Thursday, August 23, 2012

on jalapeno tequila and finding the one

sparkling roasted jalapeno cooler
lately, i've noticed myself starting
sentences with the phrase,
i wish i were the kind of girl who...

the endings vary:
...loved watching football.
...would choose whisky over wine.
...was the life of the party.
...takes life as it comes.
...loves action and science fiction movies.
...drank cocktails.

yes, i know, i know. 
you should accept who you are
and embrace your individuality.
you should never wish to be 
someone else.
you should

but, my goodness, how much easier
would my life be every september
if i looked forward to football as 
much as larry, if i belonged to two
or three fantasy leagues, myself, and for just 
once, i would understand what everyone
else was yelling about when someone
didn't make it past the 10 yard line?

there are some things that you can't make happen.
i often take a sip of larry's scotch,
thinking that maybe this one -
because he calls it peaty or some other
word that sounds like nonsense to me -
will be the one who makes me realize i can hang
at a whisky bar. 
it doesn't work.

but, then there are other things that i think
i can influence. like cocktails.
over the years, i've meandered back and forth
from sticking with my one glass of pinot noir,
to trying to love those trendy drinks that
come in highballs or martini glasses:
rum and cokes.
occasionally, i've enjoyed 
a bellini
a gin gimlet that's heavy on the lime.
i'm strangely envious of people who have
"a drink." i want to be someone who
owns her cocktail. usually, though,
i'm just someone who owns her bottle
of red. and as someone who has never been
a big drinker anyway, it's hard to readjust.
jalapeno tequila gimlet
i think that's why i was so drawn
to the recipe for the jalapeno tequila gimlet,
in the july issue of bon appetit.
two years ago, when we were out with
colleen and christian, at a restaurant in
asbury park, larry ordered a jalapeno margarita.
i had a sip, which burned my whole mouth.
i was glad i didn't order it. a few minutes later, i
reached in for another sip. my mouth was on fire.
but, after a few minutes, i went back in, ignoring
the looks that larry was giving me for hijacking
his drink. when i saw this recipe,
i had spicy flashbacks.

larry was surprised when i asked him if we had
tequila. (for a home of people who generally drink 
two things - wine and bourbon - we house
a surprisingly large collection of bottles.)
we had two. and luckily, one happened to be blanco,
which was what this recipe called for.
two jalapenos
broiled jalapenos
one day, on a friday that i was home,
i blistered two jalapenos under the broiler 
until they were
tender through and through,
but brown and crispy on the top.
after careful consideration, i seeded
the hot peppers, chopped them up and
tossed them into a glass bowl filled
with tequila. and then, even though
i had seriously thought it out beforehand,
scolded myself for being a chicken.
the recipe called for the jalapenos with 
their seeds and if i opted to remove them
and then drank a spice-less drink later,
it would be on me. but, what if it was
so spicy that i was miserable?
i compromised with the seeds
of the larger pepper.
tequila and jalapenos
fresh lime juice
i juiced six limes,
shocked that i ended up
with exactly one cup.
diluting jalapeno tequila
that night, i pulled the strained tequila
and the lime juice from the fridge, 
plus a bit of agave.
i stirred them altogether,
with some ice cubes and waited.
i waited more for the ice cubes to
dissolve as instructed in the recipe.
larry came home from work,
changed, went down into the basement
and came back up with a bottle of bourbon.
what. are. you. doing?
bourbon was in one hand,
the recipe for that night's dinner
in the other - i don't think he knew how
to answer the question, or
more specifically, where he went wrong.

i've been making this cocktail for you all day,
i countered.
he looked unconvinced: i think you 
were making this for you. but, ok,
i'm ready.

i sighed.
your cocktail is not, i told him.
the ice cubes still have to melt.
he sighed, but he put the bourbon
back in the basement and started making dinner.
when it was finally time,
i poured the tequila gimlet - 
the drink i was so excited about because
it combined several things:
the drink i can sometimes stomach (a gimlet),
lime juice
and roasted jalapenos -
into a glass,
garnished it with lime and took a sip.
it was a margarita.
i had made a spicy margarita.
jalapeno tequila gimlet with lime
how had i not realized this before?
had i been too blinded by the
fancy word gimlet 
and the roasted jalapenos?

the drink was good.
it was spicy and limey and
everything, but it was still a
margarita. and frankly, me and margaritas
are at best casual acquaintances who,
with the exception of random nights
at an excellent mexican restaurant, 
tolerate each other.

we both drank it.
and it was nice and different and fine.
but the next day, i woke up thinking
about the other half of the 
jalapeno tequila sitting in the fridge.
i wasn't ready to give up on it.

it took me two days to stumble upon
a bottle of diet tonic water in the store
and think that maybe that was the answer.
it took me two more weeks to find a night
to mix it all together, 
half casually,
half mad scientist on a mission.

i started with a little agave,
added a little lime,
poured in the tequila, 
added ice cubes and topped the
whole glass with the tonic.
sadly, i don't think it struck
me until after that it was
similar to the original.

but when i took a sip,
i knew i had stumbled upon...
this was my drink.
ok, even now, i know that's
not true.
this may be my once a 
year drink because frankly,
i know myself well enough to
know that i am not going to
roast jalapenos toss them into
tequila very often.

but, this drink.
it was spicy - i'm thinking
extra spicy thanks to the two
weeks of sitting and probably
partially evaporating -
but it was also light and interesting
and not so serious.

this weekend,
with less than one quarter of the tequila remaining,
i set out to recreate.
it took some tinkering,
but i think it was pretty close to the drink 
that i had made a week before.
i sipped on it proudly,
trying not to second guess the amount
of lime, trying to not decide if 
as barely-a-drinker-turned-bartender,
i had added too much tequila to a drink
for one and decided to just, be.
sparkling roasted jalapeno cooler
roasted jalapeno tequila
adapted from bon appetit magazine
the one thing i really have to say about this is that, obviously, if your jalapenos aren't spicy, your tequila will not be spicy. it's the luck of the draw. but, i would taste the roasted jalapeno before adding it the tequila. if it's not spicy, i would hold off on making it.

2 jalapenos
2 cups tequila blanco

heat broiler, grill or the flame on your stove top. place jalapeno on grill, on broiler pan or on flame and cook 3-6 minutes, or until jalapenos are soft and blistered, turning often. when cool enough to handle, seed jalapenos, if desired. chop jalapenos. transfer jalapenos and seeds (if using) to a glass bowl or jar with tequila. stir to combine. let sit 1 hour. strain tequila into a sieve set over a pitcher, pressing on solids to release extra liquid. discard solids.

roasted jalapeno tequila cooler
at this point in my life, i'm using diet tonic water. if that makes you sad, go with regular tonic.

2 teaspoons agave
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus squeezed lime halves
1/3 cup roasted jalapeno tequila
handful of ice cubes
1/2-3/4 cup diet tonic water

in large glass, stir together agave, lime juice and tequila. add ice cubes and squeezed lime. top with 1/2 cup tonic water. stir gently, just to combine. taste and add up to 1/4 cup more tonic water, if desired.

jalapeno tequila gimlet
adapted from bon appetit magazine
the one change i made to this recipe was to reduce the agave from 1/2 cup to 2 tablespoons. i'm sure it would have been tastier with more, but i didn't miss the extra sweetness.

2 cups roasted jalapeno tequila
2 cups ice cubes
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons agave

in pitcher, stir together all ingredients. let stand until ice cubes have melted, stirring occasionally. divide gimlet among 4 to 8 glasses, depending on your crowd.

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