Waste-Less Weekend: Lemonpalooza

February 6, 2015 § 7 Comments

Due to technical difficulties, this week’s Waste-Less Wednesday post is appearing today. Hey, now you have some waste-less projects for the weekend. Carry on.

It’s that time of year again: I’m up to my ass in lemons. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but between the Eurekas from my backyard and the Meyers from my neighbor’s, it’s definitely lemonpalooza around here. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Fresh backyard citrus (front yard and side yard, too!) is both a joy and a benefit of living in the 650.

What continues to surprise me is the resilience of citrus trees here — despite our crazy weather (forecast for today: earthquake with a side of rain). The lemon tree in my yard produces fist-sized fruit year after year, regardless of drought, bugs, frost, or heat waves. I typically don’t fertilize or water the tree, and it seems thrive simply by getting what it needs from the environment. This baby is hardy! Same story with the Meyer lemon bush that grows along the fence I share with my neighbor. (FYI, over-the-fence rules also apply to Meyer lemons. Lucky me!)

Over-the-fence Meyer lemons

Over-the-fence Meyer lemons

So right now I’ve got about 10 pounds of Eurekas and Meyers stashed in cold storage, with more coming. The Meyers don’t hold up as long and need to be used before they get too soft. The Eurekas will last longer in cold storage, but I have to get them off the tree before the skins get too thick, otherwise they’re only good for zest and not for juice. There have been years when I’ve slacked and ended up with huge lemons that are mostly pith. (Need a quick primer on the differences between Eurekas and Meyers? Check out this article.)

Eureka! Backyard lemons in the 650

Eureka! Backyard lemons in the 650

Recently 7×7 Magazine published a Meyer lemon limoncello recipe, which inspired me to try my hand at this lovely Italian liqueur again. (Limoncello, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is a lemon-infused neutral spirit, sweetened with simple syrup.) I say again, because the last recipe I attempted called for high-proof vodka and waaaay too much simple syrup. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, despite my persistent attempts at taste testing.

This time around I’m tweaking the recipe to include my new favorite vodka and easing up on the simple syrup. Going into research-geek mode, I tracked down a dozen recipes from reputable sources, all of them the best limoncello recipe evah! Yup, that’s what they said…all of them. And all of them different. Some require high-proof grain alcohol (Everclear), while others say 100-proof vodka will do the trick. Some recommend peeling the lemons in strips, while others insist on zesting them. Gizmondo has a cool technique that involves suspending whole lemons over the alcohol for infusion.

My takeaway? There’s no right way to make limoncello — so why not choose the best ingredients and try the simplest technique first? I decided to go with zesting 10 Meyer lemons, dumping that zest into a 1 liter glass jar, then adding 750 ml of 80-proof vodka. Voila! Close up the jar and hide it away in the back of a lower kitchen cupboard. (Why lower? Eh, heat rises. I want to keep the infusion cool.)

Step 1: Meyer lemon-vodka infusion

Step 1: Meyer lemon-vodka infusion

Sometime around March 5 or so, I’ll strain out the zest, make up a batch of 1:1 simple syrup, and add that syrup to the infused vodka in half-cup increments until I get a sweet-tart, lemony, boozy drink that I’ll want to enjoy all summer. If all goes well, I’ll post the final recipe. Easy peasy, but what about the rest of the lemons?

Well, there is the small matter of 10 naked Meyer lemons to deal with. They’re back in cold storage in a ziplock bag until I can juice them this weekend. And then what? I still have a stash of Eurekas, too. Fortunately, lemons are versatile, and there are plenty of easy techniques and recipes for enjoying lemony goodness. On my to-do list:

And what about whole, preserved lemons? Yes, please! Perfect in pastas and on top of baked fish. Looks like I’ve got my rainy-day projects for this weekend. What do you do with a surplus of lemons?

Orange You Glad?

June 2, 2014 § 3 Comments

It seems that I have a problem when it comes to citrus — oranges, in particular. After taking a quick inventory of my refrigerator recently, it turns out that citrus (mostly of the orange kind) has taken over both of the crisper drawers. As in, the drawers are so full that I can barely open them. You’d think I’m hoarding oranges for the end of the world or something. How did this happen?

