Monday, May 3, 2010

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Sweet and Spicy Banana Margaritas

This Wednesday as most people imbibe one, okay two margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I hope they take a moment to give thanks to Bing Crosby.

The crooner with the liquid voice loved Mexico, and he more than anyone else, was responsible for bringing the margarita north of the border and making it wildly popular in Hollywood during his heyday. Bing also had a soft spot for San Diego, which because of its proximity to Mexico, may be the most margarita-friendly city in the country. Our chicest mall, Fashion Valley, has a Bing Crosby's Restaurant and Piano Lounge, a modern-day supper club with live music, deep, cozy booths, and delicious cocktails.

So in honor of Bing, who also happens to have made my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas, I'm making sweet and spicy banana margaritas for Cinco de Mayo.

I happen to have the key to making a perfect margarita. That's because last week I  interviewed Juan Calderon, certified sommelier and beverage director of San Diego's hip El Vitral, Restaurant and Tequila Lounge, which houses over 200 types of tequila.

margarita from el vitral, san diego
(Classic house margarita at El Vitral.)

According to Calderon there are three steps to making the perfect margarita:

1. Use freshly squeezed lime juice.
2. Use good tequila. Make sure the bottled is clearly labeled "100% blue agave" or "100% de agave." Look for bottles that range between $18-28 dollars. Top shelf tequila isn't necessary for a great tasting margarita.
3. Nix the candied margarita mix, and use Curacao, a citrus flavored liqueur, available at liquor stores. (Grand Marnier or Cointreau work well too). If you're making a fruity margarita, use naturally sweet fruit purees instead of juice. Calderon recommends the brands Culinary Traditions: The Perfect Puree or Monin, which are available at most liquor stores or online.

To make a classic margarita, put equal parts fresh lime juice to Curacao in a shaker. Add 1 1/2 ounces tequila. Shake, then serve on the rocks with a salted rim and a lime slice. That's it.

sweet and spicy banana margarita DSC_0002

This banana margarita is made with smashed ripe bananas, though an ounce of banana puree or creme de banana liqueur would also work. The tart lemon and citric Grand Marnier balance the banana's sweetness making it pleasingly refreshing with a smooth finish. If you're considering skipping the cayenne rim on the glass, don't. When you sip the margarita the cayenne makes your tongue and mouth tingle with heat which is then cooled with the icy margarita. Ahhhh, it's so good.

Oh, and don't forget to play some of Bing's tunes along with the mariachi music.

Banana Margarita
Makes 1
Print only recipe here.

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ripe banana, smashed (or 1 ounce banana puree)
cayenne pepper

1. Rub the rim of a chilled margarita glass with lemon juice and dip in cayenne pepper.

2. In a shaker combine alcohol, lemon juice, banana, and ice. Shake until your hands freeze and the banana is completely smashed. Strain into the glass. Enjoy.

spicy black bean dip and chips DSC_0003

I'm serving my banana margaritas with chips and Spicy Black Bean Dip. You might want to do the same.

Here are more recipes you might enjoy for Cinco de Mayo from Food Blogga:
Boozy Beef Chili
The Southwest Burger
Chipotle Barbecue Bean and Corn Salad
Chicken, Jalapeno, and Cheddar Quesadillas
Goat Cheese and Poblano Quesadillas with Pineapple-Mango-Habanero Salsa
Want to learn more about margaritas? Check out my latest piece on, "Cinco de Mayo: Perfect Your Margarita, Just in Time."

You might also enjoy these margarita recipes from bloggers:
Raspberry Margarita recipe from Serious Eats
Pomegranate Margarita Martini recipe from Dine & Dish
Prickly Pear Margaritas recipe from My Sweet and Saucy

Photo of Bing Crosby courtesy of Bafflegab26580 on Flickr.