Hot & Cold Drinks

Canela Pumpkin Torito

Over the years, and traveling all around to different cities, I’ve realized it’s incredible how much you can learn about Mexican food being in the US. Because Mexicans you meet here come from so many different parts of Mexico, each with their own unique regional cuisine and traditions.

Such was the case when Nándo and Germán responded to my post on social media wondering if anyone in New York would be willing to invite me over for lunch, while I was there for work earlier this month.

Nándo and Germán generously welcomed me into their home in Brooklyn. Where their friends were waiting, including Cristina who traveled all the way from Arizona. I was so thrilled to meet them!

Germán, whose family is in Puebla, made his mom’s adobo for me. Meanwhile, since they were so kind to open their doors to me and do the cooking, drinks were on me. So I brought the tequila. I whipped up a version of a traditional drink from Veracruz for everyone, called a torito. A name I love because torito translates to “little bull,” which refers to the little kick it gives. It can be deceiving because it’s so sweet and creamy.

Since pumpkin is such an essential ingredient in Mexico, I did a pumpkin torito this time. It has pumpkin puree, canela or true cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. To give it that kick, I use Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila – its deep, rustic, caramelly flavor goes harmoniously with the pumpkin.

When the meal was ready, I felt like I was in a fonda back in Mexico. Nándo made my arroz rojo to go with Germán’s adobo chicken, and we had pinto beans on the side. It was phenomenal, really delicious and comforting.

I felt honored Germán made his mom’s adobo for me, as sharing family recipes truly means a lot.

If Nándo and Germán weren’t already kind enough, they let me bring along my production team and their cameras. So you can watch what happened in the video below…

And, of course, I want you to be able to try my spiced up canela pumpkin torito for the holidays. The recipe is below, so invite over some friends, grab a bottle of tequila, and whip up a batch.

Canela Pumpkin Tortito
Canela Pumpkin Torito
Print Recipe
4.67 from 6 votes

Canela Pumpkin Torito

Since pumpkin is such an essential ingredient in Mexico, I did a pumpkin torito. It has pumpkin puree, canela or true cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, and a splash of tequila (or leave it out if you choose).
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: canela, cinnamon, cocktail, Fall, frappe, holiday, pumpkin, spiced, tequila, torito
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila
  • 2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup smooth pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground canela or true cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Ice to serve

Instructions

  • Place the tequila, evaporated milk, condensed milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, canela or cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in the blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a pitcher, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Alternatively, you may pour directly over ice cubes or add some ice cubes to your blender and make it a frappé! In any case, serve very cold.

Notes

Torito de Calabaza y Canela

Melon Basil Margarita

I love that my work takes me to different cities throughout the United States. And I love having a chance to meet people I’ve connected with, whether through social media or email. Sometimes they will tell me they tried some of my recipes…

The last time I went to Los Angeles, one of our producers reached out to Liz and Ramon, who have watched my show for a long time, talk me regularly on Facebook, and even made the trip all the way from Los Angeles to San Diego to come to one of my live events. They were asked if they’d like to make some of my recipes on camera, but weren’t told that I was going to be there.

So it was a great surprise when I walked in. And it was so exciting for me to see how they have made my recipes their own and are now part of their weekly meals. They had invited their family and friends and were making my Cali-Baja Fish Tacos and my Queso Fundido with homemade chorizo from Ramon’s brother. I cannot even begin to tell you how delicious that chorizo was!

In return for them welcoming us into their home and feeding me and my team, well, drinks were on me! I decided come up with a new drink to share with them, a Melon Basil Margarita. It has the fresh taste of the basil, the sweet from the honeydew melon, and the tangy lime juice you crave in a margarita.

When I took out the bottle of Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila, Ramon told me it was the drink his father-in-law offered the first time he was invited into his home. Of course, I now had to know the story of how him and Liz met… Turns out, Ramon was planning to become a priest when he saw Liz for the first time in church and fell for her. Eight months later they were engaged and gone where Ramon’s plans to be a priest.

He wasn’t invited over to his father-in-law’s for that drink, until after he took Liz to church and married her. But it just goes to show how not only dishes, but ingredients, in this case the Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila, really tie families and friends together.

You can watch all that happened in the video below…

I loved that Melon Basil Margarita so much, I’m sharing it with all of you right here. I hope you’ll grab some tequila and give it a try.

Melon Basil Margarita
Melon Basil Margarita
Print Recipe
4.8 from 5 votes

Melon Basil Margarita

This Melon Basil Margarita has the fresh taste of the basil, the sweet from the honeydew melon, and the tangy lime juice you crave in a margarita.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: albahaca, basil, cocktail, honeydew, lime, Margarita, melon, tequila
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila
  • 1 cup orange liquor
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3 cups diced fresh honeydew melon
  • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños coarsely chopped, seeds on (you can add jalapeño
    to taste)
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • Lime quarters and coarse salt to rim glasses

Instructions

  • Rim glasses with lime and salt.
  • In the jar of a blender, pour the lime juice, tequila, orange liquor, and maple syrup. Incorporate the honeydew, basil, jalapeño and a cup of ice. Puree until completely smooth.
  • Pour into prepared glasses.

Notes

Margarita de Melón con Albahaca

Hora de Celebrar! Pomegranate, Tequila, Chile y Limón

The leaves have already turned orange, yellow, red and brown here in DC meaning it’s the most celebration-packed time of year. There is Hispanic Heritage Month, Fall and Harvest celebrations, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving, Passover, Christmas and New Years, just to mention some. I did not even include all of the year end office, school, neighborhood and friend get-togethers.

Boy did this year fly by! I’ve had no time to think about my 2019 New Years resolutions. Not that I ever follow through on them, but I used to at least think about them…

Lately, I’m telling my boys how amazed I am at how fast the time passes. When I was in middle school like Juju, I remember feeling every hour of every day pass, as if churning ice cream by hand… so slow. Coming home from school was a long awaited haul, and getting to the weekend an eternity. As I got older though, time seemed to be marked by the weeks. By college the months seemed to run into each other, only to stop and catch their breath during school breaks.

When I got married and moved to the US, I was so stunned by the change of seasons. It was their passing the baton from one to the other that seemed to mark my pace. Witnessing the seasons changing was new to me having come from Mexico City, where there seems to be one eternal season with a crazy rainy interruption.

Well, the last few years I’ve barely been able to grasp what the marks of time are and can only feel it whirling on! I blink an eye and it’s summer. I blink again, and we seem to be speeding like mad to wrap up the year. I swear the entire year feels like what an hour used to feel like when I was Juju’s age. No surprise then, the faster the years seem to go, the more I want to celebrate anything and everything.

For us Mexicans, celebrating means having tequila around. We even joke about it. You got a promotion at work? Come over for some tequila! You are getting married? Do you have enough tequila?!? You have a dinner at home and are having me over? Can’t show up without your favorite tequila because, frankly, you probably don’t have enough.

Aside from sipping it neat, I love coming up with one new and fabulous cocktail every year to mark our holidays. It has become a trendy thing around here and now my friends expect it. So this year, this is the one. I was daring and bold and it paid off. I call it Spiced Up Pomegranate, Chile y Limón and it is a delight! And it’s very easy to make. You could even make it ahead of time, too.