Navel oranges in a stainless steel colander

Just some of the many oranges I’ve been hoarding

The good news is that an excess of any ingredient is always an opportunity for a little creative problem solving in the kitchen. Aside from the obvious — juice those babies for mimosas (I’m not sure I can round up enough champagne for that) — there’s always my Sunday Morning Scones and Orange-Scented Anzac Biscuits. Unfortunately, making both of those recipes wouldn’t come close to fully using all of those oranges, and I’m looking to minimize food waste with whatever recipe I use. Most recipes that call for oranges want the juice or the zest, meaning there’s a high likelihood of waste (in fact, depending on your recipe, 50-70% of the orange can go to waste).

If you’ve read this blog a bit, you know that my heart (and experience) are in the sweet kitchen, so I was immediately thinking about candied peel. It keeps for ages, and I can use it for holiday fruit cakes later this year or dip it in dark chocolate as a gift for my father’s birthday. I was also thinking about making a confit that I can use for filling cakes or as a mix-in for ice cream. Given the abundance of oranges I’ve accumulated, I’ll likely make both! Ok, so that covers the outside, but what about the inside?

The ice cream/confit idea got me thinking: it’s been a long time since I’ve made an ice cream or a sorbet. Maybe I could try orange sherbet, but that would mean buying milk (ugh, another trip to the grocery store). And then inspiration arrived courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine: an article about sorbet! Funny how inspiration seems to show up just when you need it. Skimming the article reminded me that I have all the tools and resources that I need at home to make sorbet (although Fine Cooking breaks down the process into bite-sized chunks and author Zoe Francois has some tasty ideas for add-ins). Ta-dah — orange problem solved!

Sorbet is simply fruit juice or purée combined with a sugar syrup, spun up in an ice cream maker, and then frozen. The most important part of making sorbet is getting the right proportions of fruit juice/purée and sugar syrup. Too little syrup, and you basically end up with rock-solid, frozen juice that’s too hard to scoop. Too much sugar, and the mixture won’t freeze, and you’ll end up with a slushie (which could be delicious, but isn’t the point of the exercise).

So how do you know when you’ve got the right combination of fruit juice/purée and syrup? Well, if you’re addicted to kitchen tools like I am (I’m pretty sure that’s why I went to culinary school in the first place — all the fun toys), you could use a refractometer or a saccharometer to measure the density of the sugar in the mixture.

Trusty refractometer

Trusty refractometer

A refractometer measures the light refraction of sugar using the Brix scale. You just place a drop of your solution on the plate, close the plastic cover, and look through the eye piece. Super-easy to use — and to clean. A saccharometer is a long, narrow glass tube — with a weighted bottom — that measures the gravity of the mixture using the Baumé scale. You need to physically place it in the solution you want to measure, which means you need a tall, narrow container in which to put your solution. I find it more challenging to get an accurate reading on the saccharometer because you have to eyeball it in the solution you’re measuring. (In short: I think it’s a pain to use.)

Unless you make beer, wine, or a lot of sorbets — or work in a professional kitchen — you probably don’t have a refractometer or saccharometer stashed in a drawer somewhere (and if you do, we should hang out). But there is something that you likely have in your kitchen that will help you check the sugar density of a sorbet mix: an egg.

You read that right. The old-school, tool-free technique for checking the density of a sorbet solution is to place an egg (yup — a whole, raw egg, in the shell) in the mix and see whether it floats. There are a few things you need to know before trying this technique:

  1. Your egg should be fresh, so check the date on the carton (Need to know how to find the packing and sell by dates for your eggs? Check out this article). An old egg will not float as well and won’t give you an accurate “reading.” Trust me on this; I learned the hard way. An old egg will float the same whether you have too much or too little syrup. No fun.
  2. Make sure there are no cracks in the shell.
  3. Wash your egg with mild dish soap, rinse it well, and dry it before placing it in the sorbet mix.

I’ve never used the egg test before, so I decided to try it out — in tandem with my trusty refractometer. I’ll save you the suspense and let you know that the egg test worked for me — and it’s reliable as long as your egg is fresh! So, if you’ve got a sorbet syrup (recipe below), fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice, an ice cream maker and an egg, you can make delicious, sweet-orange sorbet at home!

Another tip: I’ve found it easier to make the sorbet syrup first, let it cool completely (which might mean overnight), and then go on to prepping the fruit, making the sorbet mix, and spinning it up. Sorbet syrup keeps in the refrigerator for about 10 days. After making sorbet, you can use leftover syrup to sweeten ice tea, homemade lemonade, and cocktails.

