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In honor of National Margarita day, I want to tell you about the most well-balanced, perfectly shaken, slightly smoky, not sweet, not sour, perfectly-citrus-with-a-tequila-tang margarita I’ve had all year. (And by “all year,” I’m going for a rolling 12 months and not the less than 2 months of 2015.)

That’s what this blog is about after all: The search for the perfect margarita.

The thing is, I don’t remember. I don’t remember the best margarita I had all year.

I remember my vacation in Colombia with my friends when my only concern was where I was getting my next great meal and what would be on my plate when that meal was set in front of me because my Spanish is sub-par at best. I sipped margaritas, looked at palm fronds waiving in the breeze, rolling ocean and cloudless blue sky. Every one of them was perfect.

There’s something about context that colors a whole experience.

I was in Costa Rica after a day of horseback riding through rain forest and eating with a local family when our guide offered us cashew wine. Cashew wine, you wonder with a raised brow and wrinkled forehead. Yes, it turns out a cashew is a nut and a fruit. A fruit that looks a little like a giant apricot or pepper with a claw.

And cashew wine, in that moment in the forest with macaws cawing in the trees was extraordinary. So extraordinary that we couldn’t wait to try some at home and sitting with friends in a New York City apartment, it was the worst thing ever.

In Portugal, we sailed the ocean blue and drank vino verde. I loved it. I loved its green tint and young, crisp taste. The sun set over the ocean and sails filled with wind and the wine was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. And then I got back home and you can guess what I think about vine verde now.

But I remember those moments and those drinks and always will. Those moments and those drinks were the best.

Last week, Moss Beach Distillery (Half Moon Bay, CA) was the scene of a perfect moment if not a perfect margarita. I was with people I love with a view anyone would have to love and got a margarita that would be hard to love if not for all the other lovely things that went along with it.

I realize this blog isn’t about the goal of finding the one, single perfect margarita but about the journey and all the fun and friends and family who keep my company on this path. “Perfect” is a subjective concept anyway, right?

So maybe I’ll never find that “perfect” drink. But, I’ll have lots of fun trying.

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I learned long ago that when life hands me limes, it’s up to me to figure out how to turn them into something tasty.

So when this sunny Cinco de Mayo crept up on me – and me, a margarita aficionado had no plans, I had to spring into recovery mode to turn limes into margaritas.

5 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Fun (for people like me who lack planning skills)

1. Make Guacamole and cry tears of joy. You can pick up all the ingredients on your way home and whip up a little love in a bowl. Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out. My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love
  • Mix but don’t mush!
  • Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

2. Make Scarlet Margaritas! I found this recipe on myrecipe.com. We have recipe/taste tested and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win.

Scarlet Margs!

Scarlet Margs!

 

3. Make Margaritas from Mix! Ok, I said it. Don’t hate me. Sometimes cutting corners is the only way to celebrate a holiday without adding stress. So if picking up all the ingredients for a fresh-made drink is too much, you can get by with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of mix. For the tequila, I still suggest Milagro. For the mix, you’re on your own. But what ever you do, do not follow the instructions on the mix bottle. Those recipes usually suggest a 3 to 1 ratio of mix to tequila. If you’re looking for a spike in blood sugar, this is the way to go. If you want a reasonable drink, experiment and cut back on the mix and increase the tequila (I suggest a ratio of 1 to 1). Add lots of ice and … a message from my Dad … drink responsibly.

4. Margarita Ice Cream! This is so easy to make you’ll almost feel guilty when your friends worship you for your ice cream making skills.  This recipe is from Nigella Lawson so it makes sense that it’s called Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream. After a rough year that included being choked by her husband, publically outed for a cocaine habit, banned from travelling to the US and getting divorced (well maybe that last one is a good thing) Nigella is someone who needs to turn her limes into something great. So thank goodness she has this recipe!

And this recipe is universally loved. When I made it, I got raves from someone who doesn’t like margaritas (gasp!), someone who doesn’t like ice cream (double gasp!) and someone who doesn’t drink at all (huh?). Everyone loves Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

 

Margarita Ice Cream

Margarita Ice Cream – I swear this picture doesn’t do this treat justice

 

5. Celebrate at a Place known for something other than Margaritas.  I’m turning my limes into an outing to Butter (NYC). Butter in Midtown is a cool space. It’s set underground and its high ceilings reach the street to let light shine into the restaurant. And they have Parker House Rolls – or at least what I remember as slightly sweet rolls, with a little salt on the top that were amazing (but maybe not Parker House shaped). And while I don’t exactly equate drinking margaritas with eating rolls, anything goes for this non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Butter NYC

Margarita & Flowers, Butter NYC

 

Here’s wishing you turn all the limes in your life into the best margaritas ever!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

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My mother crocheted me a bikini.

