Category Archives: Tequila

Rojo Bianco

A while back, I got a sample of Don Julio Reposado Tequila. I poke around in several directions to find a recipe to mix it into, and found this drink, from the 2008 Food and Wine Cocktails.

This drink is a Philip Ward joint, from Death & Co. in New York City.

Rojo Bianco

  • Ice
  • 2 oz. reposado tequila
  • 1/4 oz. bianco vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. Campari
  • 1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • dash of Angostura bitters

Technique: Stir all ingredients over ice, and strain into a chilled coupe. No garnish.

Man, this is an odd drink. Tequila and Campari. Bianco vermouth and maraschino. I have a perhaps surprising analogy to describe this drink, so bear with me.

Nearly forty years ago, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded a bunch of duets together, but none of them really worked out. (What a wasted opportunity, guys. How could you have screwed this up? Oh yeah, drugs.) The one song that even partly succeeded, “Girl From the North Country,” appeared on Dylan’s album Nashville Skyline.

The Rojo Bianco reminds me of that song. The lead ingredients, tequila and Campari, never really harmonize. They don’t clash, but they don’t come together either. You listen to the song and think about their voices, twirling around each other, but never melding. At the same time you think about the mains, you forget about the backing band. You know it’s there, but you pay attention to Dylan and Cash and forget anything else. The bianco and maraschino definitely sweeten the drink and balance the Campari’s bitterness, but aside from softening the Campari, they fade behind the dueling vocals. I don’t know whether it matters to use bianco vermouth instead of regular French vermouth.

And yet, I love “Girl From the North Country.” I hear the other tracks these guys recorded in those sessions, and I hate them for squandering the moment. But “Girl…” is a good song, despite how broken it is. And the Rojo Bianco is a good cocktail, even though the ingredients never harmonize.

Edited to add: Joaquin Simo, Phil’s colleague at Death & Co., left a comment below that F&W misprinted Phil’s recipe. I haven’t tested the proper version yet, but here it is:

Rojo Bianco–Phil Ward

  • 2 oz. El Tesoro Reposado tequila
  • 3/4 oz. M & R bianco vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. Campari
  • 1/4 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • dash of Angostura bitters

Technique: Stir all ingredients over ice, and strain into a chilled coupe. No garnish.

MxMo 15: Tequila

mxmo15-tequilaHere we are, at the 15th Mixology Monday! This month’s host, Matt from My Bar Your Bar, chose as his theme tequila.

Now, I’m really just getting used to tequila. Jen and I don’t drink it often, so I’m still learning how it plays with other flavors. With that in mind, I wanted a simple drink, one that would allow me to test and tinker without having four or more ingredients to futz with.

So I went with the classic margarita, but I swapped out the triple sec for some pear liqueur. I wanted to just switch fruits–pear for orange–and see how it worked. And, in the end, we liked it. Jen made up a batch of guacamole and we sat out back on a sunny Sunday with icy drinks, chips, and guac.

That’s livin’.

Poire-a-rita, chips, guac

Photo by Jennifer Hess.

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz. pear liqueur (I used Mathilde)

Technique: Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or use twice the ingredients, as I did, and strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.

Choke Artist

I’ve been in the weeds lately, starting a new job and finishing several freelance projects. Although we’ve certainly enjoyed our nightly aperitifs, I’ve had little time for anything more than old stand-bys, like Martinis and Old Fashioneds.

But things are calming down finally, so it’s time again for research and experimentation. To that end, I delved back into a book that I bought a few months ago but haven’t taken time to review: The Art of the Bar. In flipping through it, I found a flavor combination that really surprised me–Cynar, tequila, and sherry–in a drink aptly named Choke Artist.

Choke Artist

photograph by Jennifer Hess

Here’s why I’m no professional: I’d have never thought to match up these ingredients. But this drink just works. It’s the very definition of a well-balanced drink–everything’s present and notable, but nothing dominates. You can learn a lot about mixing from this drink.

It reminds me a lot of those friendships we’ve all been a part of, where two strong personalities need a third, more laid-back, person to mediate the differences and smooth things out for everyone. That’s the role of the sherry here.

Finally, the bitters. Even with five dashes’ worth, they’re subtle.

But you should not be subtle. Instead, be fearless. Try it.

