with Cointreau Noir.

So, what’s the difference between a triple sec and a curacao?  Basically (although some may argue this point) curacao has a brandy base and triple sec has a neutral grain spirit base.  The differences are noticeable, but the important thing is to use a high quality version in your cocktails.

Cointreau Noir (80 proof)
Visual: Bright copper.
Nose: Orange oil essence with an undercurrent of rich cognac.
Taste: A burst of warm orange, but much drier and less sweet than Cointreau.  Slightly dry and dark with a viscous mouth feel.
Finish: The cognac element seems to overtake the orange after half a minute and subdues the sweetness.  It has an almost barrel-aged effect on the liqueur.
Overall: Perfect on its own, but also great in cocktails that call for Triple Sec or Curacao.  It makes for an overall lighter mouthfeel than regular Cointreau.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Cointreau

GSN Event Recap: Cointreau & Dita Von Teese’s Virtual Holiday Soiree

Kyle Ford, Cointreau's Cocktail and Spirits Expert, and Dita Von Teese attend A Live Virtual Holiday Soiree

Kyle Ford, Cointreau’s Cocktail and Spirits Expert, and Dita Von Teese attend A Live Virtual Holiday Soiree

Here’s a recap of Cointreau’s Virtual Holiday Soiree which Good Spirits News took part in yesterday.  It was hosted by the Queen of Burlesque, Dita Von Teese and Cocktail & Spirits Expert Kyle Ford. Most people are familiar with Dita’s glamorous persona, but what you may not know is that she has a passion for entertaining. When she’s not on stage, Dita is usually at home treating her friends to some delicious food and signature cocktails straight from her kitchen.

Yesterday, Dita “virtually” invited fans and cocktail enthusiasts from all over the world into her home for a master class in entertaining and cocktail making for the holidays.  The soiree took place in Dita’s colorful kitchen, which is adorned with hot pink wallpaper and truly speaks to her unique, vintage-inspired style. She and Kyle showed viewers how to make three chic and simple cocktails that are perfect party staples – the Cointreau Rickey, the Cointreau Berry Rickey and the Cointreau Apple Crisp (recipes below). Since Cointreau is an 80 proof spirit, it makes a great base for cocktails and is a unique, stylish alternative to gin or vodka.

Dita loves to throw a party, and she shared some of her go-to entertaining tips with the viewers. Some of the highlights included:

  • Create a signature cocktail– Having a specialty cocktail is a great way to add a personal touch for your guests. Dita loves The Cointreau Rickey because it is chic and easy to make with just 3 simple ingredients- Cointreau, lime and soda.
  • Setting up a Cointreau Rickey Bar for guests – This is a great, interactive way for your guests to enjoy their cocktail experience – all you need is Cointreau, lime, soda and a beautiful arrangement of your favorite fresh ingredients to muddle in. Since we’re approaching the holiday season, Dita loves to use ingredients like fig, apple, rosemary, sage, thyme, etc. She also says, “It drives me crazy having to do dishes all night, so by personalizing their cocktails, guests will remember which drink is theirs!”
  • Pay attention to lighting –As Dita mentioned, “Lighting is a good place to start…to set the tone.” She recommends using scented candles that “suit the season” or using dimmer switches where possible. Proper lighting can turn your home into a “lair of seduction.”
  • Have a theme party – Sometimes, a fun theme is reason enough to have a party. Dita explained, “I like to have classes for my friends. So recently I invited all my girlfriends over and had a hula-hooping lesson here at my house. I set up a Cointreau Rickey Bar and all my friends were really excited by it.” She also throws potluck parties with different themes for the food – such as brunch or Mexican food – with cocktails to match, of course!
  • Batching cocktails – Instead of running back and forth to the kitchen making drinks for your guests all night, pre-batch your cocktails and serve them in beautiful carafes, or as Dita mentioned, a vintage punch bowl that she recently picked up at the flea market. They look beautiful and allow you, as the host, to spend time with your guests.
  • Using mixed barware – Don’t be afraid to use mixed or mismatched barware or glassware. Dita loves finding vintage glassware at flea markets and frequently uses it when entertaining. It’s another way for your guests to identify their glasses because each one is different!
  • Keep it simple – Simplicity is the golden rule of entertaining, as far as Dita is concerned! She suggests, “The cocktails should be simple, all the food should be quite simple and that’s the key to having a good party that doesn’t make you frazzled.” Your guests don’t want to see you stress, so keeping your cocktails and food simple is the best way to ensure a successful party.

