Tequila Sonrisa

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Tequila Sonrisa. Photo by Susan Whitney.

Tequila Sonrisa

1.75 oz Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila
2 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal
0.75 oz rhubarb purée
0.25 oz Campari

Fill a 10-ounce goblet or collins glass with ice and add tequila, the orange and lime juices and mezcal. Pass the contents of the glass into a shaker, then back into the glass to mix. Combine the rhubarb purée and Campari, then pour it into the glass and agitate it slightly with a straw so it sinks to the bottom.

Garnish with orange wheel wrapped with rhubarb leather.


It’s Cinco de Mayo! Although May 5th is observed in Mexico to mark the country’s surprise defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, in the United States it’s become a celebration of Mexican-American culture. It was born out of the Chicano movement in California in the ’40s but didn’t start to gain national recognition until beer companies began using it for marketing in the ’80s. Now hundreds of American cities hold events to celebrate Mexican culture, including dance, music, art, food and, of course, drink.

Rather than toasting with a Corona or a margarita, I’ve made a twist on a cloying American classic that predates the craft cocktail era – the Tequila Sunrise. For my Tequila Sonrisa (That’s Spanish for ‘smile’.) I’ve pumped up the tequila, backed off the orange juice and added a touch of lime. I add a 1/4 teaspoon of mezcal to give it more depth. Finally, since I’m thrilled that it’s finally in season, I’ve made a rhubarb purée that I mix with a touch of Campari to add a bitter backbone and stand in for the Rose’s Grenadine of barrooms past.

For a garnish, I attempt to make the candied rhubarb I used for my Rhubarb Gimlet last spring, but I fail to follow my own directions. I start by preheating my oven to 350° F. Next, I take a paring knife and run it flat along a raw stalk of rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous) to make thin, 4″ long strips. Next, I’m supposed to dip the raw strips of rhubarb into simple syrup before placing them on a cookie sheet and putting them in the oven for about 5 minutes until the edges brown. Instead, I dip them in the rhubarb purée. The result is more of a rhubarb leather than a crisp, candied strip, so I roll with it, wrapping the rhubarb leather around the orange slice that I slide onto the rim of the glass.

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I cut a thin slice of rhubarb to make rhubarb leather. Photo by Susan Whitney

I raise my glass to pañaderías, mole, mariachis, cebollitas, Dia de los Muertos, pepitas, tamales, tres leches, tacos, margaritas, piñatas, tortas, tequila, queso fresca, mezcal, migas, churros and the incredibly kind, hard-working, family-first Mexican men and women I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with throughout my life. ¡A la salud!

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