I'm always on the lookout for interesting margaritas and people, let me tell you, it is not easy. Living in a city packed with Mexican restaurants, it's surprising how many of them serve totally mediocre margs. Too often they rely on that horrid bottled margarita mix and that plastic bottled lime juice and, if you're interested in going the fruit route, frozen strawberries, raspberries or mango. It's pretty much a given that they will be teeth-achingly sweet.
There are, however, a few places that dare to think outside the box. A place near my apartment in West Hollywood called Marix offers frozen blood orange margaritas, although to be honest, they too are a bit sweet. Down in Santa Monica at Border Grill, two of my favorite lady chefs make some really deliciously unique margartias. I've have them flavored with pomegranate and ginger, prickly pear, cucumber, and celery (don't wince, it's amazing). Recently a new hotel opened in West Hollywood called the Palihouse and Mark and I dropped by to check out the lobby bar and restaurant. Filled with an eclectic hodge-podge of furniture, mostly leaning toward a modern Frenchy theme, the lobby is hip, cozy and relaxed. While we were there we sat at a long wooden table and snacked on steak tartare, truffled French fries, and mini croque madames. And to drink? Grilled grapefruit margaritas. Did you hear me? Grilled. Smokey and tart, I've been thinking about them ever since that night.
In the January issue of Food and Wine there was a recipe for an interesting margarita-like drink made from fresh grapefruit juice and a simple syrup infused with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It sounds a bit Christmasy but actually the spices end up blending in a way so that none of them stands out, creating sort of a spicy warmth that works really well with the tart grapefruit juice. For a little pre-Cinco de Mayo dinner thing with Mark and Annie this past Saturday, I combined these two ideas - the spiced simple syrup and the grilled grapefruit juice and the results were a great success. Taking a sip from her glass, Annie's eyes widened. "Oh, my," she purred. "I could drink a lot of these."
And we did.
(for the infused simple syrup)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick, broken
6 whole cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
(for the grilled grapefruit juice)
at least 2 grapefruits, sliced in half (the amount depends on how many drinks you'll be making. I grilled 5 grapefruits and wound up with about 3 cups of juice)
(for the cocktail)
6 tablespoons of the infused simple syrup
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed grilled grapefruit juice
3/4 cup silver tequila
thin slice of grapefruit, for garnish (optional)
Kosher or sea salt to rim glasses
Or think of it this way:
1 part simple syrup
1 part lime juice
1 part grapefruit juice
2 parts tequila
First make the infused simple syrup. Combine the sugar, water, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a small pot. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn heat off and let the spices infuse the syrup for about 30 minutes. Strain and then chill.
Next grill the grapefruits. Heat a cast iron grill pan over high heat for 10 minutes. Place the grapefruit halves in the pan cut side down and grill for 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula or a pair of tong remove the grapefruit halves from the pan and set aside while you grill the next batch. Note that some of the citrus will stick to the pan.
Using a citrus reamer juice the grilled grapefruits into a large measuring cup.
The juice will be very pulpy so I would suggest straining it.
To make the cocktail, combine simple syrup, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and tequila in a cocktail shaker. Toss in a couple handfuls of ice, put a lid on it and give it a shake until nice and icy cold. Either strain into 2 martini glasses or just divide between 2 old fashioned glasses. Garnish with half a thin slice of grapefruit and a wedge of lime.
Grilling the grapefruits sort of intensifies the bitter/sweet flavor which is rounded out by the tart lime juice. The cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg fuse to create an almost smoky flavor that echoes that of the grilled grapefruit juice. They taste fresh and light, just barely sweet, perfect for warm weather. It's really interesting and so very easy to drink. You might find several going down way more easily than you expect.
You could easily multiply this recipe to make a pitcher which you could then just pour into a cocktail shaker when serving. Lat me assure you, they're great for gatherings.
Makes two drinks