I start off with a flavored simple syrup. Many people seem baffled when they hear the term simple syrup. Mixologist jargon for sure, it sounds like something complex to prepare or something you get at a hard to find specialty store. But simple syrup is nothing more than sugar dissolved in water! And you can flavor it any way you want. For this cocktail, I flavor it with whole allspice berries, true cinnamon also known as canela, a whole clove, and the rind of a lemon. It makes for a simple syrup that is fragrant, citrusy, lightly spiced up, and has warm comforting tones from the canela. The more you let the simple syrup sit and become infused, the more the lemon rind will also absorb the simple syrup and become candied. Then it is a treat of a garnish to bite into as you sip your cocktail.

Once you have the spiced up simple syrup, you blend it with the lively and tart pomegranate juice, an entire fresh and grassy jalapeño – do not remove the seeds please – and fresh squeezed lemon juice. For the tequila, I use Gran Centenario Reposado, which is mildly fruity and teasingly sweet. It has a woody fragrance, and you can taste an echo of almond and vanilla in it that compliments the syrup and the pomegranate. They have a page on Facebook and Instagram, if you want to know more about them.

This Spiced Up Pomegranate, Chile y Limón cocktail is so multilayered and irresistible it’s never an afterthought. You want to savor every single sip. It will claim its delicious place at center stage of your celebration.

spiced up pomegranate cocktail

Spiced Up Pomegranate, Chile y Limón Cocktail
Print Recipe
4.5 from 4 votes

Spiced Up Pomegranate, Chile y Limón Cocktail

This Spiced Up Pomegranate, Chile y Limón cocktail is so multilayered and irresistible it’s never an afterthought. You want to savor every single sip. It will claim its delicious place at center stage of your celebration.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cocktail, lime, pomegranate, tequila
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1/2 stick (about a 1” piece) true cinnamon or canela
  • 1 whole clove
  • Rind of a lemon plus a quarter of the lemon to rim the glasses
  • 3/4 cup Centenario Reposado Tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeño stemmed (seeding optional) more to taste
  • 2 cups ice
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground true cinnamon or canela

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, water, allspice berries, cinnamon, whole clove and lemon rind. Set over medium heat and let the sugar dissolve, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes, until you cannot see the sugar granules anymore.
  • Remove from the heat. Let it steep anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours. When ready to use, strain the spiced syrup into a small bowl or measuring cup. Reserve the lemon peel and cut it into 6 pieces.
  • In the jar of a blender, add the tequila, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, jalapeño and strained spiced syrup. Puree until completely smooth. Add the ice and puree again.
  • On a small plate, combine the turbinado sugar, salt and ground cinnamon. Rub the top of 6 glasses with a quarter lemon or water and rim with the sugar mixture. Fill each glass with the pomegranate drink, garnish each with one piece of the sweetened lemon peel, and serve!

Notes

Coctel Picosito de Granada, Chile y Limón

Malted Tequila Milkshake

Why a malted tequila milkshake, you may ask? Because we can!

And because it is outrageously delicious and silky and smooth and a true treat.

And because we have so much to celebrate: Mexican cuisine is stepping out of the “ethnic” denomination and proudly stepping into the mainstream as people’s appetite has increased to the point of wanting to get to know it better…

And because misconceptions about Mexicans, Mexican food and Mexican ingredients continue to be broken, and the beauty, diversity, richness and wealth of what “Mexican” encompasses is being acknowledged.

And because the myth that tequila is only worthwhile for being drunk as shots during Spring Break no longer holds true. There is not only good, but phenomenal quality tequila that can be sipped as the finest of whiskeys. To boot, it can also be used as a fine ingredient for mixed drinks, and it has so much versatility that there is even exquisite tequila liqueur that can be sipped as an apéritif or used for desserts.

And because we have the freedom to play in our kitchens, with much respect for our heritage and the ingredients that come along with it, I have taken the liberty of creating this glorious grown up milkshake! I wish I could have made it in time for inclusion in my upcoming cookbook Mexican Today. But every single recipe in there is a recipe I am proud of, whether a rediscovered classic or a new dish. My hope is you will savor every bite of what you try from it, as we do at home.

And because I want to make a toast to you all, with all my gratitude, for coming to this site to visit, for watching any or many of the episodes of my PBS series and  letting me come into your home. Hopefully, I will get to meet many of you during my upcoming 20-plus city book tour.

And because my promise to you is to keep on working as hard as I can to make every single recipe you try here completely worth it.

With much love,

Pati

 

malted tequila milkshake
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Malted Tequila Milkshake

Why a malted tequila milkshake, you may ask? Because we can! And because it is outrageously delicious and silky and smooth and a true treat. And because we have so much to celebrate: Mexican cuisine is stepping out of the “ethnic” denomination and proudly stepping into the mainstream as people’s appetite has increased to the point of wanting to get to know it better…
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ice cream, malted milk, milkshake, pati's mexican table, tequila, vanilla
Servings: 1 serving
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Agavero Tequila Liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 1 1/4 cup good quality vanilla bean ice cream

Instructions

  • Pour the milk, vanilla extract, Agavero tequila liqueur, and malted milk powder in the blender and puree until completely blended. Incorporate the ice cream and blend on low speed, just until combined. Pour into a milkshake glass and serve along with a straw or large spoon.

Notes

Malteada de Tequila

Coco-Lime Margarita: Let’s Toast to Cinco (and a New Cookbook…)!

It is almost time for Cinco.

If you are a Mexican living in the US and you want to get attention, if you want to make some noise, if you feel that you have something good to share or say: Cinco de Mayo is your day!

My first cooking demo: Foods from Puebla during Cinco.

The first time I got invited to cook on TV: Chicken Tinga for Cinco.

My first radio interview: Do Mexicans celebrate Cinco?

The biggest sales day for my first cookbook: Cinco.

The day I was honored to be invited as guest chef to cook at the White House: You guessed it, Cinco!

Heck: you aren’t Mexican and hoping for an opportunity? Wait for Cinco anyway.

The funny thing is, in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a local celebration mainly in the city of Puebla, where a small Mexican militia beat a large French army in 1862. The French won right back and it took a few years for Mexico to shake itself off from an imposed European Monarchy.

Cinco is not a national holiday. There aren’t fiestas throughout the country that day. There isn’t Mariachi music on every corner. No margaritas generously poured in the middle afternoon specifically on that day. We don’t dress Mexican, partly because we are Mexicans every single day of the year, but mostly, because when we dress ourselves in the color of the Mexican flag it is either for Mexican Independence Day -September 16- or when Mexico is playing an international soccer match. And then, we dress the entire country as well.

But in the US, for whatever reason, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate anything and everything we love about Mexico, Mexicans and Mexican food. And thus, there are Mexican fiestas everywhere, Mariachi music playing on street corners, slushy margaritas of all kinds being poured in the middle of the afternoon, and people – be them Mexicans or not– dressing as Mexicans.

And for that: we need to toast and celebrate!

Any occasion to celebrate the beauty, the warmth, the richness of Mexican food and culture, the resilience of our people, is welcome by Mexicans everywhere.

To help celebrate, here is my gift for you this Cinco: A crazy good Coco-Lime Margarita. One that transports you to the beach where you can taste the salty sea breeze in the rim and munch on toasted sweetened coconut with a sprinkle of lime zest as you sip along a creamy and luscious Margarita.

It is a very special one for me, too, because I developed it for my next cookbook, which I am working on. It is called “Mexican Today” and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I am thrilled to be working with my same editor, Rux Martin, and so very thankful she considered publishing my second cookbook.

