I am not much of a cocktail drinker, but was making tacos for Cinco de Mayo and margaritas are a much better pairing.
I found a great recipe, which I had ripped out of a magazine. Wish I remembered where I took it from, so I could give credit. What I loved about this recipe was that it only had 4 ingredients. Well, actually, 7 if you include the salt I decided to make with it.
The mixing of the margaritas was the easy part, the salt proved the most complicated step. Halfway through the process, I swore I would never attempt again. Recipe sounded easy enough, zest 2 oranges and dry the skins in the microwave. Unlike me, my husband, Bill is a cocktail nerd, he has a zester, I had to google to make sure I was using the right thing. The zest should take 90 seconds to dry, turning every 30 seconds. After 2 1/2 min, I thought it was done (mistake one, not done). I loaded the orange zest, kosher salt and smoked paprika into my $2.99 IKEA spice mill. I bought it the day before, specifically for this project, and it doesn’t work (mistake two, no cheap gadgets). At this point, I am convinced without the salt, dinner will be ruined or at least the margaritas. I am committed to completing the task. I trek off to Kohl’s, $30 later and a second spice mill, I try to justify the purchase with the $10 bounce back coupon good next week (which I undoubtedly will forget to use).
Back home and quickly running out of time, my son starts the tedious process of grinding. He quickly gives up and enlists his 71 year-old grandmother to finish the task. After several minutes, and barely anything coming out, I need to rethink this. I decide the zest must not be dry enough. I take it out of the mill throw it back on napkin and another 30 seconds in the microwave. Still not dry enough. Additional 30 seconds (mistake three, do not overcook), burnt half the zest. Now, I am picking out chunks of burned zest, but not willing to admit defeat. Finally, the zest is dry enough when it practically breaks into pieces in my hands. I throw the chunks back into the mill and success! I run it quickly through coarse and reload 2 more times, adjusting the setting each time to get a fine grain.
Finally, time for the margaritas. I used Patron Silver, it was either that or Jose Cuervo Gold. I googled, since I don’t know the difference, in this case Silver is better than Gold. Gold is aged and boasts more complex flavors that take away from the cocktail. I stirred in tequila, orange liqueur, fresh lime juice (the limes were small, so I ran them through my juicer to maximize the liquid) and super fine sugar. I waited to stir in ice until right before serving.
Once guests arrived, I added the Smoky Orange Salt to the rim to the glass, and poured a perfect margarita.
Rating: Overall, salt was time consuming, but the additional flavor of the salt made the drink more interesting and worth the effort. Now that I figured out the drying process and own the right equipment, pretty sure it will be easy. I will absolutely be doing this again, and looking forward trying additional combinations.
Smoky Orange Salt
Zest from 2 oranges
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Dry orange zest in microwave, turning every 30 seconds until crisp. (Up to 3 min).
Add dried orange zest, salt and smoked paprika into spice mill, grind to desired texture. Dip wet rim of margarita glass into salt to coat. Add margarita.
12 ounces Silver Tequilla
6 ounces of fresh lime juice
3 ounces orange liqueur
3 tablespoons ultra fine sugar
Mix 1st three ingredients and slowly stir in sugar until dissolved. Add ice immediately before serving.