Recipe: Sorbet Sugar Syrup

Yield: About 2¾ cups
Adapted from the Culinary Institute of America

If you want to get all technical, this is a 65º Brix sorbet syrup. Just, you know, in case anyone asks you. Including corn syrup or glucose will prevent crystallization of your sorbet syrup and give you a smoother sorbet.


1½ cups sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup light corn syrup (or glucose)

How to:

  1. Combine ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil.

    Sorbet syrup ingredients

    Sorbet syrup ingredients

  2. As soon as the syrup comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the saucepan and allow the syrup to cool completely.
  3. If you’re making the syrup in advance, transfer it to a container with a tight-fitting lid and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the sorbet.


Recipe: Orange Sorbet

Yield: About 1 quart of sorbet
Inspired by Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July 2014

What you need:

Ice cream maker
1-quart container, preferably at least 6″ tall
Narrow whisk (not a balloon whisk)
Fresh egg in the shell, washed and dried (or, if you have one, a 0-32º Brix refractometer)
Container for freezing sorbet, 1 quart or larger


3 cups of fresh orange juice (from 10-12 oranges or about 4½ pounds)
2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (1-2 large lemons)
1 cup sorbet syrup (recipe above; keep extra in reserve, in case you need it)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (I used a microplane zester)
Optional: 2-3 tablespoons of orange liqueur (I used 3 tablespoons of Cointreau, although an aged tequila or good vodka could work, too, depending on the flavor you prefer)

How to:

  1. Juice the oranges, reserving the rinds for zest or other uses.
    I used the juicer attachment on my food processor, but you can go old-school and use a hand juicer or reemer. I stored the orange rinds in a freezer bag in the coldest part of my fridge for future use (candied peel and confit).

    Juicing oranges with the food processor

    Juicing oranges with the food processor: no muss, no fuss

  2. Strain the orange juice through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any seeds or large pieces of pulp.
    Small pieces of pulp are ok and add flavor and body to your sorbet.
  3. Taste the orange juice so that you can determine how much lemon juice to add.
    If the oranges are very sweet, start by adding 2½ tablespoons of juice. Add up to another ½ tablespoon if you prefer. If the orange juice is less sweet or slightly tart, add about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Why add lemon juice? Because it can enhance the orange flavor, making it “brighter.” You just don’t want to add so much lemon that you detract from the orange.
  4. Pour the orange juice into a tall, narrow 1-quart container. Using a narrow whisk, stir in the lemon juice, zest, and alcohol (if you’re including it).
    Note that adding alcohol will change the density of your mixture, so add it before you start adding the sorbet syrup.

    Sorbet syrup, orange zest, Cointreau (optional), lemon juice, orange juice

    Sorbet syrup, orange zest, Cointreau (optional), lemon juice, orange juice

  5. Whisk in ½ cup of the sorbet syrup and test the density of the mixture by gently lowering your egg into the container (or taking a refractometer reading).
    Note: If you’re using a refractometer, your goal is 24-29º Brix, depending on how sweet and firm or slushy you like your sorbet. The higher the reading, the sweeter and softer the sorbet.
  6. If the egg goes right to the bottom, you need to add more sorbet syrup.
  7. Adjust your sorbet mix by stirring in 2 tablespoons of syrup, then try the egg test again. Continue until the egg floats, and you can see a 1-inch circle of shell sticking up out of the sorbet mix.
    Make sure you taste the sorbet mix as you add syrup. It should be orange-y and sweet, but not cloying (as in, it shouldn’t burn the back of your throat).
  8. If the egg floats, and you can see a 1-inch circle of the shell, your mixture should be ready for churning and freezing. If not, continue to whisk in small amounts of syrup and float the egg until you see a 1-inch circle of shell sticking up out of the sorbet mix.
    When my egg floated with a 1-inch circle of shell showing, my refractometer reading was 24º Brix. As I was going for a less sweet (and slightly firmer) sorbet, I stopped adding syrup.
  9. Chill the mix in your refrigerator for about an hour.
    Your sorbet will churn and freeze more quickly if the mix has been chilled.
  10. Pour the mix into the ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
    Mine takes 25-30 minutes to churn. Your mileage may vary.

    Sorbet churning away in my little ice cream maker (view from above)

    Sorbet churning away in my little ice cream maker (view from above)

  11. While the sorbet is churning in the ice cream maker, place a 1-quart container for the sorbet in the freezer.
    You want to transfer your churned sorbet (which is partially frozen) into a chilled container to reduce melting on contact.
  12. Freeze the sorbet for at least four hours before serving.