Please do look out for it! I am having so much fun with it and I know you will too. I am going wild in those pages… It will come out in 2016. Guess when? A month before Cinco!

From this Mexican to you, with all my gratitude and love, I hope you enjoy this Margarita.

Print Recipe
3.6 from 5 votes

Coco-Lime Margarita

Any occasion to celebrate the beauty, the warmth, the richness of Mexican food and culture, the resilience of our people, is welcome by Mexicans everywhere. To help celebrate, here is my gift for you this Cinco: A crazy good Coco-Lime Margarita. One that transports you to the beach where you can taste the salty sea breeze in the rim and munch on toasted sweetened coconut with a sprinkle of lime zest as you sip along a creamy and luscious Margarita.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cocktail, coconut, lime, pati's mexican table, tequila
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut such as Bakers’ Coconut Angel Flakes
  • Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt plus more for the glasses
  • 1 lime zested then quartered for the glasses
  • 1 1/2 cups cream of coconut
  • 1 cup white or silver tequila
  • 2/3 cup Triple Sec Cointreau or another orange liqueur
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cups Ice cubes for pouring on the rocks or making slushy style

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the angel flakes on a small baking sheet, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and the lime zest, mix and spread again. Place in the oven and bake for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the coconut is just barely beginning to color. It should not brown. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a small bowl. Reserve.
  • Pour some salt onto a small plate. Rub the rims of the glasses with the quartered lime, squeezing some of the juice over them. Then gently dip in the salt, coating all around the rims. Set aside.
  • Combine the cream of coconut, tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice in a blender and puree until completely mixed and smooth. If making slushy style, add the 2 cups of ice and puree until almost smooth. Serve with the toasted flakes on top.
  • If serving on the rocks, fill each glass with about 1/2 cup ice cubes and pour in the margarita mixture. Top with the coconut flakes.

Notes

Margarita de Coco con Limón

Ponche: Or My Mom’s New Year’s Warm Fruit Punch

My mom is the best cook I know.

Growing up in Mexico City, she used to make the most incredible ponche, or warm fruit punch, every New Year’s Eve. Just once a year.

My sisters and I used to pace up and down the kitchen as she peeled, diced and threw the ingredients – many of which were only available at this time of year in the markets – into a gigantic pot. To tame our impatience she would peel a few pieces of the fresh sugar cane meant to go into that pot, and cut it into smaller sticks, so we could chew and suck its sweetly tangy juice, ever so slowly, as we waited for the ponche to be served.

Coincidentally, the ponche was always ready as guests were about to walk in the door. Then, she would start ladling the ponche into big mugs as we each called out our requests. I asked for extra sugar cane and tejocotes, or crabapples, one of my sisters asked to have hers without raisins, another with no fruit but just the punch liquid, and another with extra fruit and no prunes.

After the kids were served, she would grab the bottle of rum and spike the ponche for the grown ups. Everyone held their cups with both hands, trying to sip as steam covered their faces with each attempt, as it used to be served so very hot.

As life sometimes goes, my parents divorced. A long time ago, actually. I must have been fourteen or so. Since then, my mom has only made ponche once for New Years Eve, at my in-laws in the small town of Valle de Bravo, after my oldest son was born. It was as crazy good a ponche, as ever.

ponche ingredients

I am very lucky though. Although my parents are divorced, and I don’t get to spend New Year’s with all my sisters and their families and my parents, as if they were a couple still, we get together as often as we can. We are all growing old, of course, but everyone is still here, tagging along.

Most years, I get to spend New Year’s with my in-laws and my husband’s entire family. Although they don’t make ponche, my mother-in-law makes one mean tamal casserole, and all her grandchildren (they are so many!) have a blast. This year, I am planning on making for them my mom’s New Year’s punch. Maybe my mom will come visit, one never knows.

I am even more lucky, and you are too, because I called my mom yesterday morning to get some extra details on the recipe.

So… I am sharing the recipe with you to say gracias. Thank you for allowing me to come into your homes with my recipes and stories. Thank you for taking the time to write and say hi. Thank you for sharing with me your stories; for telling me what you have tried or hope to try in your kitchen. Also for telling me what you don’t want to try.

Because food connects us all. And because the ponche tasted almost as sweet yesterday when I made it for my boys, as when my mom used to make it for her girls. I hope it tastes even sweeter to you, for whomever and whenever you decide to make it.

With my best wishes for the new year and with all my gratitude,

Pati

ponche

P.S. This recipe is to start you off. You can also use any other fruits you fancy. Pears are great, so is pineapple. Other fresh and dried fruits, and even nuts, work their wonders when being simmered all together in a warm drink with a base of piloncillo and the cinnamon.

ponche
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

New Year’s Warm Fruit Punch

My mom is the best cook I know. Growing up in Mexico City, she used to make the most incredible ponche, or warm fruit punch, every New Year’s Eve. Just once a year. My sisters and I used to pace up and down the kitchen as she peeled, diced and threw the ingredients – many of which were only available at this time of year in the markets – into a gigantic pot.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: apple, apricot, ceylon, cinnamon, cocktail, crabapples, guava, orange, piloncillo, prunes, Recipe, rum, sugarcane, tejocotes
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tejocotes or crabapples fresh or preserved
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) water
  • 2 true or ceylon cinnamon sticks
  • 8 ounces piloncillo about 1 cup packed if grated, or dark brown sugar
  • 1 pound sugarcane peeled and cut into pieces of 4" to 5” in height and ½" width, or thawed from frozen
  • 8 ounces yellow Mexican guavas cut into bite-sized chunks, or thawed frozen
  • 2 apples of your choice peeled, cored, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins or to taste
  • Rind of an orange
  • 1/2 cup rum sugar cane liquor, brandy or tequila, optional

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, bring a couple cups water to a boil. Add the tejocotes, remove from heat and let them sit for 5 minutes, drain. If using the preserved tejocotes, just drain. Once cool enough to handle, peel them, cut them in half and discard their seeds.
  • In a large pot or clay pot, pour 12 cups water with the cinnamon and piloncillo, set over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and add the sugar cane, along with the guavas, apples, prunes, apricots, raisins and tejocotes. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add the orange rind and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • If you will take your ponche spiked, this is when you add the rum. Stir and cover until ready to serve.
  • Discard the cinnamon and orange rind before serving. Serve in mugs, trying to add a bit of each fruit.

Notes

Ponche de Año Nuevo

Totally Unexpected: Cucumber Martini

I had fallen for the city of Puebla almost 20 years ago. And you know how that goes, sometimes when going back to things you loved while young and are nostalgic about, there’s a risk of disappointment.

Just the first night I was back, I felt myself fall for it all over again. After days of scouting, eating, researching, testing and filming with Cortez Brothers, I left with a disorganized mental list of things I didn’t even had the chance to try.

See, the charm is everywhere: from the history inhaled in each corner; to the talavera tiles splattered all over buildings, tables, vases and plates; to the food which makes you want to lick the plates clean, be it paper plates at markets – like this one holding cumin tamales with a side of peanut atole…

Cucumber Martini 1

…or fine talavera holding Mole Poblano enchiladas,

Cucumber Martini 2

at El Mural de los Poblanos, one of the city’s top restaurants with to-die-for food.