Choke Artist

from The Art of the Bar, by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz

  • 1 ounce Cynar
  • 1 ounce Gran Centenario Anejo tequila (I used Tequila Espolon Reposado, which I had on hand)
  • ½ ounce fino sherry
  • 5 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
  • Extra-wide orange twist for garnish

Technique: Combine the Cynar, tequila, and sherry in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir. Add the bitters to a chilled snifter and roll around to coat the glass. Pour the Cynar and tequila mixture into the snifter. Garnish with the orange twist.


I was going to write this up for Mixology Monday this month, but I’m not sure it qualifies. This month’s theme is shooters, and to be honest, that just doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve done shots too many times in my life, but I’ve never really enjoyed them. If I’m going to shoot back booze in one gulp, I’d rather knock back some whiskey than a shooter.

So I didn’t know what to write up. My wife recommended sangrita, but that tends to be sipped alongside tequila. Rick’s criteria (in the comments here) indicate that a shooter is anything you gulp back in one shot. We didn’t do that with the sangrita or the tequila, so I don’t think we qualify. But because I love you, my sangrita recipe follows the photo and the jump.

Tequila and sangrita

photo by Jennifer Hess

Sangrita is a traditional Mexican chaser for tequila, and there appears to be some dispute over the ingredients. Some say it’s citrus sweetened with grenadine and punched up with either salsa or dried chilies. Other people go crazy and puree up onions and peppers and garlic and whatnot. Still others insist that no sangrita should include tomato juice, whereas others are more lenient as long as you don’t use so much that it tastes like a Bloody Mary.

I wasn’t really sure where to turn, so I winged it. I figured equal parts tomato and citrus would definitely keep it from the Bloody Mary camp. What resulted was a blend so balanced and tasty that I want to keep a jug of it in the refrigerator for breakfasts and hangovers.

Note: I departed from the usual bitter orange because my wife is allergic to oranges.


makes approx. four 1½ servings

  • 2 oz. good-quality tomato juice (I used this)
  • 2 oz. fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1½ oz. homemade grenadine
  • 2 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1 pinch salt

Technique: Stir until chipotle powder dissolves. Chill in fridge for four hours. Serve in chilled shot glasses alongside tequila. (I served Espolon Reposado.)

New mag for drinks nerds!

logo for Imbibe magazineHaving seen a number of bloggers discussing the new magazine Imbibe, I dispatched my lovely wife last week to track down a copy, to read during our flight to Alabama. She found the first issue for sale at Borders and brought it home for me. I’m still working my way through it, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.

Imbibe is a drinks magazine, and as such, it covers a range of beverages—coffees, teas, beers, spirits, and wines. (I’d love to see features on specialty colas, root and ginger beers, and other soft drinks.) The first issue contains articles on hotel bars, the drinks culture of Oaxaca, Ted Haigh, Trappist ales, and organic wines. It’s a fun magazine that fills a heretofore open niche.

A lot of magazines have come and gone in the last couple of years—Radar (twice) and Chow are the ones I most lament. This seems to be a hard time to keep a new magazine afloat, but then perhaps it was ever thus. It’s hard to say how long Imbibe will succeed. Nevertheless, I’ve voted with my credit card and purchased a subscription. (Actually, due to incompetent use of a web browser, I seem to have purchased two subscriptions. I’ve been on the web for a decade; I have no excuse.)

As I mentioned earlier, the premiere highlights twelve hotel bars. Among the bars featured is Bistro Moderne in Houston’s Hotel Derek. The write-up discusses a Moderne specialty cocktail, the Texan, providing only the ingredients (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, and lime juice) and not the proportions.

I was intrigued but nervous about the bourbon/tequila mix, but since we have both ingredients at home, as well as plenty of limes, I wanted to try it. I had no idea what proportions to use, so I winged it. In a mixing glass, I poured three ounces Very Old Barton bourbon, two ounces Herradura Añejo, and one ounce lime juice (for two cocktails). I sampled just a bit of that and found it a little harsh, so I added half an ounce of simple syrup. I shook that over ice and strained it into two cocktail glasses.

Jen and I both liked it, but we felt it was lacking complexity. The sweetness was fine—any more than half an ounce of simple syrup would have been too sweet. I started thinking about bitters, and since triple sec is a common companion for tequila, I thought about Gary Regan and his orange bitters.

Good thought. Our second batch went as follows, and it was, we felt, a better mix:

The Texan

  • 1½ oz. Very Old Barton bourbon
  • 1 oz. Herradura Añejo tequila
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I’ll happily entertain suggestions for garnishes. I left the drink naked. Salted rim? Lime twist?

Meanwhile, let’s all raise a toast to Imbibe’s long life.