I am not much of a fan of change for change’s sake, but there are times when a little new blood is a good thing. We need to experiment, to evolve, to change the status quo and make improvements when we can. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” So with a nod toward good intentions and the roads they pave, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Californian Margarita.
This recipe is a riff on the Classic Margarita created by Andrew Gelb. He tweaks the standard build swapping in lemon juice for a more consistent year round flavor and using falernum to “add a subtle, bit more complex sweetness.” I was working up the idea that became the Spicy Schatzi-Rita when I stumbled across this one and that falernum intrigued me, so I figured we might as well give it a whirl.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of Tequila, they specify a blanco, but I was feeling rebellious and went with Kah Añejo, 3/4 of an ounce of Triple Sec, 3/4 of an ounce of the insanely flavorful Maggie’s Farm Falernum; 3/4 of an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add some artisanal ice and give it good shake to the beat of “California Dreamin’“, but skip The Mamas & The Papas original and go with the 1986 Beach Boys cover that they used in Season 4 of Stranger Things. Why? Well, we are doing an cover version of a classic drink, so why not let the music match. When your tins are well chilled and beginning to frost over, strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel, because it is pretty and matches the music.
That is nice. Really nice. That falernum addition is genius. Especially since we used the Maggie’s Farm stuff, which is not quite as sweet but is super flavorful. That ginger, clove, allspice and lime thing really shines through in this drink and the lemon juice swap helps balance it. While it is definitely true to its roots, think of this as a margarita that might be best served overlooking the Pacific on that first afternoon when you realize the leaves are about to change. You know that day, when there is something crisp in the air and while the sun is still warm on your face you can feel Autumn waiting in the wings. That is one of my favorite days of the year and this drink will be perfect for it when it comes.
We have not gotten to that wonderful day just yet. Nashville is a “hot” city right now and not just because it is August in the South. We’ve got a lot of great things going on and middle Tennessee is growing. Which means that folks are moving here from all over the country. Prices are going up and things are changing as more diverse voices get added to the conversation and not everyone is happy about that. Although, there is no particular reason to single them out, Californians seem to get an unfair share of the blame as things change. As soon as I decided to make a “Californian” margarita, I could hear some of the folks groaning, wanting to know why the people from California had to come here and ruin another cocktail. Why couldn’t they just stay there and drink the things they like?
Following my own destiny, with has never felt particularly manifest, I have spent a fair share of time out west and I do love it there. The combination of natural beauty and climate makes it nearly ideal in many ways. Of course, the things that make it so wonderful are why the traffic is terrible and housing is a nightmare, but there are always trade-offs; it turns out, lots of people like living in a beautiful place with great weather. As a species we are rarely happy with what we have, so there are many out there who look longingly back to the east and see a freedom that our relatively lower cost of living and less hectic lifestyle affords. Some of those folks are willing to trade their idyllic existences for the greener pastures of our idyllic existences, swapping their sunny 70° days and ocean breezes for our double backed climatological beast with summer temps and humidity both in the 90’s. It is safe to say that the sudden change is a shock for all involved.
Sometimes, I think the change is harder on the locals. A few weeks ago, while enjoying breakfast out, my son and I could not help but overhear a table of folks loudly complaining about all the folks moving here from California; how they are driving up the prices, trying to change the politics and generally ruining everything. They were pretty adamant that those people just don’t fit in with our community and we do not need them trying to change things. After all, if they don’t like the way it is done here they should have just stayed where they came from. Looking across at their table, I recognized some of the faces. I thought back to the 90’s, when their parents relocated to our small community, hoping to build a better life here drawn by the new automotive plants being built nearby. In those days I remember a different generation of old men sitting in the diner, grumbling into their coffee about how those people from Michigan were moving in here, driving up the prices, trying to change the politics and generally ruining everything. I keep hoping that we will learn from our past and be able to see ourselves in others, but it looks like the concept of “Locals Only” is not exclusive to the beaches and surf hang outs of the coast. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Still, this drink kind of captures the best parts of the spirit of our society, that freedom to explore and experiment. To do your part to take what you are given and try to make it a little bit better. That desire to travel and see how things are over the horizon is how we fulfilled that dubious “manifest destiny” in the first place as we marched across the continent to end up on the West Coast. I love that you can travel all over, try places out and, if you find somewhere that fits, you can live pretty much anywhere you want. This freedom is one of the great strengths of our society and I think it is important to remember that at some point each of us was the new kid and we only found belonging when someone else reached out to offer us a seat at the table. So, let’s try to look beyond what separates us and try to make each other welcome. It’s the neighborly thing to do. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.