Cucumber Martini 3

But what I fell for the most, were Poblanos-namely the people from Puebla. Poblanos will give you their time and attention, no matter how busy their schedule may be. And they will do it wholeheartedly with care and sweet enthusiasm.

No wonder why, in the midst of a city where just about any random street gives you a thousand photo shots to aim at, Poblanos are falling all over each other.

Cucumber Martini 4

Seriously: There are people hugging everywhere…

Cucumber Martini 5

…despite posts, whether it rains or shines, and no matter what time of day.

I mean, forget about hugging, there seemed to be a lot of kissing too (I am all for public displays of affection, because hey, we have just so much time on this earth and if someone is lucky to be with whom they love and they want to show it, I say go for it).

Cucumber Martini 6

So, I fell for Puebla, which was to be expected. But what was totally unexpected in my hunt for tasting more scrumptious Mexican food, which is found in every corner of this city, was finding some of the best Italian food I have ever tried.

That’s right.

In the middle of the heart of Puebla.

And what do you know? There had to be a love story involved…

Cucumber Martini 7
photo Nacho Guani

Luis Carpintero, the owner, had worked in restaurants and bars for most of his life -since he was a kid in his mother’s small restaurants. He fell in love with Monica and for years their dream was to open up a restaurant together. Since Puebla has such extraordinary Mexican food wherever you turn, they opted for Italian, which is their favorite after Mexican (like me…).

A friend of a friend of a friend of Luis knew of a Mexican woman, who had gone to Italy 3 decades ago. She had fallen in love with an Italian chef named Piero Giangrande and dragged him to Tlaxcala, a neighboring state of Puebla, where he opened up shop. Luis and Monica sought him out and for ten years planned this Italia Mia endeavor.

There is a large wooden oven for pizza and pasta made from scratch. About that pasta: I had such a hard time choosing which to have that I ended up sampling from everyone’s plates and still couldn’t decide. Chef Piero, watches over the staff as they roll out every single sheet of pasta. That one right there is stuffed with veal, pork, Parmesano Reggiano and Prosciutto, and it is served with a white truffle sauce that is as delicate in your tongue and as strong in its intensity after you swallow.

Cucumber Martini 8

Luis and Monica put their lifetime savings and the entirety of their hopes and hard work into this place. And you can feel it: sparks fly when they light up the bar (photo does not do justice to it really, it was taken with my phone).

They have a Martini menu with 22 options where they serve, as Luis calls, tragos coquetos – flirty drinks. And flirt they do!

Cucumber Martini 9

The Cucumber Martini that Luis and Monica suggested I try bewitched me so, that as soon as I had the chance back in DC I ran to the liquor store to get Limoncello, one of its main ingredients. I even made it at a function last week and guests were marveling about it.

Cucumber in a Martini?!? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Try it: you will not believe how charming it tastes. Just like Puebla, anything that I tried there, whether Mexican or not, makes me want to come back for more.

Cucumber Martini 10

As you take each sip, you get the chance to munch on the diced cucumber, which has been soaking in the martini. When you try it, you will find the experience to be totally unexpected too.

Cucumber Martini main
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4.67 from 3 votes

Cucumber Martini

The Cucumber Martini that Luis and Monica suggested I try bewitched me so, that as soon as I had the chance back in DC I ran to the liquor store to get Limoncello, one of its main ingredients. I even made it at a function last week and guests were marveling about it. Cucumber in a Martini?!? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Try it: you will not believe how charming it tastes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 min
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cocktail, cucumber, gin, lemon, Limoncello, Recipe, simple syrup
Servings: 1 martini
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounce Bombay Gin or gin of your choice
  • 1 ounce Limoncello
  • A slice of lemon and cucumber to macerate
  • 1/2 ounce natural or simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon diced cucumber

Instructions

  • In an empty shaker or martini mixer combine all the liquors, slices of lemon and cucumber, and the syrup. Mix and macerate all the ingredients for about 5 minutes. If making a large quantity, let it sit in the refrigerator in a pitcher up to 12 hours.
  • Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain and pour the liquid into a chilled martini glass. Decorate the martini with the small pieces of cucumber and a spiral of cucumber skin.

Notes

Martini de Pepino

Crazy for Tepache

I am crazy for Tepache. Gently sweet, with an innocent hint of home brewed alcohol, a deep freshness and a gorgeous amber color.

Tepache: A home made fermented drink that comes from the state of Jalisco – also breeding ground of other Mexican symbols like Tequila, Charros and Mariachis. Tepache has a base of fresh pineapple, true cinnamon, piloncillo and water and has been drank in Mexico since Pre-Colonial times.

I have made it many times throughout my life.

First, when Daniel and I moved to Texas, to celebrate our finding piloncillo at a U.S. grocery store. Later, when we moved to DC, to soothe the heat of that first long summer and to make our new home, feel like home. A couple years ago, I brewed liters to share with a large crowd for a class I taught on foods from Jalisco.

Then, I forgot about it. Until this summer, when we moved, the heat started pumping up and I unpacked my old clay pot from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. A pot that is perfect for brewing Tepache, which is so simple to make. That is, if you can keep an eye on it.

You need to find a ripe pineapple. Almost entirely yellow and soft to the touch.

Tepache 1

After you rinse it, remove the top.

Tepache 2
Do away with the bottom too…

Tepache 3

 

Cut into thick slices, whichever way you want, horizontal or vertical, including the peel. The peel will help the drink ferment and give it an interesting depth of flavor.

Tepache 4

 

Cut the slices into thick chunks (yeah, I do love my knife…)

Tepache 5
There you go, the gorgeous work of a fine, loyal knife…(I so, so, so, love my knife)

Tepache 6
Pour water into the pot. If you don’t have a clay pot, use any kind of large pot…

Tepache 7
Drop in a cinnamon stick, preferably true cinnamon, if handy…

Tepache 8

 

Drop in the piloncillo, which gives anything it touches that rustic small Pueblo flavor. Just throw it all in there. No need to chop. No need to shred. It will dilute in the water as you bring it to a simmer.

Tepache 9
Oh…, and five or six whole cloves, for that touch of spice.

Tepache 10
Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. You know the liquid is ready when the piloncillo has diluted and you get this lovely light brown color…

Tepache 11
Light amber.

Here, you can see the color of the liquid better with my grandmother’s glass spoon. Light amber.

Gorgeous amber.

And it gets even better after you add the pineapple…

Tepache 12

 

Turn off the heat, and add the pineapple chunks.

Tepache 13
Cover the pot and let the mixture sit and rest, and begin to ferment, for two days, or about 48 hours. Any area of your kitchen is fine, preferably the warmest area, where you won’t have to move the pot around for that period of time.

Tepache 14
After two days, the liquid will begin to show some bubbles. That’s when its ready for you to pour in the beer to speed up the fermentation process. You can go the old fashioned way, and not add any beer and let it sit for another week, or more…

Tepache 15
Any lager that you like. Dos Equis works for me.

Tepache 16
Cover the mix, and let it sit for about 12 to 15 hours more.

Now, remember I just said Tepache is so simple to make, if you can keep an eye on it? Well, right after I poured the beer in this step above, I had to leave for New York. My husband was left in charge of keeping an eye on the Tepache, but he was too busy keeping an eye on our three monsters.

So the Tepache ended up tasting like vinegar.

