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The Love Road Margarita - A Cocktail That Could Make You Travel the World!

Hello Friends of Cocktails, how do you find inspiration to create the best cocktail in the world? The beauty of your surroundings or the thought of traveling the world are both a good start, including the heart-shaped road in the vineyards surrounding my hometown which inspired me to create what could be an entry to the Margarita Challenge 2024! That’s right, today I partnered with Cointreau to tell you all about their latest edition of the competition to find the World’s Best Margarita. 

Yes, the applications are open right now, and if you’re a bartender you should apply here and submit your entry before March 31st. The theme this year is to Capture The Flavor of Your City, by making a twist on the Margarita of course, but all of that got me thinking… if I’d apply - which I’m not - what would I make? Maybe I can give you an idea or two. Given today’s intro we’re making the Love Road Margarita using Cointreau l’Unique, Yogurt-washed Tequila, Acid-adjusted wine, and sea-salt saline solution.

We already talked about entering and winning a cocktail competition on the channel in the 1887 Old Fashioned with Coca-Cola Foam and Señorita Picante episodes, so in the same manner we’ll go through the rules, the theme, how to use that to your advantage, and when we reach The Bottom of The Glass I’ll tell you about the prize and an exciting twist for this year’s challenge. Quick note first though, this challenge is open to professional bartenders only, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to express the flavor of their city in a Margarita. 

Now where do we start when trying to capture the very essence of your surroundings in a drink? First, as mentioned, take note of the rules. Here you’ll need to use Cointreau l'Unique and salt, everything else is up to you. Then think about what makes your city or your area unique, what’s something you can showcase through a well-made drink? For example, Slovenia is a small, green country, and I don’t live in a huge city, so I looked for inspiration in rural areas and the things I can use from there. 

Slovenia also has “love” in its name, so that helped with naming the cocktail. You’ll have the best result when you combine the skills, ingredients and story into one cohesive unit so keep that in mind.  You want to show your craftsmanship through the carefully selected ingredients that tell a story of your cocktail. All of that combined accounts for 90% of the evaluation, and the last 10% is the visual presentation and the photo you provide so don’t forget about that part either. 

Cointreau l'Unique is what starts the party though - an orange liqueur where the essences of sweet and bitter orange peels are magnified with just three other ingredients: pure water, sugar and neutral alcohol. Margaret Sames, by some accounts the creator of the Margarita, famously proclaimed that “A Margarita without Cointreau is not worth its salt”. Speaking of salt, we’ll use two kinds from Piran salt pans, where it is still cultivated according to the method of more than 700 years ago.

Also, with 36% of land in Slovenia being agricultural, I looked to our winemakers, dairy farmers, fruit farmers and beekeepers for other ingredients and flavors, so I’ll use yogurt-washed Tequila and acidified white wine to twist my Margarita. I’ll garnish the glass with apple-flavored heart-shaped meringue and a Fleur de Sel rim too,  and once we finish the ingredients to make a great cocktail we’ll get on to the story behind it. 

The deadline is fast approaching, so let’s dive into it by starting with our Yogurt-washed Tequila. It’s Cocktail Competition Time!

Yogurt-washed Tequila

● 300mL · 10oz Blanco Tequila

● 100g Full-fat Strawberry Yogurt

I’m mixing the tequila with the yogurt in a container and letting it sit for 1 hour. During the process, the fat molecules in the yogurt bond with the alcohol, which will give us that added richness. This will infuse the spirit with the flavor and creaminess of the yogurt, adding a subtle richness to the final cocktail, without overpowering it. After 1 hour, place it in the freezer for another 2 hours, which will make it easier to strain the tequila through a coffee filter.

The yogurt also adds a little sweetness and imparts its unique taste profile, enhancing the complexity of the spirit without overpowering it in the cocktail. When it’s completely filtered, bottle, label and move on to acid adjusted wine.

Acid-adjusted Wine

● 200mL · 6.66oz Slightly Oxidized Cuvée Wine

● 30g Green Apple Peels

● 6g Malic Acid

● 2g Citric Acid

● 0.4g Ascorbic Acid

Add your ingredients into a blender, then blend everything for the acids to dissolve and the peels to blend completely. It can often happen that wine oxidizes if you’re not using it often in a bar and it gets discarded, so some slightly oxidized wine will be the sour part of our Margarita. After blended this will have a wonderful sour apple aroma, so now strain through a cloth filter - and help it along with a potato ricer if you’re in a hurry - then pour into a bottle, add a label, and this lime juice replacement is ready. 

