Margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, Juleps for Derby Day, and Hats for Everyone
Every Wednesday, GOOD’s Roué in Residence pens a tribute to cocktails befitting the times. This week: Top-notch Margaritas and Mint Juleps to help you celebrate some new holiday math: Derby Day + Cinco de Mayo = Bartholomew Cubbins Day!
Drinking and millinery go together like gin and tonic water. Just ask Raymond Chandler, or SpongeBob Squarepants. Or if you prefer crowdsourcing to celebrity endorsements, just look out your window this Saturday, when the calendar unifies two great spring holidays for those who like to sip cocktails while sporting chapeaux: Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo. I tip my boozy beanie to my editor Amanda Hess, who summed up this weekend’s outlook perfectly via e-mail: “How many hats are people going to be wearing?? So many hats.”
How does one traditionally celebrate this holiday I just invented? With margaritas, mint juleps, and the topper of your choice, of course. I’ve checked with your liver, and it promises to give you a pass on the whole “mixing different base spirits” thing for just one day. (It also told me to tell you to stop trying to make that fedora happen, but what does your liver know about fashion?)
First up: a margarita with a mezcal hat, the only margarita you’ll ever need.
Cubbins Day Margarita (aka Tommy Girl Margarita) (aka Seriously The Best Margarita Ever OMG)
2 oz. decent tequila (a resposado is always a good call, but the most important thing is that you find something made 100 percent from blue agave—no mixtos, por favor. I like Espolon Reposado, which you can probably find for around $20 a fifth.
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ oz., or slightly less, organic agave nectar
½ oz. crema de mezcal
Combine all ingredients except crema de mezcal in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake. Strain over new ice in a rocks glass or tumbler—rimmed with salt, if that’s how you roll. Float crema de mezcal on top by pouring it slowly over the back of a spoon. Serve with a straw.
I understand if the second whimsical name I chose for this little taste of perfection reminds you of Aziz Ansari or some horrendous fragrance, but “Tommy Girl” actually honors the twin origins of this recipe. Tequila, lime juice, and agave in the Golden Ratio of 2:1:½—no orange liqueur—is the margarita made famous by San Francisco tequila palace Tommy’s. The float of crema de mezcal is the brainchild of Santa Fe’s Cowgirl BBQ, where I recently enjoyed a local mountain yak burger and some of the best beverages I’ve ever tasted.
With the mezcal sombrero, the Tommy’s Margarita blossoms into something totally new and unexpected. By turns smoky, sweet, sour, boozy, and salty (if you opt to rim the glass), it combines every major flavor short of umami. Make sure to give your guests a straw to let them modulate the smoke inhalation.
It would be exaggerating, but not by much, to say this margarita has changed my life. I can’t think of a single thing I’d rather sip on a reasonably sunny evening. That said, I am not exaggerating at all when I urge you to sip slowly. You’ve got to pace yourself if you’re going to trade your sombrero for a feathered Kentuckian monstrosity and sip a julep while enjoying the ritualized animal cruelty and wagering that come with a fully-savored Cubbins Day. Consider this strategy: put on one hat for every margarita (or other cocktail) you imbibe. If you can still balance all of the hats by post time, you’re sober enough for a julep—or ready for your Cirque du Soleil audition.
Cubbins Day No-Nonsense Mint Julep
Adapted from Cocktail: A Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, by Paul Harrington
3 oz. bourbon
6-8 sprigs mint
2-3 tablespoons simple syrup
4-5 drops crème de pêche (optional)
Mix ingredients in a pint glass. Add three pieces of ice and muddle for about a minute. Let stand for several minutes. Strain into a glass filled with finely-shaved ice. Top with a mint sprig and serve with a straw.
To ready it for Cubbins day, I haven’t done much to the recipe I’ve used to brighten up my Derby Days for a decade or so—just added the uncontroversial reminder that peach and bourbon taste good together. Do limit your experimentation with crème de pêche to a drop at a time, though. A single dash of the stuff can overpower any drink—even one with two full slugs of whiskey behind it.
Since the drinking, racing, and the hats are all remnants of preexisting spring holidays, I welcome suggestions for brand-spanking new Cubbins Day traditions (except for anything involving the music of Mr. Leto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars. Those I will veto). I’m sure we can all put our heads together and come up with some by the next time it rolls around: 2018. Unless, of course, we’re all balancing too many hats to move our necks.
Send your Cubbins Day suggestions, and/or pictures of your guests after several hats, to firstname.lastname@example.org.