Celebrate Mexico With 5 Unique and Refreshing Cocktails
From a tequila smash (pictured above) to ready-to-pour beverages, we've got everything you need for your National Tequila Day celebration. Photo: Courtesy of Hornitos
Olé! Take a break and relax with a Tequila cocktail or two, and dream of the days when you can travel again to Mexico to enjoy the spirit in its natural habitat.
Tequila — the spirit has gained so much popularity in recent years that it actually has its own day, just like gin and whisky. It’s the juice distilled from the spiky blue agave plant with leaves as long as my arm, and it is this blue agave that has me.
Naturally, it all started with a love story. Aztec legend tells that the plant first sprung from the site where the deity Quetzalcoatl buried the remains of his beloved, Mayahuel, the goddess of fertility. When he would visit the site, Quetzalcoatl would drink the agave elixir from the plant as remembrance of his beloved and as a comfort in his grief.
That elixir, as you may have guessed, is tequila, which comes from the blue agave plants found in Jalisco, Mexico. Think of Jalisco as a sort of Champagne or Porto region, an-only-made-here place. And like Champagne or Port, tequila comes in more than one age and colour. We can enjoy it many ways: blanco (white, or silver, freshly distilled without aging), reposado (aged two months to one year), añejo (aged one to three years) and extra añejo (aged longer than three years).
But Tequila is not just a drink. It’s an actual place. Designated a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site, this “magical town” in the state of Jalisco covers 90,000 acres in the heart of the blue agave’s landscape. And while mythical in its origin story and magical it may still be, it’s also been the centre of the tequila universe since the 16th century in a more practical sense — cultivating the plant and producing the spirit, giving way to what is now known as agave culture as its enterprising distilleries took hold in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a part of the Mexican identity.
Here in Canada, we love to think globally. Take for example, executive chef Shawn Tesoro, who mans the kitchen at Toronto restaurant Xango. In his summer program, Threesome Thursdays, he’s serving flights of tequilas, (beer and wine, too) paired perfectly with tapas and tacos. Chef Tesoro’s menu is drawn from international inspiration, including dessert. Tromba tequila and lime infused Pie di Limon, anyone?
Sure we know this spirit is distilled in Mexico, but we couldn’t resist sharing the short story of a homegrown entrepreneur who went south-south of the borders to make it, well, Canadian.
Craig Shaw launched Aguamiel Tequila in 2018. With the help of Augustin Sanchez Rodriguez, his master tequilier (yes, there is such a thing), Shaw tapped into that blue agave culture and created a premium blanco tequila with Canadian chops. The award-winning result is subtle, with pepper, vanilla, earth and lemongrass mingling together on the tongue. I won’t lie — it’s what brought this gin lover back to appreciating tequila. Warm and with just a hint of spice, it’s kinda like the best of us here in the true north.
We’ve asked a few of our local favourite bars and restaurants to share their recipes, so that we can support local businesses yet still get that getting-away feeling.
And if you don’t want to make it at home, may we suggest booking a table and getting the full service from some of your city’s top mixologists? And remember, some of us may take a little longer to gain re-entry into life as we know it. Be kind, be patient, tip well, and just enjoy the privilege of freedom.
Life of a Bee
Mother Cocktail Bar, 874 Queen St. West, Toronto, 416-537-1928
Mother cocktail bar on Queen Street West has been ranked in the top 20 bars across this country by Canada’s 100 Best, and there’s a good reason. Bartender Massimo Zitti is an innovator, using the time during the pandemic to really get back to basics. Fermenting his own shrubs and infusions gives his cocktails a homemade twist, but with ingredients that feel elevated. Take for example, the bee pollen cordial he uses in this cocktail. You could substitute a drop or two of organic local honey at home.
1.5 oz or 50 ml bottle Patrón Silver
1 oz bee pollen cordial
1 oz citric acid
0.5 oz eucalyptus syrup
Slice of grapefruit for garnish
Pour all ingredients over ice into a glass and stir. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit or other citrus such as orange or lemon.