We now need some saline solution, and I get asked about it a lot, so to make it all you need is to dissolve 20g of salt in 80g of water to get a 20% saline solution. That should be enough for around 500 cocktails, depending on how many drops you usually add, and now all we need is to prep our heart-shaped meringue. 

Heart-shaped Apple Meringues

● 30mL · 1oz Cryo-concentrated Green Apple Juice

● 3g Powdered Egg White

● 40g Super Fine Caster Sugar

● 0.25g Ascorbic Acid

● Green Food Coloring

Start by juicing the peeled apples leftover from our Acid-adjusted Wine, and after you juice the first few slices add the ascorbic acid so that all the following apples are juiced into the mixture with vitamin C - which prevents oxidation and discoloration of our juice. I’ll then place this in the freezer, because I want the water content to freeze, giving us a more intense and sweeter apple flavor. This is called cryo-concentration and I covered it with pineapple a while ago.

With the water frozen, I filtered the concentrated fruit juice, so we ended up with a little less but the flavor is cranked up to eleven. We’ll need just 30mL or 1oz of apple juice, which we’ll combine in a bowl with some green food coloring, to showcase the green colors of Slovenian landscapes, as well as the powdered egg whites and combine it with a hand mixer. When you see that foam is starting to form, slowly add the super fine caster sugar and continue mixing until you get stiff peaks. 

In the meantime preheat the oven to 90°C or 195°F, and transfer the meringue into a piping bag and use it to make small heart shapes on a baking sheet. Place that in the oven and bake for around 1 hour, checking on it regularly as the cooking time can depend on your oven. Once done, store them in an airtight container, but we’ll place one on the side of our glass in our final cocktail! straight away by using a small amount of raw honey to make it stick. 

Love Road Margarita

● 25mL · ~0.75oz Cointreau l'Unique

● 52.5mL · 1.75oz Yogurt-washed Tequila

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Acid-adjusted Wine

● 4 drops 20% Saline Solution

● 1 Heart-shaped Apple Meringue

● Salt Flower

Begin by using a small paint-brush to create a strip on the side of a rocks glass with Cointreau l'Unique and sprinkling it with salt flower, then stick the Apple Meringue to the side of the glass as well and place it in the freezer to chill while we create our drink. So into a chilled shaker add your Cointreau l'Unique, tequila, acidified Cuvée white wine, and saline solution made with ungrounded, unrefined sea salt from the Piran Saltpans in Slovenia.

Now shake well with ice and double strain into your well-chilled rocks glass that has a salt rim with Slovenian Salt Flower. A garnish of a green meringue heart, made with cryo concentrated apple juice, powdered egg whites and green food coloring is also added to the side of the glass to make a beautiful drink, and with that you’re ready to enjoy the Love Road Margarita… but not without first telling the judges the story of your unique Margarita. 

This is a love-letter to the green paradise I live in, where vineyards, pastures and orchards meet the sea. Infused with strawberry yogurt from a local farmer, tangy wine from a vineyard with a heart-shaped road, and a touch of hand-picked sea salt, this cocktail captures the essence of our local flavors and age-old traditions. Join me on a journey through love and nature in every sip of "The Love Road Margarita" – where our land and sea unite in blissful harmony - cheers!

Now, I could go through the tasting notes… that distinctive orange note, a roundness from the yogurt, strawberry and apple working with everything, and how it still has the Margarita profile, plus the wonderful heart garnish, but what’s important is what the judges think of our well-rounded cocktail, and now that we’ve reached the Bottom of The Glass I can tell you about the prize.

From all applications, ten finalists will be chosen to fly to France for three days of visits and mixology challenges, with the final event taking place at Cointreau's historic mansion in Angers. The winning recipe will earn you a trip for two to France and a sponsor budget for promoting your Margarita variation in the best cocktail bars selected by Cointreau - but that’s not all!

In an exciting twist, they’re also introducing “The Rookie of the Year” category, offering a great opportunity for all bartenders with less than two years of experience to mix their way into the spotlight - plus, I guarantee you’ll meet some amazing people along the way.  So take your chance, start working on your own creative take on the original Margarita, and don’t forget to apply here! I’ll see you next week, Friends of Cocktails, Cheers!

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