Sunday, April 21, 2013

MxMo LXXII: Drink Your Vegetables—Mexican Pumpkin Fizz

Greetings, folks. It’s time once again for another Mixology Monday post. The theme for this MxMo is Drink Your Vegetables, and I happen to be the host this month, challenging participants to find or invent a drink using one or more vegetable-based ingredients. (After all this drinking and writing about cocktails, we could use the vitamins.) So it is with particular pleasure that I present a vegetable ingredient for your delectation and wonderment, the squash. This would refer to the hard-skinned types including pumpkin, butternut, acorn and the like, sometimes called winter squash. These are available year-round. I’ve researched the matter to learn that the soft-skinned ones are called summer squash. There’s only so much you can do. (I reckon a zucchini wouldn’t survive a frost but can’t say I’ve seen it one way or the other. San Francisco, while chilly, doesn’t freeze. As people have said before, it’s hard to get a handle on the weather in these parts.)

Regardless of when you can find a winter squash, it is inseparable in the United States from an insanity that prevails from Halloween to Christmas, a dementia numerous in its symptoms, one of the weirdest being the delusion that everything tastes better with the addition of a large, tough, orange vegetable. You walk up to a coffee counter and they want to sell you a pumpkin latte. I always smile sweetly, exclaiming, “I would like a squash in my coffee, please!” The barista tends to look nervous.

I suspect what this bit of marketing is really about, and why it succeeds, is that people like pumpkin pie spices, and will have them in their coffee, beer, yogurt or whatever. A pumpkin pie is a very good thing indeed.

But the flavors of this group of similar orange squashes, while distinctive, are delicate and versatile, and lend themselves to lots of different treatments—not necessarily cinnamon, clove and ginger. The drink recipe below plays with the winter squash in more of a warm-weather way, the vegetal sweetness combining subtly with blanco tequila, chilies and lemon. A salt-cocoa rim brings out more salinity and earthiness. And it’s effervescent and without added ice in the glass, so I’ve declared it a fizz.


Mexican Pumpkin Fizz

First we need some squash-chili syrup.

  • 1 c hard-shelled squash, peeled, diced
  • 1 c raw sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
Combine and bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft enough to mash. Strain off the liquid and mash the pulp. Recombine and double strain. (I put a fine strainer in the top of a measuring cup, and poured the squash mixture through a coarser sieve that I held over the fine one and the cup, pressing lightly with a spatula.)

And now for that drink.

  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • 1 oz squash-chili syrup
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz soda water
  • coarse salt, for rim
  • unsweetened cocoa, for rim
Chill a 6-ounce glass. (Delmonico, fizz, juice glass, etc.) In a saucer, combine a little coarse salt and unsweetened cocoa, enough to rim half the glass. Moisten half the rim with a cut lemon and dab the outside carefully in the salt-cocoa mixture. Shake tequila, syrup and lemon with ice cubes. Strain into prepared glass. Top with soda.

Light, bright and tingly, with an aroma of chocolate from the half-rim. I was tempted to throw every mole-style spice at the thing but quickly decided that I was not dealing with a dragon but a moon moth. The tequila used will have a considerable impact, whether it’s a pungent, mineral one, or a softer, more caramel one. I could go either way. Any left over syrup could go in savory glazes, and would be amazing on a vanilla dessert.

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