Just when I think I can’t possibly make another version of margarita I’m won over by the juice from a cactus fruit! This Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail is sublime!
This was a fun post to put together. I saw Jan, a friend of mine for more years than we like to admit, share a photo of her Prickly Pear Cactus on Facebook and she indicated she would be making jam from the fruit. That took me back so many years. We’ve been friends since our oldest girls were born and they’re now both grown and have babies of their own.
Jan and I clicked on so many levels; we were both stay at home mom’s but never content to spend our time watching soaps or shopping. We sure loved our kids and spent our times including them in our adventures and during the summer that often meant a trip to a berry farm; the girls loved picking a strawberry or two or filling their little hands with blueberries while Jan and I filled our vehicle with enough for an army.
We both had big gardens too…so I recall those days fondly when we would take the results of those gardens and spend the day with each other canning…ALL day long! Tomatoes and pickles, that’s what I remember. At the end of the summer we would have shelves of food we had put by and a freezer filled with berries and corn. How quickly time does fly; I can almost taste the foods we shared in those lovely days in North Carolina.
These are our girls; my daughter Emily on the left and Jan’s girl Kim on the right. Yes, they were as adorable as they look!
Now we have spread out across the country. While I’ve spent over 30 years in Denver, Jan and her family called the Pacific Northwest home for years but are now making their homestead in Arizona. She and her husband Pat must have had a conversation like this one day, “Honey, let’s move some place different. OK…how about we go somewhere totally opposite of where we are now!”
After I saw that photo, I recalled that Jan had sent me some Prickly Pear Syrup after a visit through Denver a couple of years ago and was reminded that I had wanted to make a Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail…clearly that never happened but with a reminder from Jan I was on it.
I wondered where if I could find some of the fruit locally and she offered to send me some of the gorgeous little orbs…and she did. I mean they were here within a couple of days too; all packaged so nicely to stay cold; amazing how just a couple of weeks ago that was necessary! Jan warned me to use with caution, they have little tiny stickers all over their skin, she even put a reminder note in the box so I wouldn’t forget and impale myself on them. Ouch…hurts just thinking about it!
They are pretty thought aren’t they?
See all that fuzzy looking stuff? Yeah, each one ready to impale you, prickly is right! I trusted Jan, and dug out my garden gloves, I wasn’t taking any chances!
I had no idea what to expect inside, so before I cut one open I imagined using a piece as garnish. Not so much…once cut open it was clear that idea was not going to happen, the firmer outside flesh has a bunch of seeds and juicy flesh in the center; so using it all to make my own Prickly Pear Syrup was the most I could do. So I did just that.
But you will not find a recipe or the results of that effort here, nope. I also discovered that I should have used a stainless steel pot; once I finished the process of simmering sugar and fruit together in my small copper pot and strained it, I was not happy with the resulting brownish color. What had I done wrong?
Well apparently a component in that fruit is GREAT for cleaning copper. The inside of my pot was absolutely immaculate and shiny copper where the syrup had been and my syrup was none the better for it. How lucky was I that I still had the little bottle that Jan had sent me? Very.
That being said, Hank shows you on his site Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook how to make Prickly Pear Syrup if you have fresh fruit readily available. Otherwise you can get Prickly Pear Syrup from Amazon (affiliate link). I also had a friend mention that it actually grows in the Denver area…so yes, I will try it again one day!
It is the syrup that makes the Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail so pretty. I knew it would make a gorgeous cocktail, but to be honest I was not prepared for how absolutely delicious they would be.
Of course it does start with a good tequila; if you have followed this blog for any period of time, you know that is one of my mantras for a good margarita; start with great, fresh ingredients. I absolutely hated the first margarita I ever tasted. Cheap tequila was why!
I knew that this cocktail would require a clear tequila so that the color of the fruit would be pronounced and I had received a bottle of La Adelita Black Tequila and thought it would be perfect; a bit of aging is key to a tequila that has a smooth taste and not a jolting bite. The La Adelita Black has been aged for 18 months in second-use American Oak whiskey barrels.