I was maybe 4 years old. I felt uneasy as I donned my fancy, loose-looped bathing suit but I’m sure my mother will tell you that time and experience warped my memory. She’d also say the bikini was “high” fashion and could have come out of the pages of Vogue.

We went to the public pool where I eased my crochet clad self into the water.  The fancy loops of my suit got loopier.  The holes grew holier.  With a single dunk, my bikini, both the top and bottom, blew up and swished right off my body.

There I was, naked in the shallow end.

Possibly that same year, I dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween.  My mother made the costume, a big orange fabric orb and a green felt leaf hat. How to make the fabric pumpkin costume round must have been a conundrum.  But my mother is nothing if not a problem solver.

She rounded out my pumpkin suit with balloons.

My costume was stuffed with balloons and I was stuffed into the station wagon (I recall it took some maneuvering because my costume girth was greater than the door width and I was an under-coordinated 4 year-old) Once in, the downside of balloon stuffing revealed itself.  I couldn’t sit without popping the balloons and turning my pumpkin from plump to sad and saggy.  So I stood for the drive, with my arms wrapped around my father’s driver seat headrest so I wouldn’t take a tumble (and pop the balloons).

I remember a birthday party where the entertainment was making party hats.  My guests and I each colored a thin paper plate and my mom stapled a ribbon to each side so we could tie our decorated creations under our chins.  We had party plates on our heads for the afternoon.

I didn’t yet have to wear an eye patch so I got to see all of this with two eyes wide open.

The thing these memories have in common is they must, at least in part, be responsible for my grown-up sense of humor.  And all this action took place in Ohio. “O-O Way to go Ohio.”  (Extra pride points if you remember the musical reference.)

There are lots of directions this post can take now.  I can explore lessons learned (like not all yarn is good for all projects and if anyone out there decides to crochet a bikini, learn from my experience and do a bath tub test).  We can discuss creative mishaps and unintended consequences (like balloons are a great filler until they aren’t).  Today I’m most interested in memory.

I’m not sure why some images cement into my life story while others fade away.

I remember two apartments, powdered milk, the crunch of the gravel parking lot waking me up and welcoming me at the end of a car trip.  I remember our neighbor who used to swallow marbles and then gag them back up.  We made card houses. I went to dance class and got to dance on a public access television show.  I was super excited to go and buy baby wipes because the teacher said stage lights are hot and we’d want to blot.  I was a star in need of supplies.

The Ohio memories seem to group together but I have super vivid memories throughout my childhood.  Things like resting under the dining room table with the dog, carrying Nilla Wafers in my patent leather purse, sledding though my sled wouldn’t go, making ornaments out of dough we couldn’t eat and my Kindergarten School Bus driver, Mrs. Hubbard and her nursery rhyme key chain.

But while I can remember toddling into my father’s 70’s brown panted knees and laughing and getting away and doing it again, I can’t give you directions to 90% of the streets in my home town.  To this day, I seize with fear if asked how to find Walnut Street.  I often forget people’s names as soon as they say them and for all the money in the world, I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner last night.  Memory making is fascinating and I’m always impressed when people show off extraordinary memory feats.

Like when the bartender at Maysville (17 W 26th St, NYC), across time and out of context, remembered me and a friend.  A year earlier, he worked at a different restaurant and we stopped in after shopping.  Cut to current day when we pulled ourselves up to the bar at Maysville and he remembered us, the shopping and our conversation. Impressive.  And he makes a great drink.

Maysville has more than a talented bartender who may well have the best memory in the city.  The food is excellent. Go and try the Crispy Grits with Country Ham.  Believe me, you’ll forgive its artery clogging properties as you bite into one of these treats.  And you’ll order them again.  The Brussels, a menu regular, are amazing (I confess, I push the pig’s ears aside) and so far everything I’ve tried rates a “yum”!

