The Toro Degollado, or Punching Yourself In the Liver With Capsaicin
To the right is a picture of the cocktail I drank nearly every single night during the holidays. (On a related note, I may need to get over my horror of Bonobos or other stretchy-waist trousers.)
I couldn't help it. I'm obsessed. I almost never drink cocktails with soda in them, but I've got a secret stash of 1.5-L bottles of Jarritos Toronja behind my wife's scrapbooking supplies.
I've been experimenting with a lot of alcoholic infusions--my counter is a minefield of limoncello and blood orange extract, vanilla extract and celery vodka--but the best so far has been agua picante, or tequila reposado infused with chile and avocado leaf.
Yes, avocado leaf. It's perfectly edible--use it in a pot of beans like a bay leaf, only with a slightly floral, anise flavor--and makes a great infusion, whether fresh or dried.
To make agua picante, you'll need two chiles and one avocado leaf. I used chile chilhuacle, a dark purple, bell-shaped chile from Oaxaca, but if you can't get that, use two chiles cascabel or even one chile guajillo and one chile ancho.
Don't use fancy tequila; don't spend more than $20-$25 on the bottle, but do make sure it says the words 100% de agave on the bottle. (Legally, it can be called tequila if it's at least 51% blue agave. As far as I'm concerned, everything in a tequila bottle that isn't blue agave is meados de gato--cat piss.) Reposado is my choice; blanco is too harsh and too un-nuanced; añejo would be a waste of good tequila.
Camarena is a decent, and very cheap, choice; Volcán de Mi Tierra is excellent. Real de México is fantastic, though I'd feel guilty using such a good tequila for infusions. (It still falls within the price limits, though.) If you're limited to large brands, my pick would be Cazadores or maybe Corralejo.
Crumble up the chiles, tear up the avocado leaf, and throw them in a glass jar with the tequila. Put the lid on tightly, shake, and leave it for a week, shaking now and again when you think of it. After a week, strain the tequila (and make sure to press down in the strainer on the vegetation, in order to wring every precious milliliter of ambrosia out of it).
The cocktail, the Toro Degollado (which means "bull with its throat cut"), is about as easy as it gets; like a paloma, it's tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice. You can use Fresca or Squirt for this, but Jarritos or (if you can find it) Peñafiel Toronja are the best choices here.
2 oz. agua picante (infused tequila)
4 oz. Jarritos Toronja or other grapefruit soda
Half a Mexican lime
1. Fill a Collins glass with ice.
2. Pour the tequila over the ice.
3. Top with the soda.
4. Squeeze the lime into the drink.
5. Stir briefly.
It's the best twist on the paloma ever.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.