Tequila and I haven’t been on speaking terms for a few years now…. not after a few regrettable (but thankfully pre-social-media) incidents.
I do make an exception when it comes to margaritas, though, because they’re so gosh-darned tasty. I like mine shaken (not frozen), not too sweet, and made with real lime juice instead of that gross sour mix stuff.
The classics are fine, but sometimes I like to go a little more new school and throw in some interesting flavours.
Raspberry is always good, as are tamarind and jalapeno, but I’m particularly fond of this version which blends all the elements of the margarita with another favourite Mexican beverage – agua de jamaica.
Meet Your New Favourite Drink – Agua de Jamaica
I can’t remember where I first discovered the deliciousness that is agua de jamaica, but I really fell in love with it during a trip to Oaxaca, where the big glass jars full of the bright pink beverage were everywhere – on street vendors’ carts, in market stalls, and behind the counter at the little taquerias.
It’s made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers (known as “flor de jamaica” in Spanish, hence the beverage’s name), and then adding warm spices like ginger, clove and cinnamon to create the drink’s distinctive balance of sweet, sour and spicy.
You’ll find a very similar drink in the Caribbean, where it’s known as sorrel, though I find the West Indian version to be heavier on the spices compared to its Mexican counterpart.
When Agua de Jamaica Met Margarita
Not surprisingly, agua de jamaica pairs beautifully with another Mexican classic – that marvelous trinity of tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice that is the margarita.
So beautifully, in fact, that you might be willing to set aside a long-standing grudge with your boozy frenemy, a certain Senor Jose Cuervo. Good thing this recipe makes an entire pitcher, huh?
Brilliantly pink and tangy-sweet, it’s a lovely change of pace from the traditional citrus-based margarita.
Add a basket of tortilla chips to nibble on, and you’ve got yourself a tangy-sweet-spicy sipper that’s perfect for kicking back on a summer afternoon… or a slightly chilly spring day before Cinco de Mayo. Y’know, whatever excuse works for you.
More Refreshing Twists on Classic Cocktails
Looking for a few other fun variations on your favourite classic cocktail? Here are some options to consider:
Hibiscus blossoms give this cocktail its brilliant pink colour and tangy flavour. Whip up a pitcher to celebrate Cinqo de Mayo, or just for the heck of it. (It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, right?)
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon, about 3” long
- 3 slices fresh ginger, about 1/2” thick
- 4 whole cloves
- 3/4 cup dried hibiscus blossoms (flor de jamaica)
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 cup hibiscus syrup
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup tequila blanco
- 1/2 cup orange liqueur (like Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- Lime slices, for garnish
Make the Hibiscus Syrup (up to 1 week ahead):
- In a small saucepan set over high heat, combine 2 cups of water with sugar, cinnamon stick, ginger slices and cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Remove from heat, and stir in the hibiscus blossoms. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes, or until the syrup is a brilliant shade of dark red. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a 1-litre glass jar. Stir in the lime juice and remaining 2 cups water, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the Margaritas:
- Fill a glass pitcher about halfway with ice. Add the syrup, water, tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Stir until combined, and serve immediately over more ice.
Leftover syrup can be used to make agua de jamaica – simply dilute one-to-one with cold water (flat or sparkling) and add a spritz of fresh lime juice.
- Category: Drink