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What’s your gorgeous spring day missing? An Aperol Margarita

So bear with me on this one because it may sound a bit culturally inappropriate and downright odd. There are those of us in this world who do not like sugary margarita mix. I’m one of them. Combine the sugar water with a triple sec and woo-baby, sugar spike, calorie binge. They may be delicious but they add up.

So, in the spirit of ingredients that mysteriously add up to delicious things, I present the Aperol Margarita. Made with an Italian digestif rather than triple sec, it actually captures quite well the neighborhood in which it was invented: the Italian Market in Philadelphia, a place where Italian Americans and Mexican people co-exist although they don’t often mingle.

Mingle me this Batman.

Aperol Margarita

1 1/2 oz blanco or reposado tequila (100% agave of course, some recommendations here)
1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice sweetened with agave nectar (to your liking)
Garnish with an orange twist (just the surface zest)

This will be unlike any margarita you’ve had before…call it a “dry” margarita, but it’s great for a spring day when the sun is not radiating you with its death rays and the flowers are blooming.

Five Tequilas no Bar Should be Without

I’m not going to lie to you. This blog should be called the tequilawormgirlblog or something stupid like that but I fell in love with ginsoaked and couldn’t let it go. Tequila, the intoxicating nectar of the Cactus is unique, sexy and very difficult to pair in any simple effective way. You have gin and tonic, vodka soda, whiskey coke, seven and seven…yadda yadda. I’ve tried tequila and seven but uh-uh. Nobody’s blowing their marketing wad on that.

It is a very special liquor for cocktailing. It doesn’t subordinate itself to other liquors so drinks with tequila usually feature the tequila–except for commercially made margaritas where the sugary lime sour almost completely masks the flavor of the tequila. No way Jose. (Sorry about that.)

First of all, it’s important to find a tequila that tastes good as-is. Tossing some rail garbage into the mix is not acceptable. The following tequilas are moderately priced enough that there is no reason to scrimp. This is weighted on the side of blancos ad reposados. I will get into anejos later. Those are not to be toyed with.

Correleo BlancoCorellejo Blanco

This tequila speaks to me. It is such a great mixing tequila because of its fairly neutral yet really round flavor. This is a tequila that I am excited to see represented in a bar. It’s not super common but I will get it every time. With club and a Cointreau floater.

Crafted simply to showcase the Blue Weber Agave, I can taste the attention to detail. It doesn’t slam you in the face but like a good German or British beer, the point is not to “wow” with a shtick but to balance perfectly. It makes a hell of a shot. I’ll leave the splendor to the Anejos.

Other Tequilas of Note

Such a deal for the price. Another fairly neutral tequila that makes a great shot and a great margarita or mixer. It’s got an agave bounce that I really like.

Don Julio Blanco
A little pricier than the other blancos but Don Julio has a little more heft. I would prefer it in a margarita rather than as a shot but I wouldn’t deny it as a sipper either.

Cazadores Reposado
A very light bodied reposado that is excellent for shooting. It is the tequila of the people and should not be ignored. The deer is ubiquotous in the bars in Oregon, much to my pleasure because bars don’t usually pay much attention to their tequila selection and I’m hooked on the sauce.

El Jimador Reposado
Another thrifty reposado that has a slight sweetness and a bit of oak. The brand started as a humble mixtos but came up in the world with 100% pure agave. Now it stays in a manageable price range with a far more developed quality.

Last Chance Rack: 14 Hands Hot to Trot 2010 Red Blend

see: gold on the label. no good.Upshot: Sometimes, just sometimes, don’t judge a wine by its label.

I’m really digging on some red blends these days. It isn’t because I can’t handle the purity of any one grape. More likely it is due to budgetary restrictions that I opt for a safer bet. I admit it, I’m a low end wine drinker–unless you’re buyin, mister (or miss, I don’t discriminate). But blends are great. They go way back to dusty old French monks and can be crafted with such mastery that they cost $40,000,000. But they’re also good for evening out flaws in the grape. More varietals in the mix means more flavors to work with in order to get the best bang for the buck.  Sort of like what this does. (We call it the Jesus-erator, but it has yet to work on water.)

So it was that I bought 14 Hands: Hot to Trot Red Blend for $8.99. Now that’s a bargain.

The Wine Curmudgeon gave Hot to Trot some love, even if he found the name silly. A side note, I don’t know how I’ve lived this long without his straight-shooting advice for the, ahem, thrifty wine buyer. Because as anyone who has read my wine “reviews” may have picked up, I’m a sucker for good design and cute animals on wine labels. I never would have bought this on my own, even with the horses. The font situation is a mess l and I hate anything that’s shiny and gold on my wine bottle. But you know…books : covers :: wine : wine labels. Or whatever.

The results are in! The Trot is an easy sipper. Red fruits abound straight out of the gate but they are mellow rather than fangy. Underneath, you will find some black currant and wet soil, if you are so inclined to taste for things like soil in the flavor profile of your beverage. It’s a Columbia River Valley wine through and through. Made up of primarily Merlot, the Syrah and Cabernet add some structure and spice and that keeps things interesting. (I could have sworn there was some Pinot Noir in the mix, but alas I would have been wrong so I’m glad I didn’t.)

Best Use: Home alone after a day shopping and spending waaaay too much on that pair of shoes, luxuriating in a bubble bath that, like this wine, may be inexpensive but it doesn’t leave you feeling cheap.

Soundtrack: Erykah Badu

Food Pairing: Pizza from Vito’s in Cherry Hill, NJ. I’m sure they deliver to the West Coast.