Cocktail experiment: Sweet Broiled Lemon Margarita (by way of Tony Conigliaro)

grilled lemon

When I was in San Francisco a few weeks back, I popped into the awesome Omnivore Books and picked up a copy of Tony Conigliaro’s new book, Drinks.

It’s a really interesting book:  deeply scientific, with lots of rumination about concept drinks and recipes that most people can’t make at home unless they happen to have sous-vide equipment and malic acid on hand.

This is not one of those recipes.

Rather, this is from the “Culinary Skills” chapter (aka Chapter 2), one of the more accessible chapters in the book — although readers still will need to flip to the back of the book to learn techniques like say, how to make Grilled Lemon Juice.

Note:  Conigliaro’s recipe is called the “Grilled Lemon Margarita.” I used the broiler on my stove rather than an outdoor grill, so to my American mind the key ingredient is “Broiled Lemon Juice” — not “Grilled Lemon Juice.”

Semantics aside, Broiled Lemon Juice is worth the effort — it tempers the tartness found in uncooked lemon juice, and creates a lightly caramelized flavor and slightly thickened texture. Explains Conigliaro:  “Grilling the lemon relieves the fruit of its acid bite by caramelising the fructose and killing its vitamin C.”

Conigliaro rightly points out that the caramelized/caramelised lemon juice is a perfect match for the caramel and toffee notes found in reposado tequila. I also experimented with rye whiskey — also full of caramel and vanilla notes — and it was an equally harmonious match.

Home bartenders will find two hurdles in trying to make drinks from this otherwise fascinating book. First, there’s the molecular wizard hurdle — I don’t own a Superbag or a homogenizer, so in the recipe below I’ve adapted it using tools I have in my own kitchen. Second, he’s English, so recipes are given in milliliters (um, millilitres) instead of ounces, as American recipes use. So in effect, I’ve translated this recipe twice.

Take that as a hint:  make two drinks.

Sweet Broiled Lemon Margarita

adapted from Drinks, by Tony Conigliaro

Step 1: Make Broiled Lemon Juice

This makes about 1/4 cup lemon juice – enough for 2 drinks, with a little extra. (Conigliaro calls for 5 lemons; I cut this down.)

2 lemons, cut in half

Place lemons, cut side up, under a broiler. Grill under high heat until golden brown. (Note – Conigliaro calls for “medium heat.” My oven doesn’t have that setting. It took 12 minutes for the lemons to turn brown.)

Juice the broiled lemons. (Note – the lemons will be HOT. Allow them to cool first. Happily, the lemon halves will now juice as easily as if they’re made of butter.)

Strain using cheesecloth. (Conigliaro calls for a Superbag.)

Step 2: Make the cocktail

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila

3/4 ounce broiled lemon juice

1/2 ounce triple sec

Sugar, for the rim

Combine all of the ingredients except the sugar in a cocktail shaker and shake with cubed ice.

Fine-strain and pour into a chilled coupette with a half sugar rim.

5/7/13:  UPDATE:  Apparently I’m not the only one translating measurements. An Americanized version of Conigliaro’s “Drinks” book will be published on July 16, under the name “The Cocktail Lab.”

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