I recently watched a Disney Parks video featuring Hilda Castillo, tequila ambassador for the San Angel Inn, making La Cava del Tequila’s crowd-pleasing jalapeño margarita. This fan favorite has been on the menu since the lounge’s inception, and I think it’s the best of their mixed-drink offerings. In these waning days of winter, I find myself drawn more to tropical drinks as I anticipate the warmth of summer. Because it’s damn cold in Montana in the winter. As such, I find that I’d much rather celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a margarita than with a Guinness. With a little instruction from Hilda and some careful attention paid to the proportions being used in the video, I was able to pinpoint the exact recipe used in the lounge. Submitted for your approval below, here’s our attempt at turning your St. Patrick’s Day celebration into a spicy fiesta.
In case you’re interested, here’s the aforementioned video.
Normally when you see drink recipes you’ll have ingredients broken down in precise measurements. I don’t really think that’s practical, so the measurements for this drink (and every cocktail that comes out of our home bar) are in parts. The “part” will depend on how much you’re making. It could be an ounce, a fistful, or a cup. If your college experience is anything like mine was, it could be a 5-gallon spackle bucket mixed in a trash can, but that’s a lot of limes to squeeze for this drink. For this article’s purposes, our “part” is a shot glass.
You may notice that I didn’t use the tequila Hilda used in the video. Good bar etiquette dictates that you not ask for liquor substitutions. It doesn’t matter if Don Julio Reposado is your favorite tequila; I’m sure Hilda chose Tequila El Mayor Blanco because its flavor complements the other ingredients in the drink, and so that’s how you should have it. That said, we keep El Jimador in our bar because it’s tasty, smooth, and surprisingly inexpensive. It’s made by the fine folks that bring you Herradura, which is one of our favorite mid-tier tequilas. This one tastes nearly as good for about half the price. Since it’s what we have on hand for margaritas, it’s what we used tonight. You can use whatever white tequila you want, but keep in mind that the better the tequila tastes, the better your margarita is going to taste. I submit that El Jimador is a cost-effective, palatable substitute. That and the other ingredients listed below are what you’ll need to recreate La Cava’s famous Jalapeño Margarita.
- 2 parts freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 parts tequila blanco (El Mayor or your favorite)
- 1 part Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
- 1 part agave nectar
- 1/3 of a jalapeño pepper, cleaned and cut in large pieces
- 3 half-inch slices of a halved and cored cucumber
- Salt, for rimming the glass
For tools, the one thing you really can’t do without is a muddler. If you don’t have one, they’re very easy to find. With the popularity of mojitos, even your corner grocery will have at least one inexpensive option. They come in many shapes and materials; I prefer wood. But make no mistake, the back of a tablespoon is no substitute for a muddler in this application.
First, prep your glasses. In liquor stores, you’ll see special salts meant specifically for rimming glasses.
These are garbage. Don’t buy them. First of all, the salt is no better than your normal kosher or flaked sea salt. Secondly, they’re expensive. Third, you’re not stupid. You can figure out how to rim a glass without the aid of a sombrero. All you need is a small plate, a wedge of lime, and some salt. The type of salt is up to you, just don’t use standard iodized table salt. I used regular kosher salt because I had it on hand. Pink Himalayan or a flavored salt would work well here too. La Cava uses a hibiscus salt to rim this drink.
Take your wedge of lime and run it along the rim of the glass to moisten. It helps if you slice a small notch into the wedge and lightly squeeze as you’re running the lime along the edge of the glass. Pour some salt onto a plate and gently rock the rim of your glass into the salt. Once the glass is rimmed, fill it generously with ice and set aside while you make your drink.
Next, take your chopped green stuff and put it in a glass or shaker. If you’re using a Boston shaker like I do, put the ingredients for one drink at a time in a pint glass for easy mixing. Add half of the lime juice so that you have some moisture for your muddle. Go to town on the ingredients. You don’t want to pulverize the peppers and cucumber into a mush, but you want to release the essential oils in the pepper and get a decent amount of juice out of the cucumber. Muddling should take no more than a minute. Once that’s done, add your liquids, ice and shake. Strain into your salt-rimmed glasses and enjoy!
Just a couple notes about ingredients. I mean it when I say to use freshly squeezed lime juice. You can’t use a margarita mix here. You can’t even use the shelf-stable lime juice that comes in a bottle in the grocery store. Even 100% lime juice in a bottle isn’t going to give you a good margarita because it’s more acidic and lacks the essential oils and fresh flavor that you’ll get by juicing a whole lime. It’s more labor-intensive but it’s well worth the work. You may also notice that my margarita looks darker in color than the one served at La Cava. That’s because I used raw agave nectar, which is the color of molasses. There are lighter agave nectars available. Use whatever you like, but they may affect the color of your drink. Last, if you like heat, don’t be afraid to use a hotter pepper. The next time I make these drinks, I might substitute all or part of the jalapeño for habanero. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to rim the glass with a smoked salt or even ghost pepper salt. Just don’t lick the rim.
What is your favorite drink from La Cava del Tequila? What Disney drinks do you like to make at home?