    Orange sorbet scoops in a glass bowl

    Orange You Glad? Sorbet!

So here’s a really cool thing (yes, pun intended) about sorbet: you can always melt it down, adjust it, and churn it again. Let’s say that after a couple of weeks in the freezer, your sorbet is getting icy. Or, maybe you wish you’d added a bit more sorbet syrup for a softer, sweeter sorbet. No problem! Just melt the sorbet back to liquid form, make any adjustments (whisk in more syrup or add another tablespoon of liqueur — just be sure to run the egg test again), churn the sorbet in the ice cream maker, and refreeze.

Well, I’ve solved half of my orange problem. Stay tuned for part deux…
Have you made sorbet? Did you use the “egg float” test? Did it work for you?

Grow Local: In Which I Walk the Talk

May 6, 2014 § 3 Comments

650Food is six months old today! If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been writing about food — eating, cooking, buying, and growing — in the 650, aka San Francisco’s peninsula neighborhoods. A few weeks ago I wrote, admittedly with a smidge of garden envy, about neighborhood gardens. Well, today my garden envy is gone…over…pfffffttt! While I’ve been encouraging people to “grow local” here (and on Twitter, if you follow me there), I want to tell you that I’m walking the talk. For the first time in many years, I’ve planted a small, edible garden. Hell yeah, I’m excited — I’m growing food! Well, right now they’re just baby plants, but by mid-summer, if all goes well, I’ll have food.Left to right: Little Gem lettuce, Burgundy Red Mix lettuce, purple jalapeno

There’s a lot to be said for growing your own food — reconnecting with the outdoors, teaching kids about where food comes from, eating simple, fresh meals — just to name a few reasons. You don’t have to plant an entire farm’s worth of produce, but you can easily get a small kitchen garden going to supplement what you buy weekly at the market. Wondering where to start? Think about the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that you love to eat or can’t find on a regular basis. For me, it started with peppermint and lemon verbena.

While this is not my first edible garden, I’m also not a gardening expert by any means. I definitely did some researching and organizing before I got started. First, I had to figure out where the “full sun” areas are in my yard — those spots that get 6-8 hours of direct sun. Most edibles love full sun — and it’s definitely necessary for fruit, which needs that light and heat to fully develop its sugars. Turns out I don’t have many full-sun spots in my yard, so that limited the garden size and location, right off the bat. (Good thing, too. Because once I got to the nursery to start buying plants, I wanted everything.)

Next I had to decide what I really wanted to grow. Sweet herbs — lavender, lemon verbena, and mint — were at the top of my list. After that I started thinking savory — sage (mmmm, fried sage leaves!) — and spicy, which meant peppers! I love summer salad greens, so if there was room, maybe I would give those a go. And finally, if I could squeeze out one more spot, I wanted just one tomato plant. My neighbor with the tomatoes was already making deals as soon as I mentioned my plans: he’d happily trade his tomatoes and basil for my peppers and mint.

Having picked my spot, I decided that a combination of pots and raised beds would take less time to set up and give me some flexibility in placing what I want to grow. I’m not exactly what you’d call “handy,” so getting pre-made raised beds sounded like a lot more fun than making beds. Fortunately Home Depot had these cedar boxes that just slide together (no tools involved, yay!).

Raised garden boxes

Cedar boxes 16″ x 16″ x 4″

I’d already decided that I wanted my garden to include as many organic components as possible, so here’s where the research really kicked in. I’d waited too long to start plants from seed, so that meant finding a reliable source of quality organic plant starts (baby plants). While the big-box home improvement stores stock a small selection of certified organic plants, you’ll do better to go to a local, independently owned nursery. Typically you’ll find better quality plants and better customer service. (Not to dis the big stores, but sometimes the folks working the garden section don’t know much about gardening. Or they usually work in lumber, or electrical, or plumbing. You get the idea.) A nursery can provide advice on planting, fertilizing, and managing your garden. Two mid-peninsula nurseries that stock organic plants: Wegman’s Nursery in Redwood City and Common Ground in Palo Alto.

Pots and plants at Wegmans Nursery

The first load of pots and plants

Finally, I had to source the soil and fertilizer. This was a tough one, and probably where I spent most of my research time and energy. The large home-improvement stores and small nurseries carry “organic” soil, but you have to read the labels to see what’s really in it. The challenge was finding a brand of organic soil that didn’t contain chicken manure, blood meal, or GMO’s. Unfortunately, most of the companies that use these components can’t or won’t disclose their source, so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. For example, is the chicken poop in your soil happy, free-range chicken poop, or over-crowded, full-of-antibiotics, just-ate-the-dead-guy-next-to-me chicken poop? I mean, if I’m growing food in it, I want to know.

