I long ago fell in love with the clean, crisp, sweet taste of Meyer lemons. And recently, Mexican foods guru Rick Bayless reminded me why.
The Meyer lemon (named for Frank Meyer, who discovered them over 100 years ago) is a cross between a lemon and possibly some variety of orange. Thin-skinned, they often mature to a yellow-orange color and are slightly less acidic than common lemons. I like that because the lower acid makes it so much easier to appreciate the vibrant taste of these lemons.
And I'm particularly fond of using them in drinks. That's just one reason I've fallen in love with Bayless' new cookbook, "Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks." In it, he has a recipe for Meyer lemon margaritas that uses tequila that has been infused with the zest of the lemons for four days.
Last summer, I experimented with infusing tequila with a split vanilla bean and rich roasted coffee, but I never considered citrus. This book was the perfect excuse to try more infusing.
When I read through the recipe, I realized that it was natural to use citrus to infuse tequila, and how special the Meyer lemon zest would make it and the margaritas. Thoughts of limoncello with a Mexican twist immediately came to mind. I love having the infused tequila on hand, which makes masterful margaritas, of course. But it's also delicious all on its own to be enjoyed as sipping tequila.
Besides the creative recipes, the best part of this cookbook is that Bayless provides two recipes for every margarita -- a single-serve cocktail and a pitcher version. And I thought the latter would be just perfect to get a Super Bowl watching party going. Not only is it a fun drink, but the tangy lemon flavor is perfect for cutting through all the rich, heavy foods we usually eat during the big game.
For ease, the entire recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated. That way when your guests arrive all you have to do is fill a cocktail shaker with ice, shake the drink to get it icy cold, and serve. You also could just serve it poured over crushed ice.
MEYER LEMON MARGARITA
Start to finish: 2 hours
(10 minutes active)
1 1/2 cups Meyer lemon tequila (see recipe below)
1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (4 to 5 lemons)
3/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup Meyer lemon simple syrup (see recipe below)
6 cups ice cubes
8 lemon twists, to garnish
In a pitcher, combine the tequila, lemon juice, triple sec and simple syrup. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
When ready to serve, fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice and pour in 1 cup of the margarita mixture. Shake, strain into two 6-ounce martini glasses and garnish each with a twist. Repeat for the remaining margaritas.
MEYER LEMON INFUSED TEQUILA
Start to finish: 4 days
(10 minutes active)
Makes one 750-milliliter bottle
8 Meyer lemons
750-milliliter bottle 100 percent blue agave blanco tequila
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest (colored layer of skin only) from the lemons in large strips. Place the zest in a large glass jar, then add the tequila and cover tightly. Let stand for 4 days to allow the flavors to blend, tipping the jar back and forth a couple times a day.
Strain out the zest, and the tequila is ready to use. Stored in a glass container or its original bottle, it will keep its vibrant color for 1 to 2 months.
MEYER LEMON SIMPLE SYRUP
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Makes 1 cup
2 Meyer lemons
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (colored layer of skin only) from the lemons in large strips.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the zest, sugar and water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture reach a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Strain out and discard the zest. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Keeps for several weeks.
(Recipes from Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless' "Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks," W. W. Norton & Company, 2012).