The trick is, right after you pour the beer, don’t let it sit for more than 12 to 15 hours. After that time, strain it and either drink it or place it in a big pitcher in the refrigerator.

Tepache 17
So there I went again… and this time, we were all keeping an eye on the Tepache. It went so fast!

Now we are at it again, once more… But my lesson learned: you have to watch your own Tepache.

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5 from 4 votes

Tepache

Tepache: A home made fermented drink that comes from the state of Jalisco – also breeding ground of other Mexican symbols like Tequila, Charros and Mariachis. Tepache has a base of fresh pineapple, true cinnamon, piloncillo and water and has been drank in Mexico since Pre-Colonial times.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time2 d 12 hrs
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: beer, cinnamon, cloves, cocktail, piloncillo, pineapple, Recipe
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe pineapple or about 3 cups
  • 4 liters water or 16 cups
  • 1 pound piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cup lager beer

Instructions

  • Using the traditional big eathenware jug (or a large pot), bring to a boil the 16 cups water along with the piloncillo, cinnamon stick, and whole cloves. Simmer, stirring once in a while, for about 10 minutes or until the piloncillo has dissolved.
  • While the water is simmering, wash the pineapple thoroughly, and remove the stem and bottom. Cut it into 2 inch cubes, without taking off its rind.
  • Once the flavored water is ready, add in the pineapple chunks and cover. Let rest for 2 days, or 48 hours, in a warm area of you kitchen. The mixture will begin to ferment and bubble on the surface. Add a cup of lager beer, stir well, and let it sit for up to 12 hours more. Don't let it ferment much longer, or you may end up with vinegar instead!
  • Strain tepache through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, and serve very cold. You can either refrigerate it or serve over ice cubes.

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days: Mexican Hot Chocolate

Story goes, that for centuries, a woman could find a mate in many Mexican regions if she was able to make a good and considerable amount of foam when making hot chocolate. Otherwise, suitors would not turn their heads to her direction regardless of any other virtue. What’s more, it was the mother of the groom to be, who judged how good the foam was.

Thankfully, my mother in law (who loves to dip Conchas into hot chocolate) didn’t abide by that tradition or I wouldn’t have gotten married. When I met my husband, the best I could whip up were some decent scrambled eggs and an extremely sweet limeade. Forget about a worthy, frothy, delicate, silky foam to top a rich tasting chocolate.

But it turns out that producing an admirable chocolate foam may be a sign of things to come: it may show how hardworking, dedicated, focused, energetic and skilled a person can be. Not only do you have to break a sweat, but also develop an effective technique and then there is also the matter of style…

No easy feat: Think cappuccino foam, with no machine. Using an ancient tool passed down through generations just for this purpose always helped, and does to this day.

molinillo

The molinillo is made from a single piece of wood, with moving rings, shapes and indentations carved into its different parts, a sturdy bottom base to rest on a pot, a soft round handle for an easy rubbing of the hands, plus gorgeous decorations. All with the aim of being able to make the best quality, and most amount, of foam.

A whisk is not the same. But if you don’t have a molinillo, you can substitute. Just use it as you would a molinillo, with a vertical tilt and rub it between your hands as if you were trying to warm them up. Photos are sometimes better than words…

frothing Mexican hot chocolate
You have to beat like mad.

Crazy, really.

frothing Mexican hot chocolate

Leaving the foam aside, what matters most is the flavor of Mexican chocolate. Which I want to get to fast, because it is about to snow again, it is cold, and there are few things that are as comforting, filling and soothing as a Mexican hot chocolate.

Mexican style chocolate bars are made with toasted cacao beans ground with white sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and sometimes vanilla. There are other variations, but I think this is the basic one. In Mexico, there are molinos, or mills, that are dedicated to doing only this and they smell like chocolaty heaven.

If you find Mexican chocolate bars already prepared, like the authentic Oaxacan chocolate of El Mayordomo (though there is an increasing number of new makers) or more easily available  and tasty ones like Chocolate Abuelita or Ibarra, you only need to add it to milk or water, heat it, mix it, and if you want some foam, work out a little.

Mexican hot chocolate disc

If you can’t find them, here is how you can get the same rich result.

Grab a couple ounces bittersweet chocolate of good quality, a small piece of True cinnamon, white sugar and almond meal…

Mexican hot chocolate ingredients

Almond meal is the already finely ground almonds. But you can also finely grind your own. Trader Joe’s has an excellent one, which as the label says, its good for baking & breading and I guess they can also add For Mexican Style Hot Chocolate too…

almond meal for Mexican hot chocolate
Place those ingredients in a sauce pan and add milk, which is my preference, or water or a combination of both, and some vanilla extract.

milk and vanilla for Mexican hot chocolate

Set the pan over medium heat, and once the chocolate dissolves remove from the heat. Beat the chocolate with a molinillo or a whisk, I really recommend that part.

In Mexico there are tall pots made specially for beating the chocolate, called chocolateros, but any sauce pan will do…

frothing Mexican hot chocolate

Forget about being worthy of a mate…. The satisfaction of drinking that hot, thick, creamy and tasty chocolate, at the same time as the frothy, cloudy and delicate foam touches your lips, is worth the while.

finished cup of Mexican hot chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate
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4.75 from 4 votes

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Story goes, that for centuries, a woman could find a mate in many Mexican regions if she was able to make a good and considerable amount of foam when making hot chocolate. Otherwise, suitors would not turn their heads to her direction regardless of any other virtue. What’s more, it was the mother of the groom to be, who judged how good the foam was.
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: almond, ceylon, cinnamon, cocktail, Dessert, mexican chocolate, milk, Recipe, vanilla
Servings: 2 cups
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk and/or water
  • 2 ounces Mexican style chocolate such as Abuelita, Ibarra, Mayordomo

If you can’t find Mexican chocolate substitute for:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate of good quality
  • 1 true cinnamon stick of about 2 inches
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons almond meal or finely ground almonds
  • 4 tablespoons sugar more or less to taste

Instructions

  • In a saucepan add the milk or water with the Mexican chocolate or the substituting ingredients.  Set over medium heat until the chocolate has completely dissolved and the liquid is simmering. 
  • Remove the pan from heat, and if you so are inclined, beat with a whisk or molinillo, until the hot chocolate has a thick layer of foam on top. Serve while very hot. 

Notes

Chocolate Caliente

Comfort me with Café de Olla (or Coffee from the Pot)

As we returned from our 10 day vacation to Mexico this December and walked out of the Dulles airport, I felt my bones freeze. Say what? I told my husband, I think I am turning around and catching the next flight back to Mexico.

Now we are home, with the heating so high it seems we moved to the Equator. And I admit that the cold and especially the snow, which I am watching right this minute through my kitchen window starting to magically fall from the night sky, is one of the things I love about living in the Eastern United States. We can experience the full change of seasons.

So instead of complaining, this is what I do: I take out my Piloncillo, or brown sugar, my bark of Ceylon or True cinnamon, some dark roasted coffee and make myself a Café de Olla.

The Café de Olla is one of the most comforting things I can think of. Not only for when its cold outside. It is also wonderful to soothe the end of a rich meal or to start a cold morning with some cookies or toast on the side, or rather, dipped inside the coffee.

