11 August 2010


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.


The Wine Commonsewer (TWC) said...

That's quite a little cocktail you've concocted there, Ben. :-)

Benito said...


One of these days, I will finish off that little 200mL bottle of Blue Curaçao, and the weird green, blue, and purple cocktails I've been making will come to an end. ;)


Michelle said...

I used to love the heat and the hotter the better. But I find now I am less able to stand the heat and do much better in cooler climes - weird. I don't have all the ingredients at hand for your inventive cocktail but i can only imagine...

Benito said...


Let's have a rooftop party this winter when everyone else is scared to get out in the elements. ;)

This was a weird little margarita, and while I enjoyed the flavor it's definitely an odd color. In some light it looks like a Crown Royal bag; in other light it looks like purple Kool-Aid.


fredric koeppel said...

you boldly go where no one else wants to go, but that's why we love you ...

& yes I remember those "home taco kits" too, back when there were few Mexican restaurants in town. when we were in college, we would go to the Pancho's in West Memphis for an exotic date.

Benito said...


I haven't set foot in a Pancho's in, what, 25 years? But I seem to recall some sort of lime-based vinaigrette that they used on their tacos. I didn't like it at the time, but now I kind of want to revisit it.

Despite my gentle joking there are a lot of things like the Old El Paso Taco Kits that I eat occasionally because of my childhood. While not technically authentic, I'll stand up for a lot of the faux ethnic food of the era that was hearty, filling, and tasty.

I had a dream the other night in which I was making my Mom's lasagna--not an original recipe, but the instructions clipped off a Ronco box decades ago and followed precisely ever since. The onions, the ground beef, the canned tomatoes... I could smell and taste every bit of it while I slept.


Thomas said...

In this so-called cool grape growing region, we have been topping the 90s for weeks now. My all time (at least for now) favorite cooler is Gazela Vinho Verde and seltzer in a 50-50 blend plus a few mint leaves.

Takes no time at all, has a terrific spritzy coolness, and is so low in alcohol that I can polish off a fair amount and still have room for that dinner glass of wine.

fredric koeppel said...

a Proustian experience.

Benito said...


That sounds fantastic. What's Portuguese for "Mojito"? ;)

Vinho Verde is great, and I wish more people got to experience it as their first wine rather than White Zinfandel.


Thomas said...

"What's Portuguese for "Mojito"?"

Hah! Probably "mojhitho."

Joe said...

I'm pretty sure I have those exact margarita glasses.

As far as "kit" foods go, I must say that the Old El Paso Taco Kit was far superior to the Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit (which I believe you made as well on you blawg).