Margaritas were the first cocktail that I learned to mix, and I developed a taste for them at an early age. Too early, most Americans would agree. When I was in high school, a super cool young woman named Kim rented a room in our house. Kim would occasionally mix up a pitcher of tequila and sweet and sour mix to share with dinner. I was forced by puritanical law to stick with the virgin variety when dining out, but at home I gained an appreciation for the real deal.
One morning I decided to put the “ice” in “isosceles” with the only thing that could make my 10th grade geometry class semi-tolerable: a stiff drink. So I mixed one up while I made myself a sandwich for lunch.
My mom wandered sleepily into the kitchen, spotted the pitcher, and asked with narrowed eyes, “Is that a margarita?” I nodded.
Noting my empty thermos, she said, “You better not take that margarita to school!” I made a show of pouting, putting the margarita in the fridge, pouting some more, and, with a heavy sigh, pouring myself a bowl of cereal.
But the minute I heard my mom start the shower, I filled the thermos with ice, added the illicit cocktail and stuck it in my backpack.
I never enjoyed geometry more than I did that day. Passing the thermos around to my friends, even parallel postulates feel like a party.
When my mom picked me up later that day, she asked wearily, “Did you take that margarita to school?” I confessed that I had. “Well,” she paused thoughtfully, “don’t do it again.”
My love of margaritas hasn’t diminished despite the fact that I rarely have to sneak them anymore. And I now I make them with agave, fresh lime juice and good tequila. Sometimes I add in blood orange juice, strawberries or hibiscus. When I scored a bunch of ripe, ruby pomegranates from Jay’s mom’s tree last week, I squeezed a couple and added the crimson juice to the mix. After some flavor-tweaking, this is the version we’ve been enjoying.
I tried adding Cointreau, since orange liqueur is a standard in margaritas and orange is also frequently paired with pomegranate. However, Jay and I both found that the bitter notes and orange flavor overpowered the more subtle pomegranate. We preferred the cleaner version of the drink sweetened only with a little agave, which maintains a balance of salty tequila, tangy lime and sweet-tart pomegranate, with each flavor ringing out clearly.
Extracting the juice from a pomegranate takes some doing, but the clean taste is worth the effort (though I wouldn’t do it for a crowd). First, choose pomegranates that feel heavy for their size and have their skin pulled taut around the arils inside. Leaving the pomegranate whole, firmly press it with your thumbs and roll it on the counter to break up the arils inside. Try not to crack the pomegranate, and be sure to wear black clothes and an apron while you work, in case the skin cracks and flings bright red juice everywhere. Set a strainer over a bowl and stab a hole in the pomegranate, squeezing the juice out. Eventually, the fruit will break in half; add any un-popped arils to the strainer and press them to extract the juice. You’ll need 1-2 pomegranates per drink.
Alternately, look for fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice at farmers markets in the fall, or use fresh, flash-pasteurized juice such as Evolution brand.
I hope you enjoy this refreshing fall beverage. Hopefully, you won’t get in trouble for doing so.
One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
If you don’t have the time or energy to make fresh pomegranate juice (see instructions in post, above), look for fresh juice at farmers markets, or use a flash pasteurized variety that contains only pomegranate, such as Evolution brand, carried at Whole Foods. Use a decent-quality gold tequila here, such as Patron or Cazadores. The quantities of lime juice and agave will vary with the sweet/tartness of your pomegranate juice, so start with the amounts listed and add more as needed to balance flavors.
2 ounces (1/4 cup) pomegranate juice (see headnote)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) tequila
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) lime juice
2 teaspoons agave
lime slices and pomegranate arils, for garnish
Stir everything together in a small pitcher until the agave is dissolved. Pour into a glass filed with ice, and garnish with a lime slice and some pomegranate arils.