It is called Café de Olla because for centuries it was prepared, and still is in some parts of Mexico and Mexican homes, in clay pots. Pot translates to Olla in Spanish, so that explains the funny translation to Coffee from the Pot. The clay pot imparts a peculiar earthy and deep flavor to the coffee. But if you don’t have a clay pot, that should not stop you from making it. The combination of coffee with piloncillo or dark brown sugar and cinnamon is extraordinary by itself as well.

As I am gearing up for an exciting 2010 with fascinating topics to research and recipes to try and test for the next series of classes at the Institute, there is one thing I realize never ever changes in each single menu we offer: there is always Cafe de Olla after the end of the meal for our guests. Our regulars demand it. And me and my cooking team can’t start the day without it.

Comfort Me with Cafe de Olla 2-thumb-510x342-661
With the spirit of continuing to welcome 2010, from my cooking team and myself -we have been so lucky to have been together for almost three years- we wish you a delicious 2010 filled with Café de Olla to warm your soul, your belly, your cold mornings and late nights.

cafe de olla 2
Here I am holding on to one, for dear life, while the winter lasts…

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5 from 4 votes

Café de Olla

The Café de Olla is one of the most comforting things I can think of. Not only for when its cold outside. It is also wonderful to soothe the end of a rich meal or to start a cold morning with some cookies or toast on the side, or rather, dipped inside the coffee.
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cinnamon, coffee, piloncillo, Recipe
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 9 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons coarsely ground dark roasted coffee
  • 4 ounces piloncillo or about 8 to 9 tablespoons grated (can substitute for dark brown sugar) and can add more or less to taste, depending on how sweet you like it
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  • Heat water in a pot. When it comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat to low and add the coffee, piloncillo and cinnamon stick. Simmer for about 5 minutes, give it a couple stirs and turn off the heat. Let it sit covered for about 5 more minutes. Strain before serving with a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Or then again, pour into a french press, press down and serve.

Micheladas and Spiced Up Pepitas: You Are Invited!

For Labor Day, our friends Jeannie and Bill invited us to their farm on the Eastern shore. Jeannie said snacks and grown up drinks are welcome. We can’t wait! Since we are going to be a large crowd, meals there are so leisurely and her family likes to try new things, I want to bring an interesting and friendly snack. Since I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin seeds, spiced up pumpkin seeds came to mind. Micheladas are a great pairing for them, especially since this may be one of the last weekends with enough heat for such drink.

Pumpkin seeds, Pepitas in Spanish, are one of the things I used to stuff in my suitcase when visiting Mexico. That’s because they have a mellow, somewhat nutty, almost sweet, barely chewy and nutritious nature, but also because of its multiple uses in Mexican cooking. They are used hulled and un-hulled, toasted or fried, to make salsas, moles, soups and drinks. There is more to Pepitas than being used for an unnoticeable role as a salad topping. So you can imagine my happiness when I began noticing their appearance in not just one, but many grocery stores here in the US.

pepitas 1(Pepitas gently frying in my pan, popping and changing from an olive green to a light brown toasted color)

Pepitas are also a craved for snack for many Mexicans, including myself, when going to the movies. Un-hulled, soaked in salted water, dried and toasted, they are sold in little packages in street stands and bring long-lasting entertainment. It takes a couple hours to go through a small bag, as you place one by one between your teeth to crack the salted shell open and then triumphantly pop the hidden and gentle tasting Pepita into your mouth. You get the pleasure of repeating that again and again throughout the ups and downs of the film.

However, one of my favorite ways to eat Pepitas is hulled, toasted or lightly fried and tossed with ground dried Chile Piquí­n (which can be bought ready to use), salt and sugar. It takes five minutes to make this tasty crunchy nibble. If you make plenty, there is extra to use, not for an unnoticeable role but for a stellar one, on top of salads or fish. The mix of chile, salt and sugar makes them come alive in your mouth.

As for the Michelada, it is the ultimate Mexican way to drink beer. Beer purists: do not fear, you will like what you try. Non-beer drinkers: You will love beer this way.

Classic Michelada is made by pouring beer onto a cold or frozen glass mug with a salted rim (previously rubbed with lime) and freshly squeezed lime juice at the bottom. Some people add ice, some people don’t. For the more playful Michelada, a combination of salty ingredients (such as Maggi and Worcestershire sauces) and spicy ones (Tabasco, Valentina, Cholula, or any spicy sauce) are added before pouring the beer.

There is no agreement as to how to pour the beer. I make mine with lime juice, some dashes of Maggi, Worcestershire and Valentina, and pour the beer up to the salted rim. That way I can taste a bit of the salt around the rim with each sip. Some people pour the beer quickly so it goes over the rim and bubbles up with the salt so that the volcano explodes over their hands, and then they drink the top of the delicious disaster and everything is already mixed up (!)

Here are the super easy recipes for the Pepitas and the Micheladas… why work hard on Labor Day?

Spiced Up Pumpkin Seeds
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4.5 from 4 votes

Spiced Up Pumpkin Seeds

One of my favorite ways to eat Pepitas is hulled, toasted or lightly fried and tossed with ground dried chile piquín, salt and sugar. It takes five minutes to make this tasty crunchy nibble.
Prep Time0 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chile piquín, pepitas, pumpkin seeds, snack, spiced
Servings: 1 1/2 cups of pepitas
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon corn, safflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground chile piquín or ground Mexican chile, more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar more or less to taste

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking add the pumpkin seeds. Saute, stirring often, for about 4 to 5 minutes, they will have begun making popping sounds and some of them will begin gaining a nice tanned brown color.
  • Transfer to a mixing bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the remains of the oil behind in the pan. Sprinkle with the ground chile, salt and sugar and toss to coat. As they cool down, they will dry up and become crunchier. Eat or store covered with a lid. They will keep for about a week, if you don’t finish them before then.

Notes

Pepitas
dressed up Mexican beer or michelada
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5 from 2 votes

Dressed Up Mexican Beer

Dressed Up Mexican Beer recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 3, Episode 9 “Pot Luck Party”
Prep Time1 min
Cook Time2 mins
Total Time3 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: beer, hot sauce, lime, Maggi sauce, pati’s mexican table, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
Servings: 1 beer
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 beer mug chilled
  • Kosher or sea salt for coating the rim
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 beer preferably Mexican, chilled
  • Dash of hot sauce like Tabasco Cholula or Valentina (optional)
  • Dash of a salty sauce like soy sauce Worcestershire or Maggi Sauce (optional)
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt (optional)

Instructions

  • Pour a layer of salt onto a small plate. Rub the rim of a chilled beer mug with the lime wedge and dip the rim gently into the salt to coat. Place the ice cubes, if using, into the mug. If making a basic michelada, add the lime juice on top of the ice, then pour in the beer.
  • If making a michelada especial, salt the rim of a chilled beer mug as directed above, then place the optional ingredients, to taste, into the mug. Stir the mixture lightly then pour in the beer.

Notes

Michelada

Jamaica Flowers Charm the Kitchen

Growing up in Mexico City, my sisters and I used to prepare exotic meals, perfumes and potions for the inhabitants of our enchanted forest. That was our dog, the bluebird, snails, butterflies and ladybugs that happened to peek into our backyard and witness our extravagant mess. It also included any family friend who happened to stop by and become a willing victim. We sometimes offered cooking classes too.

My mother set us up in the backyard on a big blanket with random pots and pans, while she cooked laborious weekend meals. There was a fig tree, an apple tree, a peach tree, a couple of what we called Chinese orange trees and tons of azaleas and herbs that offered an immense array of witch-crafting material. But among our most prized ingredients were dried jamaica flowers, known here as hibiscus flowers, stored in a big jar in the kitchen.

