The Slow Way Down
This post was made in collaboration with Gran Gala. Opinions are my own.
I’m a big margarita fan & for some reason that surprises people. It’s definitely the cocktail that I drink the most. Complex drinks with unique spirits & fun infusions are great, but there is something magic with that simple combination of tequila, fresh lime & a quality orange liqueur. It should be fairly obvious that to make a good margarita (or any cocktail for that matter) you have to use good ingredients. If you buy a low-quality tequila, you shouldn’t be too surprised when your margarita turns out kinda bleh.
The same goes for the orange liqueur (aka “triple sec”) that you use as well. There are a lot of options out there, so I can’t blame someone for just randomly picking a bottle off the shelf. A liqueur is often used as a sweetener in cocktails but the problem is that many of them are way too cloying & overly loaded with sugar. So the name of the game is finding a balanced orange liqueur that provides sweetness as well as a sophisticated flavor. I was genuinely happy to find that Gran Gala, an orange liqueur made from VSOP brandy, had the balance I was looking for, while also being at a budget-friendly price point (Gran Gala is generally around $25 for 750ml).
When Gran Gala asked me to put together a recipe for them, I ended up sticking pretty close to the typical flavor profile of a margarita but wanted to create a more unique, stirred drink. I used mezcal for some added complexity & split the base with Manzanilla sherry, which always goes so well with agave spirits. Since I wanted it to be stirred & velvety I couldn’t add citrus juice, so I made a simple syrup with a kick, using lime zest & fresh chili peppers (recipe follows). Then of course, just a half ounce of Gran Gala brought everything together with a full-bodied yet subtly sweet fruit flavor.
Combine ingredients & stir with ice until chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over a large cube or sphere.
Garnish with lemon zest.
Chili-Lime Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4-5 chili peppers
Combine sugar & water in a pan over medium heat. Stir to combine.
Half the chili peppers (long ways) & add to syrup. Lightly simmer for 2 minutes.
Using a microplane, zest the two limes over the syrup. Try not to get too much of the white pith in your syrup.
Remove from heat & set aside for about 30 minutes.
Strain out the solids & pour syrup into a resealable container & store in the fridge.
Add a teaspoon of vodka to extend the shelf-life.