I ended up choosing Dr. Earth brand, which you can get from Orchard Supply. Dr. Earth is all about no GMO’s, chicken manure, or sewage sludge (who knew that was even an option in soil mixes??). Keeping it in the family, I also went with the Dr. Earth fertilizers.

Dr. Earth Pot o'Gold soil and fertilizers

Dr. Earth Pot o’Gold soil and fertilizers

So, I had my raised beds, pots, plants, soil, and fertilizer. All I had to do was wait for a not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-windy day, and I could put it all together. Fortunately Mother Nature cooperated this past weekend, and I was finally able to plant everything (well, almost). Ta-dah! The big reveal…

Full view of containers and raised beds

From bottom to top: Peppermint, spearmint, sage, Little Gem lettuce, Burgundy Red Mix lettuce, purple jalapeno, Indigo Apple tomato, jalapeno, Ancho chili

And a few closeups…

Left to right: Peppermint, spearmint, sage, Little Gem lettuce

Left to right: Peppermint, spearmint, sage, Little Gem lettuce

Little Gem and Red Burgundy Mix lettuces

Little Gem and Red Burgundy Mix lettuces

Purple jalapeno

Purple jalapeno — just because, well, it’s a purple jalapeno!

Lavender and lemon verbena ended up in pots on the other side of the yard, where they’ll also benefit from full sun.

Lemon verbena

Lemon verbena

Finally, yes, with the lime shortage in mind, I picked up a 5-gallon lime bush (no idea how I’m going to plant this thing). It will go in the sunniest corner of the yard, near the lemon tree.

Baby lime bush next to the lemon tree

Baby lime bush next to the lemon tree

There you have it: my attempt at a kitchen garden! I’ll try to post updates throughout the season, assuming the squirrels and raccoons behave themselves and stay the f— out. In the meantime, I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of what I might harvest later this summer!

Need help figuring out how to plant an edible garden? Check out this article from Houzz on growing edibles in 16 square feet. My go-to source for figuring out what plants will and won’t thrive in my area is the Sunset Western Garden Guide. (I received my first copy as a gift 20 years ago, and just finally bought the updated version this year.) For more garden and landscaping ideas and growing info specific to the Bay Area, Sunset.com is a helpful resource.

Have you planted a garden? What are you growing this year?

My-my-my-my Paloma!*

May 2, 2014 § 3 Comments

Cinco de Mayo, your annual excuse to drink too many margaritas, is coming up on Monday — although some of you over-achievers might be getting a head start this weekend (in that case: rock on witcha bad selves). You know I love my margaritas, but this year I’m celebrating by shaking things up with another classic Mexican cocktail: the Paloma.

Paloma cocktail

Paloma cocktail

What is a Paloma? And Why, might you ask, am I breaking tradition from my beloved hand-made margarita? It’s a story that’s part inspiration and part economic practicality.

As the New York times informed us back in March, there is indeed a lime shortage. If you’ve started shopping for limes for your Cinco de Mayo celebration, you might have noticed that they’re teeny and pricier than usual. NYT writer David Karp broke it down to trio of problems: “[t]he culprits are weather, disease and even Mexican criminals.” The US relies on Mexico for much of its year-round lime supply, so with multiple issues reducing the availability of limes and sending prices higher, the effects have trickled down to our local markets.

During recent trips to Sigona’s and Whole Foods markets, I saw a paltry selection of Mexican limes that were the size of Key limes and almost as expensive. And yet, there’s still an abundance of other citrus varieties grown right here in California, some of it even within 100 miles of the 650 (Meyer lemons and mandarin oranges are just a couple of examples). Among this plethora of pretty citrus are California ruby grapefruits.

Fresh California ruby grapefruit

Fresh California ruby grapefruit

Although we’re nearing the end of the season, rubies are sweeter now than earlier in the season, readily available in the market, and they’re a good value (more fruit per pound and at a better price than the teeny-tiny Mexican limes.) Yes, I love my margaritas, but when life gives you not-limes, you gotta get creative.