Although not native to Mexico, with a contested origin between Africa and India, jamaica flowers arrived in colonial times and are now deeply integrated into Mexican cuisine. Mainly used to prepare agua de jamaica, one of the freshly flavored waters (aguas frescas), they are enjoyed daily throughout Mexico. Agua de jamaica is extremely popular because its tart flavor, also refreshing and light, complements Mexican food so well.

As a treat, and to make our wait more bearable, my mother would bring us a big pitcher of agua de jamaica. We would drink it, of course, but we would also pour it into ice cube molds with wooden sticks to make mini popsicles, or mix it with gelatin to make happy-looking jello, both of which are common in Mexico.

It was more fun, however, to sneak into the kitchen to get the dried flowers and experiment firsthand. Oh, how fascinating it was to see how they slowly infused the liquid in which they were soaking with an intensely deep and vivid red color. Their flowery and fragrant smell seemed to help with our magic spells, too.

After my husband and I moved to the U.S. in the 1990s, I would stuff them in my suitcase or ask someone to bring some when they visited from Mexico. My craving intensified while I was pregnant, since aside from their tangy taste (more welcome when carrying extra weight), their diuretic and digestive properties and richness in vitamin C and minerals are common knowledge in Mexico.

Luckily, I don’t have to stuff them in my suitcase anymore. As with most ingredients used to cook Mexican food, they can be found in a store close by or with the click of a button, which is wonderful because I use plenty of them. The traditional jamaica water is a staple on my table, but most of all, I am still playing with them in my own enchanted forest or busy kitchen.

Like other adventurous Mexican cooks, I have been experimenting with and expanding their culinary uses. For example, the easy-to-make concentrate used to flavor water makes a rich and sophisticated base for a thick and syrupy sauce to drizzle over gamey meats such as duck, venison or lamb.

An even more daring approach, which I find irresistible, is to munch on these wholesome flowers. However, they are hard and rather tasteless as they are. They have to macerate for at least a couple of hours before they become deliciously chewy and release their tart and cranberrylike flavor. Thus, they are perfect for making exotic vinaigrettes.

The concentrate has also been splashed into margaritas for some time now, and I was recently surprised to find hibiscus-infused tequila at a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. While I am no tequila connoisseur, it tasted heavenly.

These days when my mother visits, she tries to set up my three boys on a big blanket with pots and pans in our backyard. Within 10 minutes, the potion-making ends in a wrestling match. However, since one of their favorite things is to have brownies outside, maybe next time we bake some I can drizzle sweetened jamaica syrup and whipped cream on top. That is a recipe I still haven’t tried.

Article written and photos taken for and published by NPR’s Kitchen Window on July 22, 2009.

jamaica water
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4.67 from 6 votes

Hibiscus Flower Concentrate

Although not native to Mexico, with a contested origin between Africa and India, jamaica flowers arrived in colonial times and are now deeply integrated into Mexican cuisine. Mainly used to prepare agua de jamaica, one of the freshly flavored waters (aguas frescas), they are enjoyed daily throughout Mexico.
Prep Time0 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Concentrado, concentrate, flowers, hibiscus, jamaica, water
Servings: 5 cups
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups (about 2-3 ounces) dried hibiscus or jamaica flowers
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Instructions

  • In a 6- or 8-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add flowers, stir and simmer over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool a bit.
  • Strain mixture into a large container (with a lid to cover later), and add the sugar and lime juice. Stir until well-dissolved.
  • Once the concentrate has cooled, cover well and refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator for months.

Notes

Concentrado de Jamaica
jamaica water
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Jamaica Water

Jamaica Water recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 6 "Hibiscus Flowers"
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: agua fresca, beverage, coconut water, drink, hibiscus, jamaica, Mexican, non-alcoholic, refreshing, water
Servings: 4 to 5 cups
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

Jamaica Concentrate (makes about 5 cups):

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups dried hibiscus or jamaica flowers about 2-3 ounces, depending on how tightly you pack the cups
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste

Jamaica Water:

  • 1 cup of the Jamaica Concentrate
  • 3 to 4 cups water

Instructions

To make the concentrate:

  • In a saucepan, pour 8 cups of water and place over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the jamaica flowers, simmer at medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool down and strain into a heat proof glass or plastic water jar. Add the sugar and lime juice, mix well, cover and refrigerate.
  • It will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 months.

To make the jamaica water:

  • When ready to serve, dilute 1 cup concentrate with 3 to 4 cups water, or to your liking, and some ice cubes.

Notes

Agua de Jamaica
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4.43 from 7 votes

Hibiscus Flowers and Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus Flowers and Hibiscus Tea recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 4, Episode 10 "Modern Mexico"
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: drink, hibiscus, honey, jamaica, tea
Servings: 6 cups tea
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 ounces dried hibiscus flowers

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, bring water and honey to a boil. Stir in dried hibiscus flowers, stir and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes, until flowers are completely rehydrated and soft.
  • Strain flowers, reserving liquid for tea, and finely chop. Set aside.
jamaica popsicles
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4.86 from 7 votes

Jamaica Popsicles

Jamaica Popsicles recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 6 “Hibiscus Flowers”
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Chocolate, coconut, flowers, hibiscus, jamaica, mango, Paleta, Popsicle, rum
Servings: 8 popsicles
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

To make Jamaica Concentrate (makes about 5 cups):

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups, about 2-3 ounces, dried hibiscus flowers depending on how tightly you pack the cups
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar or to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice or to taste

To make Jamaica Popsicles:

  • 2 cups hibiscus flower/jamaica concentrate
  • 3/4 cup mango peeled, pitted diced
  • Chocolate morsels to taste optional
  • Shredded coconut to taste optional
  • For adult fun you can make them grown up and add some Rum!

Instructions

To make the concentrate:

  • In a saucepan, pour 8 cups of water and place over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the jamaica flowers, simmer at medium heat for 10 minutes and turn off the heat. When cool, strain into a heat proof glass or plastic water jar. Add the sugar and lime juice, mix well, cover and refrigerate.

To make the popsicles:

  • Pour 2 cups of jamaica concentrate into 8, 4 ounce molds. Add pieces of mango, chocolate and coconut. Place in freezer until set and frozen, about 4 to 5 hours. Enjoy!

Notes

Paletas de Jamaica
Jamaica Water Main
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Seared Duck Breast with Hibiscus Flower and Orange Sauce

Easy-to-make hibiscus flower concentrate is used to make a rich and sophisticated base for a thick and syrupy sauce to drizzle over gamey meat, such as duck.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: duck, duck breast, edible, flowers, hibiscus, jamaica, meat, Naranja, orange, pato, Pechuga, Recipe
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 4 cups jamaica or hibiscus flower concentrate
  • 2 cups chicken broth homemade or store-bought
  • Rind of an orange
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick about 2 inches long (use Ceylon or true cinnamon if you can)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste

Duck Breasts:

  • 6 duck breasts with skin about 6 to 8 ounces each
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground, or to taste

Instructions

Sauce:

  • Pour concentrate and broth into a medium-sized heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and add the orange rind, bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, vinegar and salt. Simmer at medium-high heat for about 35 minutes.
  • Bring heat down to medium-low, as the sauce will have reduced considerably and will be simmering too strongly. Keep on a low simmer until the sauce achieves a thick, syrupy consistency, about 10 more minutes. Don’t let it thicken too much, as the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove the spices using a slotted spoon or strainer, and reserve in a container.
  • If you are not going to use it in the next couple of hours, or you made more than you need, let it cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat before using.

