El Diablo is the perfect answer this weekend. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

El Diablo is the perfect answer this weekend. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Cinco de Mayo is Sunday. How many of you know what it celebrates or why? Shaw Lash is one of the key cooks and brains in the Rick Bayless Chicago operations, places I really admire. Last year she wrote why, having grown up in Texas and later lived in Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo madness drives her mad. She wants you to know what it means and asks should we celebrate it at all. Her short answer: It’s a celebration of being Mexican. And it’s a brilliant American marketing gimmick.

Shaw Lash is one of those aware people I admire, so when my able cohort Emilia suggested a tequila cocktail, I emailed Shaw. Shaw suggested a Margarita primer. There’s an extensive discussion of all drink issues in Rick and wife Deann’s book Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks (Shaw developed and tested all the recipes). If you want in-depth info and recipes, go there, it’s outstanding. But I’ve already posted on the classic Margarita (a drink to be revered), and Fridays are not “in-depth” days for me, with primers and what not.

Shaw said one of her faves in the book is the El Diablo.

Bingo! This is superlative cocktail. You’ve got to like ginger beer, though. Donna doesn’t. I’m a Dark & Stormy devotee, I’ll happily imbibe vodka in a Moscow Mule, and I love the El Diablo: good tequila, sweetness from the crème de cassis, balanced by the lime juice, and finished with bubbly ginger beer. It’s a refreshing Friday cocktail. The following is an easier variation of what is in the book, which calls for a homemade ginger beer syrup—I urge you to buy the book for the real thing. But right now it’s Friday. And I want a cocktail, so I’ve improvised (with Shaw’s approval).

The El Diablo

  • 2 ounces reposado tequila (100% blue agave, preferably)
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • a tablespoon or 2 (½ to 1 ounce) crème de cassis, or to taste (it’s the main sweet in the drink.  Shaw highly suggests using Jules Theuriet Creme de Cassis de Dijon).
  • ginger beer (spicy and also sweet)
  • a 2-inch strip of lime zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
  1. Combine the tequila, lime juice, and crème de cassis in a large lowball glass. Fill with ice and top with ginger beer (equal parts drink and ginger beer is optimal).
  2. Twist the strip of lime zest to release the aromatic oils and slip it into the cocktail as a lovely lady would slip into a pool.

Yield: 1 cocktail

My pal Peter is having folks over tomorrow, so here’s the recipe from the book for lots of folks. Peter, just make it with 16 oz. tequila, 16 oz. ginger beer, no sparkling water, keep the rest the same. Wish I were with you.

Party Pitcher Size

  • 1½ cups 100% blue agave reposado tequila
  • ¾ cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup crème de cassis
  • 1 cup ginger beer
  • 8 ounces sparkling water
  • 8 cups ice
  • 8 2-inch strips of lime zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
  1. In a pitcher, combine the tequila, lime juice, crème de cassis, and ginger beer. Stir well, cover, and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
  2. Pour a scant ½ cup of the tequila mixture into 8 10-ounce rocks glasses. Top each with 1 ounce of sparking water and 1 cup of ice.
  3. Garnish with a strip of lime zest and serve to your guests.

Yield: 8 cocktails

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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10 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: El Diablo”

  • Miss Kim @ behgopa

    Awesome. For me, cinco de mayo means birthday eve lol…turning a year older the day after..two days of celebration. I’m not Mexican, but I love all the yummy food served on cinco de mayo.

  • Allen

    Lets not forget Kentucky Derby, all things bourbon.
    Mexican food & drinks too.
    Great weekend for food, friends & drinks.
    Enjoy!

  • Michael Villar

    I love the idea of a party pitcher recipe for your friday cocktail hour.

  • pete erickson

    two days…i mean! More tequila for the Boy’s!

  • Jilly G

    Not sure about this one…I WANNA like it. More lime? I’m determined and will continue to tweak. Btw: cassis can go OFF. Blech!

  • julie

    Ruhlman — have you had the ginger beer cocktails at Bottlehouse Brewery yet? They make their own delicious ginger beer. Great Moscow Mules, etc.

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