Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Key Lime Margarita

Having a garden will teach you patience. You take care of the plants, and you watch them grow, and if you are lucky after a veeery long time they will produce something you can eat. Well, after many months of anticipation the three tiny, perfect key limes on my key lime tree finally ripened, and of course I started dreaming of cocktails.

Delicious with booze.

The first thing I thought of was a key lime martini - Steve had one once and couldn't stop talking about how great it was, and besides, it just sounded fun. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that a key lime martini contains no actual key lime juice. (Here's a compendium of three different key lime martini key limes in sight.) 101 Margaritas to the rescue. Right there on the front cover is a lovely picture of a key lime margarita made with real key lime juice. Problem is, the original recipe called for something called McGillicuddy's vanilla schnapps, which your intrepid bartender was unable to find. So instead I substituted Navan, a vanilla liqueur made by the same folks who make Grand Marnier. It tastes divine, is very strong, and very expensive. But it's still vanilla flavored, right? And I had been looking for an excuse to buy a bottle of this stuff anyway.

So here goes:
Key Lime Margarita
1 1/2 oz tequila*
1 1/2 oz Navan vanilla liqueur
1/2 oz key lime juice (from the garden!)
1/2 oz simple syrup
splash of Midori melon liqueur (optional)**

*I prefer the gold in this recipe. Use good tequila - trust me, you will taste the difference.
**What's the Midori for? See, the difficulty here is that people expect margaritas to be green. And while the unfindable McGillicuddy's is presumably clear, Navan is brown. Adding a splash of Midori will give your margarita the appropriate color. Just don't add too much, or it will start to affect the taste.

Before you start: to give this drink a little added pizazz, rim the glass with vanilla sugar. (This isn't necessary, but it's super easy and I heartily reccomend it.) To make vanilla sugar, combine 1 teaspoon vanilla extract with 4 tablespoons of white sugar. This will make enough sugar for at least two glasses (and it will smell incredible). Then follow the instructions for coating the rim of a glass with sugar found here.

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Or, stir the ingredients in a glass full of ice for thirty seconds, and let the glass sit on the counter for about a minute before straining into a glass. You want to give the ice a lot of time to melt with this one, because it is veeery boozy. Navan is 40% alcohol by volume, the same as most hard liquors, so this drink has the equivalent of two whole shots in it, about twice what you would expect. (Don't say I didn't warn you.) The water melting into the drink takes the edge of the liquor - it's what makes tequila taste like tequila and not like that burn you get when taking shots.

Not that there's anything wrong with taking shots.

Most cocktails are intended to be drunk chilled, without ice, but I give you permission to take this one on the rocks (since the ice will melt and further mellow out the drink). It's also a great candidate for a frozen drink. To make a frozen margarita, combine all the ingredients in a blender, and add a handful of ice cubes. Run the blender (you will probably need to use the highest setting), and keep adding a couple ice cubes at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Sometimes being unemployed is really great.

Verdict: This is a most interesting drink. I keep making them to drink by the pool (in October? Only in Houston), and every time I have one I like it more and more. In fact, I am craving one right now. The margarita-ness gets you right away, whereas the vanilla slowly sneaks up on you before settling gently into your palette. I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself for making something that is 75% hard liquor taste so delicious. Drink it slowly - this will help you appreciate the vanilla more. It will also keep you from ending up on the floor.

Bottoms up.


  1. The blue swirl glass! I know that glass!

  2. I have yet to photograph a drink in one of the footie glasses. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

  3. Good tequila, Gold? Never, that is 51% tequila, 49% something else. Must be 100% Blue Agave like 901.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Of course you should always buy tequila that is 100% de agave. When I say 'gold', I mean an aged tequila like reposado or anejo, not a particular brand.