Summer ‘Freestyle’ Margaritas from Bitter Bar’s Michael Cerretani

Three fresh summer margaritas: (left to right) Blackberry-Mint, Thyme-Cucumber and Strawberry-Blueberry.

 

Boulder is a very cool food town.  Named ‘America’s Foodiest Town’ in 2010 by Bon Appétit magazine, it fulfills this distinction in a variety of genres.  We certainly bear a commitment to quality farm-to-table food production and consumption.  One only needs to spend 10 minutes talking to anyone, farmer or patron, at our Farmer’s Market to be sure about that.
Certainly our dining and bar scene have made their mark as well.  The draw of this area for chefs and mixologists alike is clear and we locals are pleased to be the benefactors of so many dedicated and enthused by their craft.
 
 
One such shining star is Michael Cerretani, Bar Manager for The Bitter Bar, a hip, happening libation gem in the crown of Boulder’s Big Red F Restaurant group.  Passionate about bar tending and mixology, Michael was a top ten finalist in last year’s GQ Magazine/Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Inspired Bartender” competition.  He was also one of sixteen contenders nationwide challenged to reinvent the classic Manhattan in Denver’s Esquire Magazine/ Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience.  Having grown up in a family steeped in classic food and cocktail culture, Michael’s respect and reverence for the classics coupled with his current day sensibilities won him the first place slot.  He’s one of those guys who effortlessly conjures craft cocktails as well as can talk ‘mixology’ to nubile beginners with the same ease as speaking with experts in the field. 
 Michael and I share mutual friends and met recently at a dinner where he graciously agreed to host a group of local food and drink media members at Bitter Bar.  Our plan was for him to educate on distilled spirit as well as teach some mixology tips for our group.  As it goes with best laid plans, I was home ill and Michael out of town probably winning something mixologically magnificent.  We had begun the wheels turning to share a summer cocktail of Michael’s choosing which I’m delighted to do today.
 
 
I’ve had a bit of a personal margarita epiphany this summer; ‘fresh margaritas’.  Margaritas made with quality tequila (usually silver which is not aged and therefore has a more ‘clean’ flavor), some agave nectar/syrup and fresh lime juice leaving them fresh-flavored and missing the sickly sweet component often found in a margarita (which I personally believe is the hangover-waiting-to-happen ingredient).  The addition of fruit or vegetables shift the flavors again in a clean, fresh way.  My first foray in this direction was the Smoky Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita I published a few weeks ago and after making Michael’s recipe I’m a permanent convert. 
On paper I loved the ‘options’ aspect of his recipe.  I am one who likes to change it up and does not like to be reigned in to an unyielding recipe.  I loved the locavore opportunity presented with Michael’s express permission suggesting one can add any vegetable or fruit to mix flavors making the drink their own. 
 
When I finally made the cocktails, I was over the moon.  They are beautiful to the eye with vibrant color and exciting, refreshing flavors.  I was so excited I did NOT strain my cocktails prior to pouring them in the glasses, loving the ‘muddle’ in my drink.  I loved the texture and colors it offered.  If your preference is a strained drink feel free to follow Michael’s instructions to follow instructions to the letter.
Michael Cerretani’s  SUMMER ‘FREESTYLE’ MARGARITAS
 
As Michael put it to me “so here’s a fun one, it’s basically a fresh style of Margarita.”  I felt more than just a ‘fun one’ it was a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card; allowing we mixers to use Michael’s base recipe as a perfect platform to get creative with summer produce from our Farmer’s Markets and home gardens.  For those not yet comfortable with undefined ingredient amounts, I shared at the bottom of the recipe the amounts of fruit, vegetables and herbs I used for my cocktails.
 
Base Margarita Ingredients:
1.5 oz Silver Tequila (preferably something organic like Republic or El Tesoro)
.75 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
.5 oz Light Agave Nectar
 
 
Here’s the really fun part: This recipe works with virtually any fresh fruit or vegetable, making it extremely versatile for a summer cocktail. Try it with some of the following combinations:
 
-Blueberries & Strawberries
-Cucumber & Orange
-Thyme & Cucumber
-Blackberries & Mint
-Watermelon & Orange
 
Take any of those ingredients, gently muddle them in the bottom of a mixing glass or shaker, combine the tequila, lime, and agave on top and shake with ice for 15-20 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass and garnish with whatever ingredients you used.
 
Boulder Locavore’s cocktail produce amounts:
Blueberries & Strawberries:I used 2 large strawberries which I sliced up before muddling as they were pretty firm.I used about 10 blueberries.
 
 
Thyme & Cucumber:4-¼ inch slices of cucumber, chopped before muddling and the leaves of about 3 sprigs of thyme.
 
