Arizona already has some unique state symbols. Official state neckwear? The bolo tie. Official state fossil? Petrified wood. Official state mammal? The ringtail. We in the StateEats Kitchen propose the Prickly Pear Margarita as the official state cocktail of Arizona. We’re pretty sure that no other state has one.
Prickly pear cacti are found all over the arid regions of the U.S. southwest. Prickly pear branches look like paddles and are often cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The fruit – also known as tuna – are thought to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Mayo Clinic. The fruit also may lessen the effects of a hangover. So, if you have it in a cocktail, that means you won’t feel lousy the next day, right?? Hmmmm, more research is required.
Sure, you can find commercially prepared prickly pear syrup. But homemade is always better; you can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar. You can find tuna in Latin-American markets across the country. Choose fruit that is firm, with no bruises or brown spots. If you are lucky, the thorns will already have been removed. If not, wear gloves and remove the thorns with a sharp paring knife.
Look at the beautiful color when you slice these babies open!
Scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
Once pureed in the food processor it will look like this.
Strain the flesh into a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. This will remove the seeds and pulp. Transfer the strained puree to a medium sized sauce pan and add the water, sugar, cinnamon stick and mint. When the sugar is dissolved (after about 20 minutes of simmering), strain again. Add the vanilla extract. Let cool before using.
The flavor of the syrup is rather subtle with hints of mint and cinnamon but just look at the gorgeous color of this drink.
If you don’t imbibe, you can also use the syrup to flavor lemonade, iced tea, smoothies, yogurt, or even over vanilla ice cream.
So what do you say Arizona Legislature? Not such a thorny dilemma to us.
Arizona Cocktail Week is February 14-21, 2015, in Phoenix. Join professional mixologists for lectures, seminars, dinners, competitions and of course, tastings. The grand finale of the week is National Margarita Day on February 22. Enjoy a free(!!) Latin-themed party with mariachi, a live DJ, cocktail samples, tequila education stations, and food pairings at the Hotel Valley Ho pool in Scottsdale.
Prickly Pear Margaritas
- 2 1/2 pounds prickly pears
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Handful of fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces prickly pear syrup
- 4 ounces tequila blanco
- 1 ounce triple sec
- 3 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
- Kosher salt (optional – for the rim of the glass)
- Lime slices (optional – for garnish)
Scrape off any thorns off with a sharp paring knife, taking care not to touch with bare hands. Cut the ends off the prickly pears, then slice the pears in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Put flesh into a food processor and process until pureed. Strain this mixture through a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheese cloth. The seeds and pulp will be left behind yielding about 2 cups of liquid. Transfer the liquid into a medium saucepan. Add water, sugar, cinnamon stick and mint. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. All of the sugar should be dissolved. Add the vanilla. Strain again. Let completely cool before mixing in a cocktail.
Add syrup, liquors and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into two margarita glasses rimmed with salt, if desired. Garnish with lime slices.