I’m not a big tequila fan. I like margaritas, but only because they’re sugary enough to mostly cover up the taste of the alcohol. My aversion is definitely a psychological issue; I overindulged on tequila shots when I was newly-twenty-one, so now tequila tastes like junior year of college and bad decisions.
And yet, I had a nearly full bottle of Jose Cuervo sitting on top of my fridge for about a month. I decided to make boozy Popsicles for a book club meeting last month (aw, yeah, my friends and I get crazy when we discuss Mark Twain, yo) and I settled on a recipe for tequila sunrise pops, because I figured it would be hard to screw up tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about how long alcohol takes to freeze, so by the time my friends arrived they were more like tequila sunrise slushies. I also added way too much tequila to the tiny Popsicle molds, so by the time they did freeze, they were more like tequila shot ice cubes with a hint of orange juice.
Fortunately, Holly was up for another round of “let’s put a bunch of [insert alcohol here] into stuff and see what happens!” True, the Fireball experiment hadn’t been completely successful (just thinking about those cupcakes makes me queasy), but cooking with tequila sounded a lot more promising than cooking with cinnamon whiskey, and we found a lot of great recipes. However, grocery shopping in a Minnesota suburb provides limited options on finding specialty ingredients like champagne mangoes or GranQueso or fontina cheesse. When Holly asked the deli worker at Cub what a good substitute for either cheese was, his reply was “That sounds Mexican. Is that Mexican?” and proceeded to give her detailed instructions on how to find the shredded cheese aisle. Despite our limitations, we were able to be resourceful with what we had, and we totally knocked it out of the park on all of the recipes.
The main reason I chose this one was because it involved no actual cooking, just chopping and mixing produce. I was a little worried about how it would taste, because the first instructions were to coat the chunks of mango in a bowl of tequila and let it soak for an hour, and it smelled like a frat house when I first mixed it. However, once the fruit had absorbed the alcohol and was combined with the avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro (I left out the red onion because it’s gross and this was my recipe, so there) it tasted phenomenal. The sweetness from the mango really cut down on the alcohol taste, but the tequila flavor still blended really well with the jalapeno and cilantro. From what I read, the only difference between regular mangoes and champagne or honey mangoes is that the latter are sweeter, but the regular mangoes and agave nectar provided plenty of sweetness to the mix, so I don’t think the substitution made a huge difference. It was magnificent, and I’m planning on making this for every social gathering I ever go to now. You’re welcome, family and friends.
This recipe has only a few ingredients, but it’s super tasty. The tequila flavor is pretty much cooked out of the glaze, but the chili and apricot flavors are amazing together. Holly chopped the chilies by hand because she forgot that she had an actual chopper, so we would occasionally bite into a bigger chunk and get a spicy punch in the mouth, but the apricot cooled it off quickly.
Tequila and cheese don’t sound like two things that should go together, but mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food and is pretty hard to screw up, so we figured it was worth a try. The recipe actually called for poblano pepper-infused tequila, which, of course, the local liquor store didn’t have (and I’m not sure why it exists anyway, considering poblano peppers don’t have a super distinctive flavor) but Holly made do by juicing a poblano pepper with a garlic press and mixing it into the tequila. Because Cub had neither fontina nor GranQueso, we used Italian blend and Mexican blend shredded cheeses, because each at least contained both kinds of cheese (among others, so this was probably more like 8-cheese mac and cheese, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing). The original recipe was entertaining thanks to descriptions like “luscious cheese concoction,”, although some of the instructions were a little unusual (how do you accurately gauge how hot “piping hot” milk should be? Why can’t you just say “stir vigorously” instead of “stir like mad!” or “whisk, whisk whisk!”?). The result was exquisite; the dish was gooey, creamy, and had a nice kick from the tequila, sharp cheese combination, and cayenne pepper. It’s a pretty involved recipe, but I don’t think I can go back to Kraft macaroni again after this.
4. Pink Lung (grapefruit beer and tequila)
This was Holly’s original creation: a combination of Illusive Traveler grapefruit beer and a shot of tequila. I was hesitant to try it, because I don’t like grapefruit, I’m not crazy about beer, and the mere scent of tequila reminds me of hangovers and regret, but Holly was pretty enthusiastic about it, so despite the unnerving name (seriously, naming a drink after an internal organ is not appetizing) I gave it a shot, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was refreshing and summery but had a nice warmth from the tequila.
This one would have been a lot better if I had actually measured out some of the ingredients. Unfortunately, by this point I was confident that I was basically Martha Stewart and could just eyeball it when adding the sriracha to the strawberry/tequila/agave nectar mixture. The first few sips were amazing; strawberries and sriracha are surprisingly delicious together. After that, though, the heat from the sauce started overwhelming the strawberry flavor. It wasn’t bad; it was just weird. The recipe also called for Cointreau (orange liqueur), which I skipped because I didn’t want to buy something I would only end up using a splash of in one recipe and then never use again, but it might have helped balance the sweet and spicy flavors.
Overall, this was a huge success. I had low expectations, considering tequila is my least favorite type of alcohol, but I would try all of these recipes again. I’m pretty sure we’re going to make this a regular thing too, and try new recipes each month, so if you have any suggestions on what kind of liquor we should use next, let me know!