Friday, June 01, 2012

Cocktail of the Week: The 212

As far as I can tell, tequila has ruined more college experiences than the freshman fifteen and mono combined. Whether out of overindulgence or orneriness, no other spirit has made so many imbibers gunshy.

It’s had its share of bad press. In the index of Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking, one of the subheads under tequila is “as proximate cause of violence.” In the Bible, aka The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, David A. Embury recounts his first experience with “a bottle brought up from Mexico ... during prohibition days.” He complains about its smell (“a combination of overripe eggs and limburger cheese”) and the necessary ritual of licking salt from one’s hand and squeezing lemon (or lime) onto the tongue simply to choke the stuff down. Embury declared that “the only liquor I have ever tasted that I regard as worse than tequila is slivovitz,” a plum brandy that he deemed “sharp, harsh and unpleasant to swallow.” Which you think would be a point against, you know, a liquid.

Tequila has come quite the distance since then, certainly in terms of rank odor. A wide variety is now available, and for the most part they’re still consumed straight. In terms of mixed drinks, the default choice will always and deservedly be the margarita, also one of the great labor-saving innovations of the age: it builds that whole tiresome salt-and-lime rigmarole into your glass.

I wanted to try a different tequila cocktail. My first experiment was a Rosita, which combines tequila with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth and Campari, plus a dash of bitters. While I liked it, I couldn’t help thinking that tequila’s shall-we-say robust flavor really requires citrus to balance it. I just didn’t want that citrus to be lime. Again.

The answer turned out to be grapefruit, specifically ruby red grapefruit, which sidles up on the tequila instead of staring it down. Add some Aperol to provide a countervailing note of sweetness and you’ve got something. Put it in a tall glass over ice and you’ve got a veritable fiesta. You can thank the founders of New York’s Contemporary Cocktails for this spring/summer cooler.

The 212

Aisha Sharpe/Willy Shine, Contemporary Cocktails, 2008

2 oz. tequila
1 oz. Aperol
2 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice

Shake. Strain into a chilled Collins glass over ice. Garnish with an orange twist.