Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Cinco de Mayo, declare your independence from Margaritas with a beer-based cocktail

House-made sangrita gives the Michelada
a special kick at Dos Perros in Durham.
For many Americans, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as an annual excuse to drink to excess, generally by means of machine-dispensed frozen Margaritas that look like neon-hued slushies. Even if you opt to go on the rocks, there's generally little opportunity to go au naturale in busy bars that rely on  commercial mixers.

There are plenty of places in the Triangle where one can procure a truly fine hand-crafted Margarita made with fresh fruit, herbed infusions and and top-shelf tequila. But this weekend, undoubtedly one of the most profitable for tavern owners, what some gringo celebrants will find in their disposable cups is a rough mix of cheap tequila tempered by the cloying sweetness of a mass-produced mixer.

There's no rule that one must swill tequila to commemorate Mexico's unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Indeed, one imagines that hot and tired soliders were glad to revive their spirits much as thirsty modern Mexicans do -- with an ice-cold beer brightened by a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Across Mexico, you are about as likely to be served a beer with lime juice as you are to receive a sweet pour if you request iced tea in the American South.  But why stop there? Creative Mexican bartenders make all sorts of cocktails using beer, the most famous of which surely is the Michelada.

The Michelada is a cousin to the Bloody Mary, but with beer in place of vodka. There are about as many variations on the general theme as there are la barras in the distinct regions of Mexico, and across the U.S., where the drink is especially popular in border states -- and others, like North Carolina, with rapidly growing Latino communities. The Michelada's robust flavor can vary significantly, starting with pale or dark beer. Options include tomato juice or Clamato; hot sauce or a blend of select chiles; Worcester, soy or savory MSG-rich Maggi sauce -- or all three, depending on whose recipe you follow.

Michelada, Eating My Words-style, with
tomato juice, Worcester and Tiger Sauce.
You can choose from hundreds of Michelada recipes posted online, including ones by chef Rick Bayless, who tirelessly promotes authentic regional Mexican foods in his books and cooking shows. The flavor profile has become so internationally renown that chef Marcus Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, confidently titles his version The Perfect Michelada Recipe. It was the starting point for several we made last night -- and one more today, so far -- strictly for the purpose of research.

Chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, who travels extensively in Mexico, believes that two area bars do an especially good job with beer-based cocktails. One is the Michelda at Dos Perros in Durham; the other is the Tiger Mojito at the recently opened Lucha Tigre in Chapel Hill. Both restaurants graciously shared their recipes.

So, if you're out and about celebrating Cinco de Mayo this weekend, leave the Margaritas for the first-timers and try a Michelada or other beer-based specialty. And if your friends call the next day in a post-tequila fog, be an amigo and invite them over. After all, among the magical Michelada's claims to fame is its acknowledged status as a hangover remedy.

Dos Perros Michelada
Rim a pint glass with a mix of salt, toasted chipotle peppers, Spanish paprika and cayenne pepper. Fill glass halfway with ice.
Prepare a shot of sangrita, which Dos Perros makes from the "juice" of its pico de gallo -- you can substitute the juice of homemade or store-bought pico -- Valentina hot sauce and a splash of orange and lime juices.
Serve components separately (see photo at beginning). Pour sangrita over ice then top with a Modelo Especial.

Lucha Tigre Tiger Mojito
Muddle a healthy pinch of mint, about 8-10 leaves, at the bottom of a pint glass. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and fill the glass with ice.
Pour in 1/4 oz. fresh lime juice and 1/4 oz. light rum. Fill with Tiger Beer.
Stir with bar spoon until sugar is incorporated. Garnish with mint, lime wedge and sugar cane.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE THIS! I’m definitely gonna try this out. One of my favorite recipes is for a Cinco de Mayo Sunrise. You can take a look at it here and tell me what you think! xoxo, WearToStandOut