The first time I had this drink was almost a year ago when I flew to New York for Bunny’s birthday. She took us to this little Latin tapas bar called Yerba Buena. We ducked into this dark little bar, and though we were late for our reservation, instead of being snobby, the management found a place to squeeze us despite how packed it always is. The length of the bar was full of these gorgeous drinks that looked like margaritas without ice and with a single dried chili pepper floating in each. I had no idea what was in it, and immediately ordered one by pointing. I’m not trying to be dramatic here, but what I tasted changed my entire outlook on cocktails, if not alcohol in general. I had no idea when I ordered it that somehow, all these flavors would be packed into a 4 oz. cocktail:
… Each taste is distinct and clear as you sip the drink. The cilantro shines through, green and fresh, and is mellowed by a hint of cucumber. The fresh lemon juice calms the gin and almost cancels out its piney flavor, leaving just enough to strengthen the spicy finish from the jalapenos.
I had been lamenting over this drink ever since I tried it. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to try and recreate it until Magda heard me whining about how good it was and said “why don’t you make it this weekend?” In fact, i grabbed all the ingredients at the Mexican grocery near my place for under $5 (minus the booze, of course) that afternoon, and made this on Saturday night.I was glad not to be the designated driver because these are pretty potent, just to warn you.
A bunch of chopped cilantro, about 10 leaves
4 slices of cucumber chopped up into quarters
3 slices of jalapeno— whether or not you deseed depends on the spiciness of that particular jalapeno, and your tolerance for spice
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
1/2 oz cointreau ( I used Triple Sec here. I couldn’t justify the expense of Cointreau and it tasted just as good as I remembered)
2 oz Tanqueray gin (hooray, Magda had some laying around so we didn’t have to splurge. I love using what’s on hand)
3/4 oz simple syrup (Listen to my food-blogging idol Deb of Smitten Kitchen on this. Don’t buy it in a store. Just simmer one part water with one part sugar until the sugar dissolves, then refrigerate it until cool.)
Dried chiles for garnish
Muddle the cilantro, cucumber, and jalapeno with the lemon juice. Add the booze and simple syrup. Shake with ice and strain through wire mesh, if you have it. We didn’t, and used a normal martini shaker. There were small pieces of cilantro and probably cucumber seeds left, but no one was any worse off. Garnish with a dried red chile.
<3<3 Megs ‘n Eggs
*Just to note: I steer clear of gin as a rule and never would have ordered this if I’d bothered to read the menu. I even tried a perfectly respectable version of this drink later on in the night with tequila and lime replacing the gin and lemon. But the first version was absolutely perfect and still the standard by which I measure all cocktails.