Drinking smart for Cinco de Mayo

A confession: I never got wasted on tequila in college.

A follow-up confession: I never got wasted on tequila any time.

Reason: Most of those people who automatically equate drinking tequila with getting sick, drunk or s---faced in general do so because (a) when they were in college drank only crap that was affordable for students, (b) had/have no self restraint, or (c) are only parroting what they have heard other people say.

Tequila is a noble, romantic, delicious spirit, made from the juice of roasted blue agave plants. The first time I walked into a tequila distillery in the Mexican state of Jalisco, I was struck by the light floral fragrance that permeated the facility. Rather than becoming a quickly forgotten moment such as the first time I entered a whiskey distillery or a brewery or a winery, the experience heightened my appreciation for the many nuances of tequila.

So, here we are on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, a date known mostly in non-Mexican neighborhoods as a time to party and drink. (It actually is a Mexican civic holiday held on May 5 to commemorate the Mexican army's upset victory over French soldiers at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.)

To help those who wish to celebrate with a purely Mexican spirit, here are a few cocktail recipes that might bring pleasure without bad behavior.

Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita

8 1/8-inch slices of jalapeño pepper
8 1/8-inch slices of cucumber
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz. Cointreau or orange juice
10 oz. blanco or silver tequila
Juice from 2 limes
4 lime wedges
Large ice cubes
Kosher salt

Using a mortar and pestle, grind 4 slices jalepeño, 4 slices cucumber into 1/4 cup sugar. Pour mixture into a shaker. Add tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Fill shaker with ice and shake heavily.

Rub rim of 4 highball glasses with lime wedges and coat with salt. Fill with ice. Give the shaker one more shake and strain contents into each glass. Garnish with jalapeño and cucumber slices. Serves four.

Jalisco Breeze

2 oz. 100% agave tequila blanco
1/2 oz. Pama pomegranate liqueur
Juice of one-half fresh lime
1 1/2 oz. ginger ale
In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, Pama and lime juice with fresh ice.

Shake vigorously over fresh ice in an old-fashioned tumbler, top off with ginger ale and a slice of lime for garnish.

One Hot Minute
1¾ ounces Partida Silver Tequila
2 ounces cucumber and apple juice puree
½ ounce Lillet Blanc
¼ ounce agave nectar or simple syrup
1 teaspoon Tabasco Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce
1 cucumber
1 ounce unfiltered apple juice

To make the puree: Peel cucumber, cut into slices, place in a blender and blend into a puree. In proportion. mix equal parts of cucumber puree with unfiltered apple juice.

To make the drink: Shake all ingredients together and strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Garnish: Thin cucumber slices fanned and one chile pepper placed on the side of the glass.

• Triple Orange Margarita

1 1/2 ounces ultra premium tequila
3/4 ounce Gran Gala Triple Orange
1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1 lime wheel
1 orange peel

Pour Gran Gala, tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar and orange peel into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled margarita glass if you prefer your margarita up. Garnish with a lime wheel and the same orange peel on top of the cocktail. Salted rim is traditional, but optional. (Agave nectar is a natural sweetener. Adjust according to desired sweetness. Available at gourmet stores or from online retailers.)

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