Duck breasts:

  • Thoroughly rinse the duck breasts under a thin stream of cold water and pat dry. Make 6 to 8 diagonal cuts through the skin of each breast, being careful not to cut through the meat. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, place the duck breasts skin-side down and sear for 6 to 7 minutes, until the skin is brown and crisp, and most of the fat melts and turns into liquid.
  • Move the breasts, skin-side up, to an ovenproof dish or pan. Place in the oven for 5 to 9 minutes, depending on how rare you like your meat: about 5 minutes for quite rare and about 8 to have a nice pink center.
  • Remove the breasts from the oven and let them sit for a couple of minutes before slicing. Slice diagonally along already marked skin. Drizzle jamaica and orange sauce on top.

Notes

Pechuga De Pato Con Salsa De Jamaica Y Naranja
Jamaica Water Main
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Watercress, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad with Hibiscus Flower Vinaigrette

Hibiscus flowers are hard and rather tasteless as they are. They have to macerate for at least a couple of hours before they become deliciously chewy and release their tart and cranberry-like flavor. Thus, they are perfect for making exotic vinaigrettes.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Resting Time4 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Berros, Ensalada, flowers, goat cheese, hibiscus, jamaica, Nueces, pecans, Queso De Cabra, Recipe, salad, vinaigrette, watercress
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup safflower or corn oil
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup hibiscus flowers
  • 12 ounces watercress rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces fresh goat cheese cut into 12 slices (can be crumbled, too)
  • 1/2 cup pecans or pine nuts lightly toasted

Instructions

  • Pour the champagne vinegar into a 3- to 4-quart mixing bowl. Slowly add both the olive oil and the safflower oil as you whisk them into the vinegar with a fork or whisk. Mix in the minced garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the flowers and toss them well. Let them macerate from 4 to 6 hours.
  • Remove the flowers with a slotted spoon, reserving the vinaigrette. Chop the flowers and return them to the vinaigrette. You may use then, or cover and refrigerate up to a week. Mix very well before using and taste for seasoning as it may have become a bit more tart as the days go by and need more salt and sugar.
  • Place the watercress in a salad bowl. Toss with some vinaigrette and top with goat cheese slices and toasted pecans or pine nuts.

Notes

Ensalada De Berros, Queso De Cabra Y Nueces Con Vinagreta De Jamaica

We could all use a little Horchata…

No matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t stay dry.

A single step out of the plane and it all seemed part of a magical realism novel from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. In that hot, humid and tropical pueblo, every move was slowed down in a permanent mist, which made my clothes feel damp. Under the open sunny sky, that mist was shiny and full of light as it transformed the colors from the exotic overgrown plants, colorful houses and small streets. There were cute little insects, bees and hummingbirds moving all around. Wide chubby trees offered some shade, as people walked by with no hurry, wearing earth colored hats.

And everything, absolutely everything, was infused with the lusciously sweet aroma of vanilla.

No. I don’t do drugs.

This is a true description of a small town in the region of Totonacapan in the state of Veracruz, where vanilla originated and is still heavily grown. Also where my husband and I were invited to a wedding, more than a decade ago. And it was in that small pueblo, where I tasted the best horchata I have ever tried.

Granted, memory has its ways of doing its own little thing. And granted, I was much younger and a complete newlywed, so probably more melodramatic. But I would bet this sweet, comforting, silky and refreshing horchata my hand is holding, that if I were there today my description would be just the same.

One could say I got lucky recently at a cooking demonstration and dinner for the Smithsonian. In small part by meticulous planning and in large part by chance, everyone there must have felt transported to Veracruz. Here’s why:

Son de Madera had just performed Son Jarocho music. The entire Mexican Cultural Institute was infused with the aroma of the vanilla beans and extract we had been cooking with all day, which was shipped from a company in that region to create the vanilla inspired menu. An unforeseen thunderstorm had left behind a wet ambiance. And to top it all off, in that hot summer evening, a couple air conditioning units decided to contribute to the programs’ authenticity and take a brake.

Horchata 1(Members from Son de Madera, getting ready for an outstanding performance)

As the 100 audience members listened to my description of the steamy pueblo, I kept wiping my forehead dry. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in amazement: Indeed! It was tropical, hot and humid. All we were missing were the cute little insects, bees and hummingbirds.

It was a good thing that aside from wine and peanut Toritos, an original aperitif, we had big glass barrels filled with this cold homemade horchata. People could drink as much of it as their hearts pleased.

As it gets hotter as the summer advances, and we are not even near August, I am sharing the recipe with you too… It is very easy to make.

There are many versions of horchatas in Mexico. Some have a base of white rice while others use cantaloupe seeds. I prefer the former. But rice horchatas can be made in many ways. Some add condensed and/or evaporated milk. I add milk, which is more traditional, as well as vanilla extract and true cinnamon. And rather than grinding the rice first, I like to soak it for a couple hours before it is pureed and strained. It seems easier, and somehow, has more flavor.

(Rice and cinnamon soaking in warm water, getting ready for an outstanding performance too!)

But the special spin of this horchata, which is not that common and makes it go from delicious to you can’t have anymore because I am finishing it all up, is coconut water. It makes it thirst quenching and energizing, as it brings you a couple steps closer to those tropical pueblos. Plus, it adds a soft layer of thickness without making it heavy.

There is always a shortcut to most things in the kitchen… If you don’t want to make horchata from scratch, you can find horchata concentrate in many stores or online. Just add coconut water as you mix the concentrate with water and/or milk. But if you have a bit of extra time to spare, try making it from scratch. I am sure you will enjoy it.

Horchata main
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Horchata with Coconut Water, Cinnamon and Vanilla

This is a true description of a small town in the region of Totonacapan in the state of Veracruz, where vanilla originated and is still heavily grown. Also where my husband and I were invited to a wedding, more than a decade ago. And it was in that small pueblo, where I tasted the best horchata I have ever tried. Granted, memory has its ways of doing its own little thing. And granted, I was much younger and a complete newlywed, so probably more melodramatic. But I would bet this sweet, comforting, silky and refreshing horchata my hand is holding, that if I were there today my description would be just the same.
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 10 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cinnamon, cocktail, coconut water, mexican vanilla, milk, Recipe, rice
Servings: 6 glasses
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 cups long or extra long white rice
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cinnamon stick (Ceylon or true cinnamon, if you can)
  • 2 cups coconut water can be fresh or canned
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top optional

Instructions

  • Place the rice in a bowl, cover with hot water. Roughly crumble cinnamon piece into the rice mix and let it all sit and rest anywhere from 2 to 8 hours outside of the refrigerator.
  • Place half of the rice mixture in the blender with the coconut water and vanilla and blend until smooth, strain into a pitcher or container. Place the other half of the rice mixture in the blender with the milk and the sugar, pure until smooth and strain into the same pitcher or container.
  • Stir well and serve over ice cubes, or place in the refrigerator until it is cold. Serve with more ice cubes to your liking and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top if you wish to do so.

Notes

Horchata