So what about that inspiration part I mentioned? Coincidentally, a few weeks ago, I had my first-ever Paloma at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. According to the bar menu, the ingredients are: Herradura Silver Tequila (as you might recall, my go-to tequila for margaritas), fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, soda, and lime juice. Grapefruit juice?! Not quite the Margarita I was craving, but eh, close enough. Never a fan of grapefruit, I was dubious, but figured why not? And this is why it’s good to try something new: the cocktail was delish — nicely balanced and refreshing! If I didn’t have to drive back to the 650 after dinner, I absolutely would have ordered another.

Flash forward a couple of weeks, and guess what turns up in my CSA box? Grapefruit — two of ’em (er, that would be grapefruits, then). As always, part of the fun of the CSA box is the “what am I going to do with that/those?!” game. But I’d been thinking about that Paloma I’d had at One Market, so the grapefruit question was easily answered: I have tequila, I have lime… hello, Paloma! All I needed was a recipe.

As it turns out, the classic Paloma recipe is basically grapefruit soda and tequila. Seriously. I prefer my cocktails sans bubbles, so this discovery was not making me happy. I was craving the fresh-juice Paloma I had at One Market, but with a few tweaks that would make it my own. The bubbles had to go — no soda, soda water, tonic or mineral water in my Paloma. A small amount of lime juice would add some tartness and balance the grapefruit, so the lime juice would be necessary, but not the star of the show. (Bonus, because, well, I didn’t want to be juicing bags of tiny limes all day long.) Finally, adding a little sweetness in the form of agave syrup would pull the whole drink together, smoothing out the tartness of the citrus. The only unknown was which tequila to use.

In my initial Paloma testing I went with a reposado because I wanted an added layer of flavor and complexity beyond a blanco tequila. But then I’d been thinking about a recent mezcal tasting at Loló Restaurant in the Mission and how that the sweet smokiness of a good mezcal might be an interesting pairing with the grapefruit.

If the word “mezcal” brings to mind something-like-tequila, but with a creepy-looking worm at the bottom, stop. There’s so much more to mezcal than a dead worm in the bottom of the bottle (and by the way, most quality mezcals do not contain a worm). I had my first taste of small-batch mezcal years ago when my friend Monica gave me an unlabelled, hand-painted bottle of the Oaxaca-produced spirit. The mezcal was smoky and sweet with herbal notes and that characteristic mezcal “burn” as it went down. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Mezcal is distilled from the cooked heart — the piña — of the maguey agave plant. It’s the cooking process, which involves fire roasting the piña for several days, that gives mezcal its characteristic smoky flavor. While a quarter of Mexico’s states are allowed to produce mezcal, most mezcal production takes place in Oaxaca. Recent years have seen a rise in the production of artisan/hyper-local versions of mezcal that focus on using agave plants from specific areas (for example, mountain vs. valley) and different methods of cooking the piña (steam roasted vs. fire roasted). Unaged mezcals are called “joven” (juvenile) and, like a blanco tequila, are clear spirits. The amount of smoky flavor in the mezcal will determine whether you want to sip it or use it for cocktails.

After what we like to call “serious research” around here (read: multiple cocktail and mezcal tastings), Mina Real Silver mezcal turned out to be the best choice for my Paloma.

Mina Real Silver Mezcal

Mina Real Silver Mezcal

Rather than the traditional in-ground fire roasting, Mina Real Silver is steam-roasted, which results in less smoke than mezcals produced by fire roasting the piña. On the nose, this mezcal is equal parts smoke, floral notes, and agave sweetness. It’s a nice pairing with the bright citrus combination of ruby grapefruit and lime. This drink is best served martini-style, rather than over ice, to fully enjoy the flavors. Give it a try!drink-side-view

Happy Cinco de Mayo! How are you celebrating this year?

Recipe: My Paloma

You’ll need a martini glass, cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.


2 oz freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice
½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
2 oz Mina Real Mezcal
½ teaspoon agave syrup

For the glass:

Wedge of grapefruit
3-4  Tbs Kosher salt

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, ½ oz = 1 tablespoon

How To:

  1. Pour salt on to a saucer. Run a wedge of grapefruit around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
  2. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with four or five cubes of fresh ice.
  3. Shake 4-5 times (not vigorously) to combine and pour into a prepared glass.
  4. Garnish with half a grapefruit wheel.

Tequila version: As I mentioned in an earlier post, I happen to be a fan of San Francisco-based Tres Agaves Tequila. If you want to try a tequila-based Paloma, substitute Tres Agaves Reposado for the Mina Real Silver mezcal.

(*To the tune of “My Sharona,” by The Knack.)

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