I don't know a single person that doesn't think MARGARITA once the summer hits. It's a perfect warm weather cocktail; refreshing and tart but potent as hell. So I knew early on that I wanted to feature a margarita to our cocktail club in July.
After some tough research (read: not tough but delicious), I settled on the Cucumber Jalapeño Rita from Jack Allen's Kitchen in Austin, Texas. This is a modern version, made with muddled cucumber and jalapeño, reposado tequila, and elderflower liqueur. I really enjoy the play of flavors going on in this 'rita and I'm not alone. Local Austinites voted it the best unique margarita in town last year.
Once I reached out to the folks at JAK, we got a little more insight into the Cucumber Jalapeño Rita from the creator and current Beverage Manager, David Toby. Here he is in his own words:
"The Cucumber Jalapeño Rita was inspired by wanting to do something a bit different and have a cocktail that was cooling for the Texas heat, but still had that nice peppery flavor.
"So my thinking [in creating the cocktail] was the cool comes from the fresh cucumbers and the perfect peppery taste in the jalapeño. Then I add some fresh lime and a little simple syrup because I dislike margaritas that are too sweet or have all those preservatives. Next, I had to find a great reposado tequila, as I like mixing with rested tequilas to give it more depth. I went with Ambhar Reposado, a locally owned tequila. And then I wanted to switch it up a bit and not use a traditional orange liqueur, but rather St. Germain elderflower liqueur and fresh cilantro (instead of a lime wedge) to garnish, which makes this summer fling the perfect cocktail!"
David also gave us some tips on working with peppers in cocktails.
"I like me some heat when it comes to creating cocktails but it is very easy to go overkill & ruin the drink with too much heat! Jalapeños are great because they're not too spicy and provide a nice pepper flavor. I recommend removing the center of the pepper (seeds and membrane) to cut the heat back and still get the flavor of the jalapeño. You should also always taste first because depending on the season, peppers can run medium to very hot!
"When infusing with jalapeños cut the pepper open but leave the seeds in. Usually your infusion is ready within 3 days, but once again it will get a little more heat with every day.
"Enjoy making drinks with jalapeños or any pepper cause that's how we do it in Texas!"
These great tips proved their worth the first time I created the 'rita in our test kitchen. Of course, I proved it by completely ignoring David's advice. Without testing the pepper beforehand, my cocktail turned out face-meltingly HOT. Listen to the pros, folks!
In celebration of National Tequila Day on July 24th, here is David Toby's Cucumber Jalapeño Rita recipe:
1 1⁄2 oz Ambhar Reposado Tequila (or reposado of choice)
3⁄4 oz St. Germain (Elderflower Liqueur)
2 fresh jalapeno slices (no seeds, keep them for more heat!)
3 fresh cucumber slices (cut center out of them)
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1) In a cocktail shaker: add 2 slices jalapeño, 3 slices of cucumber & 1 oz of simple syrup
2) Muddle gently
3) Add scoop of ice & 1 oz lime juice
4) Add 1.5 oz tequila
5) Add 3⁄4 oz St. Germain
6) Shake all ingredients together and pour into margarita glass or cocktail glass.
7) Garnish piece of cilantro