Cinco de Mayo approaches! As I reflect on this important holiday, a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, three occasions leap to mind. My future kids, my dear friends’ wedding anniversary, and my very recently deceased mother-in-law. Well, maybe four things: cocktails, too, of course.
The Kids: My husband and I are in the “matching” phase of our plans to foster-to-adopt a child or two. Here in California, the young people in the foster care system come from a range of backgrounds. Looking very broadly through the lens of culture/race, just shy of half of the kids in the system are Latino/a. Most of those kids are Mexican-American. Since we’re very open to a “transracial” family (my husband and I are both white), our kids could be of any race or even mixed race. I love the idea of a multi-racial family. And thinking about Cinco de Mayo has me momentarily imagining Latino kids in particular. I love Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latino cultures and would love to join my kids on their journey of being fully seated in their heritage.
The Negroni Plata
The great spirit of Mexico is arguably Tequila. I don’t like Tequila so much. Sorry, I just don’t. I usually find it uninteresting, but I’m all for you enjoying it. When it comes to Tequila cocktails, I’ve tried many and have even taken a Tequila cocktail class, but most just don’t move me. A huge exception – my favorite Tequila cocktail to date – is the Negroni Plata. I first had it at the yummy Locanda restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District. I love the traditional Negroni and many variations of it. Usually, Campari is a must. But in this twist, none of the original ingredients – gin, Camapri, sweet vermouth – are included. Instead, here’s the mix:
¾ oz. Zuca Amaro (a deep red, delicious rhubarb-based amaro from Italy)
¾ oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1 ½ oz. Blanco Tequila (I often use Espolon but many would do the trick)
My friends: Two dear friends, Lauren and Jimmy, got married 8 years ago at San Francisco’s City Hall on Cinco de Mayo. It was a festive affair for two festive people. They have three amazing kids, too. Now these two know a lot about Tequila, including enough to roll their eyes at my Tequila nonchalance. And if you’re at their house, there is a good chance you will be offered one of Jimmy’s perfect Margaritas or Palomas. I had my first Paloma at their house years ago and I’ve never really had one better. Here’s a version of it from David Wondrich’s Killer Cocktails:
Add 2 oz. of good quality Reposado Tequila along with ½ oz lime juice in a Collins glass. Add ice. Top with 2 oz. of grapefruit soda. Stir lightly. Garnish with a half a grapefruit wheel.
Happy Anniversary L & J!
The Whiskey Cocktail
My Mother-In-Law: A month ago, on cinco de abril, my mother-in-law passed away rather suddenly after a mercifully short experience of cancer. Mom had a subtle sense of humor, clear views on the world, and a gentle loving way about her. She had five amazing and super different kids and the last of those is my fantastic Johnny. (Best for last!) She had twelve grandkids, too. (Well, may 13 or 14 in time – see above.) And she was happily married to Dad for over 55 years. It was a heartbreaking loss (most losses are, right?) and I’m so lucky to have known her. I remember years ago when Johnny and I were beginning to explore “hard alcohol.” We were at a family event and we’d just ordered Grey Goose on the rocks with a lemon twist. (We thought we were cool. We were newbies. What can I say?) Once Mom saw what we ordered she came over to toast us with a knowing nod and a quiet “you’ve arrived.” Much as Mom liked vodka, she and I shared a love of bourbon. When Mom and Dad visited us in the Bay Area from Ohio, we did our best to make sure they had a bourbon-forward visit. Mom’s favorite cocktail from that weekend was the Whiskey Cocktail. It’s basically an Old Fashioned with a twist and it can be bourbon or rye based. And here, a month after her death, I offer it to you in Mom’s honor:
2 oz. bourbon or rye
¼ oz. gomme syrup (regular simple syrup works just fine, too, but you didn’t hear it from me)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
Lemon peel garnish for bourbon
Orange peel garnish for rye
Stir with ice. Strain or serve over ice — ideally one large cube.