Maysville is a bourbon bar and the under lit bottles give the place a warm bourbon glow.  They take their drink making seriously.  My margarita was delicious.  They use Milagro Silver Tequila and fresh lime.  (I can’t believe I forgot to take a marg picture!)  The drinks are balanced and worth the indulgence especially if you line your stomach with Crispy Grits.

So check it out and when you go, say hi to Andy (I really hope I got his name right). He’s super nice, he will mix you a great drink and when he says hello to you on your second visit, you’ll know he actually remembers you.

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English: Barrels for tequila on display at the...

Barrels for tequila on display at the National Museum of Tequila in Tequila Jalisco Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, July 24 is National Tequila Day
To help everyone get even more joy from their celebrations, here is a review of the health benefits of drinking margaritas and of course, tequila. Yes, there are health benefits.  I swear I’m not making this up. Check out the back up.
So here we go:
1.     Tequila lowers cholesterol!
2.     Tequila aids digestion!
3.     Tequila has been proven to ward off dementia. Though this could have more to do with the social benefits of meeting friends for a drink and not from drinking the spirit itself.
4.     Margaritas are often flavored with fruit and chock full of antioxidants. Pomegranate Margaritas, a particularly tasty treat, may also be particularly healthful.  Studies show that pomegranate juice may fight cancer, protect your arteries, lower cholesterol and protect your brain. Check out healthdiaries.com for pomegranate scoop.  And, though I can’t source this on the Internet, I heard a very fun pomegranate fact when I was watching local news at an obscenely early hour on Sunday morning. In a segment on healthy food they reported consuming pomegranate juice helps sunscreen work better
My suggestion for the perfect National Tequila Day celebration?  Slather on SPF and sit in the sun with a frozen pomegranate margarita.  Bring friends to amp up the fun factor and keep dementia at bay.  Then schedule a post-drink cholesterol test to show off your low LDL numbers to your doctor.
If margaritas aren’t your thing (always shocking to me but it happens) I have another suggestion.  If you’re in NYC, go to my new favorite bar, Jeffrey’s Grocery (Waverly Place in the West Village).
I have no idea if there’s a Jeffrey but there is a great bartender.  Suzanne works Thursday – Saturday so she’ll be celebrating National Tequila Day by soaking up sun, antioxidants and drinking a healthy drink and won’t be behind the bar.  But even if Suzanne isn’t there, the bar has a friendly vibe and they’re rolling out with a brand new tequila drink on Tuesday. (Coincidence?)  Suzanne was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at the new tequila magic.  It’s called “Part Time Lover” and is a mix of Blanco Tequila, Lemon, Cointreau, a dash of Chilli/Chocolate Bitters and Szechuan Pepper Agave and three Bing cherries.  The name alone is reason it order it.  And then of course, there’s the tequila.
If you go and Suzanne is there, be sure to order a margarita.  She makes hers with love and it shows.

Suzanne’s Excellent Margarita at Jeffrey’s Grocery

A special thank you to @mscharlies for keeping me up with important dates.
And now a word from my Dad:  Please drink responsibly as being stupid erases all the health benefits mentioned above.
Happy National Tequila Day everyone! Looking forward to hearing about the tequila themed fun!

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Our Mad Men office (AKA office drinking) started with a birthday party for my then boss.

She said she liked margaritas so we made them for her. We didn’t ask anyone permission and the only sign of concern was that the head of HR didn’t attend the party. She saw me heading into the conference room holding two bottles of tequila so she spun on her heel and went in the other direction. Our first party wasn’t sophisticated but our staff got terribly drunk. I used margarita mix and the only way I know to overcome the lip puckering pow of mix is ignore the recipe on the bottle and double the amount of tequila.

We moved offices and made continuous improvements on our margarita party. We bought tortilla chips from the food section of the local drug store and discovered Chipolte will sell a whopping glop of guacamole for not too much money if you go after the lunch rush.  I brought in the blender my parents gave me for Christmas. The sticker on it says it has “super ice-crushing power”. We ordered in a taco bar, complimented margaritas with ice cream sundaes and assigned staff members decorating duties.  Word spread and people from other departments started showing up when they heard the blender whirl. Each party was bigger, better and more colorful than the last.

And our most impressive improvement? Chair races.

Our new office took up a whole floor, with an arterial hallway running in a loop around a center section filled elevators and bathrooms. It was the perfect race track and we had the perfect wheels in our new office chairs.  Teams were made up of twos; a chair rider and a runner to push.

