Back in my old Scouting days, one of our adult leaders would often do a dramatic reading of the 1907 poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert W. Service (the dapper gent pictured at right). The subject of the poem is a man from Tennessee who, while mining for gold in the Yukon/Alaska, is constantly cold and misses the heat of his home. If you've never encountered this poem before, it's much better when heard aloud--try listening to Johnny Cash reciting it.
As someone from Tennessee, camping in a Tennessee summer where at night it's in the upper 20sC/80sF, and sitting around a fire that just makes things hotter but does keep some of the mosquitoes away, I always thought Sam McGee was an idiot.
My friends know that I adore the cold, and I've had the pleasure of walking in shorts and tennis shoes alongside the frozen shore of Lake Erie during a Cleveland winter. Being caught in a blizzard in Massachusetts back in 2006 was problematic only because I wasn't used to driving through two feet of snow, but I found the temperature quite agreeable. These thoughts comfort me as we currently swelter and stew under a particularly hot and nasty Memphis summer. Last week it got up around 41°C/106°F, with a heat index even higher. It's times like this that you sometimes put the wine on the back shelf and reach for something cooler. But what cocktail to make with various scraps around the house? Why not do something truly crazy, and enjoyable as long as it's cold?
Benito's Margarita Morada
3 parts White Rum
1 part Campari
1 part Blue Curaçao
1 part Lime Juice
Dash of Agave Nectar
Dash of Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters
Combine ingredients, shake with ice, and strain into the most embarrassing glass you own. May God have mercy upon your soul.
Joking aside, it's not bad, and I think Campari should be used more often with margaritas in place of Curaçao, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau. Maybe it's just because I have such a love of bitter flavors, but it brings the traditional orange flavor with an additional kick that I think is a welcome improvisation on the classic.
As you can see, I served this with a dinner made from the Old El Paso Taco Kit. There are times when I want roasted cactus paddles and braised cow tongue on handmade corn tortillas. There are times when I haul my gringo self to little strip mall dives and order the tripe tacos en español just to watch the whole place go silent. But then again, there are times when nothing will hit the spot like the mass market Tex Mex of my youth.
Photo of Robert W. Service courtesy of expired Canadian copyright, used here under public domain laws.