The Dive Shop, 1036 Gerrard St. East, Toronto
The founders of The Dive Shop are veterans of the Toronto hospitality scene with iconic spots such as The Hideout and Brooklynn Bar under their belts. But, when the pandemic hit, the first place they all really wanted to go was the beach. They’ve created a bit of an oasis on Gerrard Street East, the ‘hood that also has Pinkerton’s Snack Bar and Vatican Gift Shop among other just-cool-enough, casual, low-key vibes. Out back of The Dive Shop is their idea of the beach: sand, swings and hula-skirt patio umbrellas that make you, well, wanna swing and put your toes in the sand. Mix up or order up their take on the classic Margarita. And tell ’em I sent you.
1.5 oz blanco tequila, such as Aguamiel
0.5 oz triple sec
Dash of agave syrup
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
Dash of secret hot sauce, made in house
Lime wheel for garnish
Salt glass rim and fill with ice. In a shaker with ice, add all ingredients. Shake well, and strain into the glass. Add a lime wheel garnish with a drizzle of hot sauce.
The Greek Margarita
The Greek Gastown, 221 Carrall St., Vancouver, 604-423-3360
The Greek is a bit of an institution in Vancouver for Greek fare, but you might not think of it when you’re thinking of tequila cocktails. The family-run business has two other locations in the city, but here the Makris family has partnered with Patrón Tequila for its Hot Patrón Summer program. So why not add a little Mediterranean flair to Mexico’s elixir? We say opa!
1.5 oz Patrón Silver
0.5 oz St-Germain
.25 oz Ouzo
1 oz Lime
Himalayan salt rim on clear double rocks glass. In a shaker tin combine all ingredients. Shake and strain onto fresh ice. Garnish with cucumber.
And here are a few more to try at home:
Hornitos Tequila Smash
Boldly born in 1950, Hornitos Reposado Tequila was created in honour of Mexican Independence Day and is made using 100% blue agave grown in Mexico. Hornitos Plata is clear with hints of silver. The Agave really stands out balanced with notes of citrus. Plata is warm, with medium body, and has a short, but smooth finish, a perfect base in your favourite cocktail. With this one below, we think you’ll smash it.
2 parts Hornitos Plata Tequila
6 Mint Leaves
3 Lime Wedges
3/4 part Simple Syrup
Add Hornitos Plata Tequila, simple syrup and the juice of half of a lime to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain over ice into a highball glass. Garnish with mint leaves. Salt rim optional.
This refreshing cocktail pairs sour lime with Espolon’s earthy tequila notes, adding Grand Marnier’s cognac and bitter orange flavour for a refined smoothness. Espolon also looks fantastic on your bar cart. The tequila and its packaging were inspired by revolutionary Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada who, through his ground-breaking politically charged art, inspired new ways of thinking and spurred change.
1 oz | Grand Marnier® Cordon Rouge
1 oz | Espolon Tequila
0.75 oz | freshly squeezed lime juice
0.5 oz Agave Nectar or Simple Syrup (Optional)
Fill a wide, shallow dish with 2-3 mm of fine salt. Cut a lime in half at the width and rub around half of the rim of a margarita glass. Cut a thin, crosswise slice from one of the lime halves for garnish. Holding glass upside down, dip wet half delicately into the salt. Shake Grand Marnier, Espolon Tequila and lime juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass and apply lime garnish to rim.
Ready to Drink
Nude Tequila and Soda
Sometimes, you just want to crack a cold one and take a sip, no work required. Canadian spirits brand Nude Beverages has just the ticket. The company’s Tequila and Soda is sugar and sweetener-free, all-naturally flavoured, zero carbs and 130 calories per can. Spice it up by pouring it over ice in a smoked or Tajin-rimmed glass and add a slice of grapefruit for eye candy and a hint of citrus to go with its undertones of lime and pineapple flavour. The best part? A portion of all sales goes toward local animal rescue organizations in the areas where Nude is sold. Since its inception, Nude has donated over $230,000 as part of its #pawsofnude pledge to support animals in need. Their goal is to donate $1,000,000 by 2023!