What would a summer party be like without frosty Margaritas and guacamole and chips? We shudder to think, but not that long ago they were far from staples. One of the people you should thank for their mass popularity today is celebrity chef Rick Bayless, who has tirelessly promoted Mexican food and drinks for decades. His long-running PBS show, Mexico – One Plate at a Time, is in its seventh season, and his seventh cookbook, Fiesta at Rick’s, just came out this month. Not to mention his award-winning Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
While his restaurants are well-known for their authentic Mexican cuisine, they also offer classic and seasonal cocktails and big selections of tequila and mezcal. “Cocktails play a very big role in our business,” he says. But it wasn’t always this way. When Bayless opened Frontera Grill 23 years ago, it was nearly impossible to find good tequila in the States, and while he had developed a taste for agave-based spirits in Mexico, he admits that he didn’t know much about mixology. “I needed to get to know everything I could about the Margarita,” he remembers. Over the years, his restaurants have served dozens of different versions of the drink, but one of his all-time favorites is the refreshing cucumber-and-lime Summer Margarita. “I don’t get tired of it,” he says.
The cocktail also pairs perfectly with rich guacamole, which Bayless calls “an icon of party food” in his new book. And since we’re in the chef’s hands today, try making his addictive Bacon-and-Tomato Guacamole. The decadent dish combines the creaminess of avocado with the crunch of crispy bacon. Let the fiesta begin!
Contributed by Rick Bayless
3 cups Peeled, seeded, and thin-sliced cucumber (1 large or 2 medium cucumbers)
1.5 cups 100-percent-Agave silver tequila (Milagro or Cazadores)
1 cup Fresh lime juice
1 cup Simple syrup*
Half a lime
Kosher salt or other coarse salt
Garnish: Cucumber slices
In a blender, combine the cucumber, tequila, lime juice and simple syrup, and blend until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it. Strain into a pitcher, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Moisten the rims of three 6-ounce Martini glasses with the cut side of the lime half. Spread the salt on a small plate and upend the glasses into the salt to crust the rims. Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters of the way with ice and add 1.5 cups of the cucumber mixture. Cover and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish with cucumber slices. Repeat with the remaining cucumber mixture, to make a total of 9 cocktails.
1.5 cups Granulated sugar
1.5 cups Water
1 tbsp. Fresh lime juice
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, cool and store in a closed container, preferably in the refrigerator for optimal freshness.
Contributed by Rick Bayless
5 Strips medium-thick bacon
3 medium-large Ripe avocados (about 1.25 pounds), cut in half and pitted
Half a medium white onion, chopped into .25-inch pieces, rinsed with cold water and drained
2 or 3 Canned chipotle chiles, removed from canning sauce, stemmed, slit open, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium-large Round ripe tomato, cored and chopped into .25-inch pieces
.25 cup (loosely packed) Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
.5 tsp. Salt
1 to 2 tbsp. Fresh lime juice
In a large (10-inch) skillet, cook the bacon in a single layer over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, crumble coarsely and set aside. Scoop the avocado flesh into a large bowl. Using a potato masher or a large fork or spoon, mash into a coarse purée. Add about two-thirds of the bacon, along with the onion, chipotle chile, tomato and cilantro (save a little cilantro for garnish if you wish). Stir gently to combine. Taste and season with salt, usually about half a teaspoon, and enough lime juice to add a little sparkle, 1 to 2 tablespoons. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate. To serve, scoop the guacamole into a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining bacon (and cilantro if desired).