Three Margarita Alternatives

July 22, 2010 · 6 comments

Margarida Alternatives Main

Here’s a repost of a favorite from last summer — three great warm-weather cocktails to serve as alternatives to the margarita.

Warm weather, meat on the grill, margaritas — they all go together, at least at our house.  While I can’t really get enough of the first two, I can max out on the third, and not just because of my blood alcohol level.  Of course, there are other refreshing summer cocktails, like the WASPish gin and tonic and its Anglophilic cousin, the Pimm’s cup, but this summer I went looking for some contenders to fill the citrusy-sweet-with-a-bit-of-a-bite spot normally occupied by our lady from Mexico.  These three were the winners.   Some advice –they’re crowd-pleasers so make them in advance and in quantity.  And have the number of your local cab company handy.

Pisco Sour

This is sometimes called the national drink of Peru (or Chile, depending, on, I think, whether you’re Peruvian or Chilean).  It’s made from Pisco, a fruity and fragrant grape brandy produced in those countries, shaken into a refreshing frothy concoction with lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white and topped with a dash of aromatic bitters.   The idea of adding egg white may seem a little weird at first, but don’t be put off.  The texture is light, smooth and creamy, and not at all “eggy.”  Even though the recipe is for two drinks, these can be made in quantity in advance, with the egg dissolved into the mixture.  Just shake them with ice two or three at a time and serve immediately.


Equipment:  cocktail shaker, strainer

Ingredients (for two drinks)

5 oz Pisco

1-2 oz fresh lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup*

1 egg white

dash of Angostura bitters

*To make simple syrup, add a cup of sugar to a cup of hot water, stir to dissolve and cool.

A Note on Making Cocktails in Quantity

Making pitchers of cocktails in advance of an event is a good way to free yourself up to mingle with guests or finish making dinner.  Here are some tips to ensure success.  First, it’s best to avoid simply multiplying the quantities of ingredients by the number of desired servings.  The sweetness and intensity of fruit juices (and some spirits) varies, so it’s best to start with the base spirit (such as gin or vodka), and add the other flavors a little sparingly at first, tasting and adjusting as you go.  Second, when you taste your cocktail, chill your test portion in a glass with ice for a minute or so before you sip.  At room temperature, the drink will taste too “hot,” possibly leading you to over sweeten it or over dilute the alcohol, and a little water from melting ice is a key ingredient in the flavor balance of any chilled drink.  Third, unless you plan to serve it all immediately, leave the cocktail mixture in a pitcher without ice and shake or ice it in glasses only as it is served.  It’s also handy to put out glasses, ice and shakers and let your guests serve themselves, particularly if you’re hosting without help.

Elder Collins

I made this one up.  It’s a relative of the Tom Collins, a not-so-interesting traditional cocktail involving gin, lemon, soda and a maraschino cherry.  This one has a continental twist, though, with the addition of St. Germain, a spirit with the subtle fragrance and flavor of elderflowers (and no cherry).  It tastes like summer.  (For a less expensive version of this cocktail, substitute the elderflower drink concentrate available at Ikea, but use half the quantity.)  This can be served shaken and up, or on the rocks with splash of soda for a lighter libation.

Recipe (for one drink)

Equipment:  cocktail shaker, strainer

2 oz vodka

1 oz gin

1 oz St. Germain

juice of 1/2 lemon

simple syrup (optional, to taste)


Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.  Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon.  Alternatively, serve over ice with a splash of soda.


Another South American national drink, this time of Brazil.  It’s made with cachaca (pronounced “ka-shaw-sah”), a rum distilled from sugarcane juice, originally developed in the 1960s as a fuel by the Brazilian Space Agency.  Mixed with sugar, muddled lime and plenty of ice, it makes a cocktail as refreshing as it is bracing.


Equipment:  muddler (a bar tool of wood or stainless steel, shaped like a very small baseball bat).  If you don’t have one, the blunt end of a lemon reamer or the handle of a large wooden spoon will work well too.)


3 oz cachaca

1 lime

2 teaspoons granulated sugar


Cut the lime in quarters, but not all the way through, so that the pieces are held together by the skin at the bottom.  Drop it in a sturdy rocks glass, sprinkle the sugar on top, and then squash it with the muddler, extracting as much juice as possible.  Cover with ice cubes, pour on the cachaca, stir and garnish with a slice of lime.  For a lighter drink, top with a splash of soda.  To make in quantity, you can squeeze the limes instead of muddling them and mix the ingredients in a pitcher.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Buscemi July 23, 2010 at 6:19 am

All three look refreshing, I especially like the Elder Collins. Although I am not sure what elderflowers taste like, I am sure it is delicious. Oh, and one other thought – the “tasting (and adjutsing) while making” can happily lead to the party beginning before the guests arrive! One parting comment, the cocktail napkins look great!

Amelia Puell July 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Love that you included the Pisco Sour – such an undiscovered gem! Oh, and for making in quantities so that your froth from the egg white lasts, I highly suggest that instead of using shakers you go traditional Peruvian style and mix up the ingredients in a blender! Yup, trust, me you can our from it for quite a while. Oh, and of course, using the best Pisco is always key, and in both NY and San Francisco you can find Macchu Pisco which seems to be the one that has won the most awards!

cnordquist July 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for those tips, Amelia. Glad you liked the post.

cnordquist July 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Thanks, Tony!

Jane July 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Love the Elder Collins! Tried it last night, and it will go on our list of “house cocktails” this summer. Even served it with the same cocktail napkins. Thanks for this great new drink.

forex robot August 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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