If you’d like more tips from Dita, or if you weren’t able to watch the entire Virtual Holiday Soiree, you can check it out any time by clicking this link.


image008The Cointreau Rickey
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
3-4 oz. Club Soda or Seltzer

Build all ingredients in a glass with ice.  Stir briefly.  Garnish with orange peel and lime twist.

image010Cointreau Berry Rickey
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
2 Blackberries
2 Raspberries
5 Mint leaves
3-4 oz. Club Soda or Seltzer

Muddle the berries and mint in the bottom of a glass.  Build cocktail with remaining ingredients and ice.  Stir briefly.  Garnish with raspberry and blackberry on a pick and a mint sprig.

image012Cointreau Apple Crisp
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
3 oz. Fresh Apple Cider
Pinch of nutmeg

Build all ingredients over ice in a highball glass.  Stir well and garnish with apple slices.

GSN Review: Cointreau vs. Hiram Walker Triple Sec

A few weeks ago, I received an interesting package in the mail.  A bottle of Cointreau and a bottle of Hiram Walker Triple Sec with a note to compare the two.  To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the latter.  I decided however to go one step further and throw in a few other orange based liqueurs into the mix.  So, without further ado, here are my impressions of a variety of triple secs and curacaos.

Cointreau: The granddaddy of them all.  An elegant liqueur with an impeccable nose.  This smells like delicious oranges and tastes even better.  The slightly bitter quality is perfectly balanced by the sweetness.  Very little burn and a wonderfully bright finish.  This is totally deserving of the cult status it has among top mixologists.  Good Spirits Rating: A+

Grand Marnier:
This is a darker liqueur in character than any of the others I tried.  A fantastic after dinner drink on the rocks, or even heated.  It doesn’t mix as well as Cointreau, but that doesn’t preclude it from several great cocktails.  The overall impression I have is of an aged
version of curacao.  It works great on its own, but also adds depth of character to a drink like a margarita.  Rich, velvety and impeccably smooth.  Good Spirits Rating: A

Hiram Walker Triple Sec: First of all, I must point out that this is only 60 proof.  Undoubtedly not only to save money, but to
cover up the lack of distillation quality. The nose put me right off, smelling not really like fresh orange peel, so much as stale orange candy.  Upon tasting, I was greeted with an oversweet orange-like syrup.  Really, this could pass for orange simple syrup but for the fact that there is alcohol in there somewhere.  This is flat, one-dimensional and really only something a mixologist worth his shaker would use in a pinch.  Good Spirits Rating: C

Patron Citronge:
This has been my “go to” mid-shelf triple sec for a while now, but tasting it alongside of the others in my collection, I discovered that it really isn’t as close to Cointreau as I had originally thought. The nose is very similar, bringing a nice orangey brightness that gets
the mouth-watering.  But, the taste is bitter to the point of reminding me of Campari in an odd way.  Granted, this is about $15 less per bottle than Cointreau, but it is not an equal by any means.  Still, it can be used in cocktails without embarrassment, and when blended with other spirits, it loosens up the unpleasant bitter quality.  Good Spirits Rating: B

Senior Curacao of Curacao: On Ted Haigh’s recommendation, I sought out a bottle of this in the clear version.  The only curacao still made on the island of Curacao and darned hard to find in the USA.  This is an older style liqueur with a heavy thickness that works well in turn of the century cocktails.  There isn’t a lot that I can say to the negative about this spirit.  Very orangey, balanced, sweeter than Cointreau and smooth.  I like it! Good Spirits Rating: A-