It only took one race to pick up big learning.  The track wasn’t wide enough for more than two teams. Office chairs don’t corner like a Porsche so slowing down, especially in the first turn, was vital or  we risked taking out editorial’s copy machine or someone’s desk.  And “Safety First”. Posting crossing guards along the race track was a necessity to avoid mowing down an innocent coming out of a bathroom. And finally, it’s easy to damage wall paper (even when it’s the industrial, office strength type).

Does it make the story better or worse if I tell you there was betting? I won $5.

Winnings in one hand and margarita in the other.

I’m sure our management noticed the scuffs on the new walls but they never asked and the parties continued until one day, the President of the company showed up in my office.

The company’s turmoil reached an apex. Sold twice in a year, layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts were our reality and we slogged through our days. He peeled bills out of his wallet and asked us throw a July 4th margarita party for the bedraggled staff.

The entire department jumped into action. They hand-made decorations, shopped, found a second blender and turned our section of the office into a giant bar. And I made red, white and blue margaritas. White were plain, red colored with Grenadine and blue tainted with Blue Curacao. And for the record, Milagro tequila powered our margaritas.

The whole company showed up. And stayed. And stayed. There were no chair races that day – too many people on the track. But the margaritas, red, white, blue and glorious lifted sagging spirits. And that was even better.

Happy Memorial Day!

 

Coming Soon: Guacamole and a new look for Margagogo!

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Yes, results! Not results to the political primaries but to another pressing issue of our time: What is the best tequila to use in a margarita?

Though I would very much like to know what Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum drink on their campaign busses (I just can’t believe they make all those speeches sober) the goal of this poll was to find out what the experts like to use when they make margaritas. So drunk with the potential of Twitter, I reached out to several experts and asked.

And the experts answered!

People with excellent website names and twitter handles like cocktailwhisperertheliquidmuse, @intoxicologist and @Mr_Cocktail took time to reply.  In the small world of Twitter, I found my life-saving drink maker from Inoteca. Ofrenda, the unofficial birthplace of margagogo, weighed in as did Brian Petro who generously shared some margarita history for my last post.

Oh, back to the results: Milagro Silver is hands down the winner.  Of the eight responders, three or 37.5% believe Milagro is a tasty cost-effective tequila and Milagro is the only option to come up more than once.

Here’s the breakdown:

Warren Bobrow @WarrenBobrow1   Warren suggests Milagro Silver because it “…Costs less. Tastes like more. Much more.”  Check out his site here: cocktailwhisperer And thanks to my friend Catherine @cateKustanczy for introducing me to Warren.

Brian Petro @Creat_Daily   Brian likes El Espolon Reposado becasue it has a “very nice flavor, incredibly light color, and smooth. ”

Natalie Bovis @The LiquidMuse   Natalie likes Partida. She has a book and drinks and dines globally so I trust her on this. Her site is here:  theliquidmuse

Cocktail Chicks @CocktailChicks always goes for quality but didn’t have a specific suggestion. Their site is here: inthelandofcocktails

Ofrenda NYC @Ofrenda_NYC  Ofrenda says their current fave is Pavoneo Blanco. Check out Ofrena online here: ofrendanyc

Cheri loughlin @intoxicologist  Cheri says there are lots of options but  “… always always always 100% agave tequila!” And you know she’s serious when she used “always” three times in a 140 character tweet. Her site is here: intoxicologist

Chaim Dauermann @notclam (AKA” life-saver”) Chaim suggests Milagro Siver as a good choice that won’t break the bank. He also likes El Tesoro silver and when in the sipping mood, Casa Noble Reposado. Chaim’s site is here: spillcheck

Mr Cocktail @Mr_Cocktail   Did you know there’s an annual cocktail festival held in New Orleans (and I’m not talking about Mardi Gras or any Friday night on Burbon Street)? Read about it on talesofthecocktail.  Mr Cocktail suggests Milagro Silver.

When I tweeted Mr Cocktail that Milagro was the informal poll winner, he suggested my readers must have really great taste. I think he’s right about that.

And since I like that ending, you’ll all have to wait for another blog post to find out about my introduction to Milagro. And I promise – Margaritas in Maine coming soon!

Thank you to all who participated and made this post possible!

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