Ultimate is one of those words that just might seem a bit egotistical. The ultimate? The best?
“Best drink ever,” Suzen beamed at me. She meant it. “How did you do this?”
“Sugar,” I said.
“I know that. What else?”
“No. Tell me the truth or I’ll be forced to …”
“It’s Aperol.” I was telling the truth.
“How much Aperol do we have?”
In the past few months, I’ve touted Aperol as the liqueur that, for those of who find Campari too harsh, anyone can enjoy with a smile. Aperol is orange and bitter. Margaritas demand orange and sweet. How can you make Aperol work here?
You make this strawberry margarita with strawberry puree — the recipe was posted a couple of days ago here. Basically, take 4 cups of strawberry halves and ¾ cup of sugar, and put them in a blender. Let it rip for 3 minutes. Sieve if you want, but the picture above shows those pretty black seedlets that I think gives character to the drink.
The balance of flavor here is perfect. You get the orange from the Aperol, plus the undertones of bitterness to contrast with the puree which is, in a word, sweet.
The drink is seductively smooth and does not overpower you like many a margarita can. This is about enjoying flavor. You’d have to drink a boatload to get smashed. Course, it tastes so good, a boatload is feasible.
There are liqueur options below. Besides Aperol, Rick Bayless suggests optionally paring up with Cointreau or Fragoli, the Italian strawberry liqueur. There are many, many flavor combinations here to enjoy. Somewhere, you’ll find a favorite.
The recipe below calls for Strawberry Sugar for rimming the glass. It’s really optional but easily done. To make it, just put equal amounts of freeze dried strawberries and granulated sugar in spice grinder or small food processor and pulverize.
Ultimate Strawberry Margarita
Yield: 1 drink
- Strawberry sugar for rimming
- 1 lime wedge
- 1 ½ ounces blue agave blanco tequila
- ¾ ounce lime juice
- 1 ounce Aperol, or ½ ounce Aperol and ½ ounce Cointreau or ½ ounce Aperol and ½ ounce Fragoli
- 1 ½ ounces strawberry puree
- 6 to 10 ice cubes
- Strawberry fan for garnish [optional]
Spread the Strawberry Sugar on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a 6-ounce margarita glass with lime wedge and upend the glass onto the sugar to crust the rim.
In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, lime juice, Aperol [and other liqueurs], strawberry puree and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold. Tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glass and serve immediately. Garnish with the strawberry, if you like.
Source: Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.7, 1/60second at ISO 3200 [no flash]
There they are. Perfect strawberries. That perfection is, unfortunately, short lived. One technique for both preserving flavor and giving you culinary options is to make a puree that can last for up to five days in your refrigerator.
Once you have puree, it can be used in beverages – like a killer strawberry margarita. The puree is a perfect adornment for ice cream or yogurt. Or you can drizzle it over pound cake or angel food cake to get flavor without the calories of whipped cream or frosting. Yes, there’s sugar here so this is not calorie free but this is the better solution. Of course, you can substitute other types of berries here: blackberries or raspberries. The lemon juice is optional and you can go for a spikier flavor by using lime juice instead.
Here’s the technique.
Yield: 2+ cups
- 4 cups of perfectly ripe strawberry halves [that's a four cup measure randomly filled with halves, not packed]
- ¾ cup of granulated sugar
- Juice of one small lemon
Before you halve the berries, wash and dry them. Make sure you snip off the end and any sore spots.
Put the berries in a blender, or, better, a VitaMix. Blend for two minutes until liquefied. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Blend another minute or two. If using a blender, you may want to sieve the liquid. If you are using a Vitamix, the machine is so powerful that sieving is really not necessary.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The puree is best used on Day 1.