 
Blackberries & Mint:6 large blackberries and about 5 medium mint leaves (I used classic peppermint found in the home garden……or everywhere the yard now in my case).I rough chopped the mint first to add in the muddling.
 
Mason Jars are a Girl’s best friend:  Despite owning a few cocktail shakers I wanted to make three of Michael’s suggestions at once.  I used a pint size Mason jars in which I muddled each combination and then added his base recipe of tequila, agave and lime juice.  It was very easy to shake with ice in the jar (lid on of course) then pour onto fresh ice.  If you are wishing to make these portable for a picnic or outing, my suggestion is to either a) preload mason jars with the tequila-agave-lime juice and muddle ingredients at the outing, or b) pre-muddle and add tequila-agave-lime leaving only the shaking and serving to your outing location.  Frankly I think the jars make charming glasses for more rustic picnic outings as well!
 
 
 
Michael Cerretani (Photo Courtesy: The Bitter Bar)

 

Comments

    • says

      I hope you will Dennis! One thing I loved about these is what you taste is the flavors of the produce, NOT the overwhelming taste of tequila or a sweet lime additive. They are really fresh tasting.

    • says

      Hi Viviane! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. These really do taste delicious but are not the type of drink that 'catched up with you'. Easy to pace oneself. I hope your summer has started well!

    • says

      Thank you Meghan and I must agree on their look! I did not expect this but I think the Cucumber-Thyme may be my favorite. It's very freshing and beautifully flavored. A perfect summer cocktail. Thanks for commenting!

    • says

      You will fall in love Peggy; promise. Something else I love about them is how quick and easy they are to prepare. No blender. No crushed ice. Very straight forward. Of course the fresh taste got me at the first sip too. It truly has put me on a completely different margarita trajectory.

    • says

      Absolutely! And I'd think of it more as you enjoy 'options' and like to sample all possible combinations, not that your are indecisive (that's what I tell myself at least!)

  1. says

    Thanks for the tips. I am going to try to get up at and be at the U-pick farm by 7:00 tomorrow morning so I am definitely eying the blackberry margaritas!

  2. says

    The blackberry is making me seriously thirsty. You live in such a great place. I live in the culinary black hole. Thank goodness I can cook.

  3. says

    Toni these look amazing. I have to say that despite making liqueurs I haven't yet made any cocktails like this! I made lemonade and basil once so I imagine the herbs are wonderful in these cocktails. Wonderful photos as usual! When I have some spare strawberries I'll definitely be knocking a strawberry/blueberry cocktail up!

    • says

      You will love this style of margarita Caroline. First it's completely fresh catering to your seasonal, fresh preference. Second it's completely easy and let's you use what ever if seasonal. I really don't ever think I'll go back to non fresh style margaritas at home.

  4. says

    These look delicious. It's FREEZING here in Melbourne today, so it's lovely living vicariously through your blog! Can't wait 'til Summer and trying some of those cheeky, colourful drinks.

  5. says

    Pint sized mason jars? Pfft. Now where's my gallon sized ones?
    It's summer here all year round. I've always complained about the weather but with this, I have a good excuse to be happy … and I mean HAPPY! They really look so colorful and pretty. Thanks for sharing the base recipe. Time to experiment.

    • says

      You are too funny! It IS summer all year round there and you have a completely different set of produce to experiment with. I hope you'll find a new favorite. These really could not be easier or more delicious!

  6. says

    I am creating a menu for a party this Thursday night and the last thing on my list was the cocktail. This is it. Brilliant idea, beautiful colors and I am sure its perfectly mouth watering!

    • says

      Oh I'm so glad Susan! I really was excited when Michael gave me this recipe. It is so simple and fresh as well as loving the flexibility to enjoy all that is fresh this summer!

  7. says

    Great collection of recipes. My husband and I are always on the lookout for new recipes. Will definitely be trying the cucumber thyme…sounds delicious. Also any idea where that shaker is from?? Gorgeous!! (we collect vintage barware) :-)

      • falk says

        is there any alternative to agave nectar, I live in argentina and can’t get any? Otherwise very interesting – I’ll try them all. Thanks

        • says

          I did a bit of research and there are a number of substitute sweeteners for agave but frankly they have a very different flavor profile. Being from the same plant as Tequila is derived from, it’s pretty perfect in this cocktail. I personally might experiment with a bit of granulated sugar (white) which is not as sweet as agave, or honey, though honey has a distinct flavor so with each I’d start small so you can ensure the natural flavors you are blending shine through!

          Hope that helps. Maybe you have other natural sweeteners locally that we do not in the U.S. too! Please let me know how your experimenting goes!

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