The barrels are re-toasted in Mexico to a medium toast and the tasting notes define that this spirit offers up a salty, pulpy nose with additional aromas of cashew, anise, and oak. A sweetness highlights that first sip, sparked by white pepper and nectarine zest; semi-sweet peach nectar ensues, bringing on a velvety finish.
I don’t know about you but I love reading tasting notes even if I wonder what it takes to discover that level of consciousness with any liquor…or even wine for that matter. I realize it’s a learning experience but for me, it’s much simpler. I either like it or I don’t and I found this tequila to be VERY likeable!
I have on occasion sipped tequila or more often than not done the ubiquitous shot with the salt on the thumb and a quick squeeze of lime to follow. But that was then and this is now. And the one thing I demand from tequila is that it have a smooth finish; that burning business is left more to poor college kids who can’t afford more than the not so gold premium.
As a cocktail maker, this tequila fits into my idea of perfection. Not too pricey, still good on it’s own if you like the occasional straight shot, but adds the perfect mellow bite to a great cocktail. And this is one great cocktail!
I had read that Prickly Pear syrup was a taste that was hard to define; sort of a combination of watermelon and bubble gum. I had also read that it was like combining strawberries and raspberries…quite the difference in those two examples, so I was intrigued but I can’t say I was going nuts over the possibility. Still, intrigue clearly won.
It was funny though, when I sent a photo of this Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail to my friend Amy who lives across the street asking her if she wanted to join me after I finished with photographs, I got a hearty, ‘YES!’ from her. She had heard the same thing and I found out something about Amy I had not known. She loves the flavor of Bubblegum, insists it’s her favorite ice cream.
Surprising a little bit, but OK, so we sat down to sip it together. What did it taste like? OK, so first, Absolutely incredible. We could actually taste the bubblegum that is mentioned but it was so subtle and blended with the tequila and lime juices nicely. It was fun but not the cloying sweetness I worried about. I can’t say I discerned a distinct watermelon flavor but overall it was a bit surprising just how much we loved this margarita.
The sweetness of the syrup was so perfectly balanced with the other ingredients typical of margaritas and honestly I don’t think I’ve made one that is prettier; it’s mine, rather I mean our, Amy raved over it, new favorite!
Have to mention, don’t you simply love my new margarita glasses? I wish I could tell you how much I needed them, but with a china cabinet in my living spaced filled with glasses (no china, just glasses) and another one in my studio with just as many, that would be a lie. But I saw a photo and HAD to have them for this Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail made with the fruit of a Prickly Pear Cactus.
Funny too…the guy who included the photo in his post shared how lucky he was to find them in an Etsy shop, and knew they were one of a kind and how lucky he was to snag them. Never discouraged I decided to try my luck and I still chuckle. They are EVERYWHERE (including Amazon); made by Libbey and not expensive either.
While they are perfect for this Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail, they are really perfect for any margarita; they certainly convey South of the border don’t they? I can’t claim that tequila is made from cactus though, since agave is a succulent but not a cactus, still…close enough in my book and heck, they are just too cute and were meant to be for this cocktail.
One of my signatures with margaritas is the rim. This photo makes it SO clear too. I like to mix half salt and half sugar. I use kosher salt and cake decorating sugar; those large crystals are not only prettier but the larger crystals of both salt and sugar add a nice mouthfeel to each sip…you have to try it. Even ‘no salt please’ sippers enjoy this rim combination.
While I used to think margaritas only a summer sipper, I long ago gave up that notion. I can’t think of a prettier cocktail than this Prickly Pear Margarita to take into the holidays!
Here’s to you Jan…and Cheers…I could not have, would not have, done it without you!
PIN IT! ‘Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail’
Prickly Pear Margarita Cocktail
- Kosher salt/sugar combination for garnish combine 1/4 cup of each and mix
- 3 ounces Blanco tequila
- 2 ounces orange Liqueur
- 2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
- 1 ounce prickly pear syrup
- Rub a wedge of lime around the edge of your margarita glass. Dip in kosher salt/sugar combination to coat edge.
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and prickly pear syrup. Shake vigorously. Strain into prepared margarita glasses filled will ice. Garnish with a lime slice to serve.