Or, "Tequila for my lover". Very aptly named.

I came across this in Charles Baker's legendary book The Gentleman's Companion, four books of drinking and cookery from around the world. Baker was a writer for Town and Country magazine, and his gig from the late 1920s through the early 1950s was to travel the world, eating and drinking, then writing about it. Nice work if you can get it. (Where do I get a gig like this?) He brought back some amazing stuff in his books (and a few examples of ... well, crap), but it's mostly the former.

This particular concoction was picked up in Mexico City around 1933, the recipe for which was provided by someone Baker only refers to as "my Mexican". (I'm trying to decide whether that's a term of endearment, or if it was a temporarily-engaged servant, or what.) In any case, this extremely simple and extremely luscious concoction is genius, and unbelievably good, even if you claim you don't like tequila. Incidentally, I find that most people who say they don't like tequila have 1) never tried really good tequila, and additionally 2) have only tried José Cuervo Gold, which is is the tequila we all grew up on and is horrendously bad. I daresay this will help convert tequila-fearers.

Try to make this after Memorial Day, or at least when the strawberries are at their absolute ripest -- fully red all the way through, and no white flesh whatsoever, like so many of the supermarket strawberries we see nowadays that are completely devoid of flavor. You could use frozen in a pinch, but my motto is always, always use the fresh article whenever possible.

One 750ml bottle of good reposado tequila. (100% agave only, please.)
3 pints ripest possible strawberries; washed, hulled and sliced in half (quarters if they're really huge).
Approximately 6 weeks of time.

In a clean, sealable 2 liter jar (the Italian ones with the rubber seals from Cost Plus work great, or else large Mason jars would work too) place the washed, hulled and sliced strawberries. Pour the tequila over to cover. Seal the jar, and give it a gentle agitation, rotating the jar clockwise then counterclockwise, trying not to break the berries.

Put the jar in the fridge and allow to steep for at least two, and preferably three weeks. Every day or so give the jar another gentle agitation.

After steeping, pour the tequila through a fine-mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth (wash and wring first). Wrap the berries in the cheesecloth and squeeze until all the liquid is extracted; discard berries (they've already given up all they've got). You may wish to let the tequila settle, then siphon off the clear liquid from the sediment, or else you can strain it through the cheesecloth a few more times, until it's clear. The color should be a like a beautiful, brilliant ruby.

Wash the jar thoroughly, then put the strained, infused tequila back into it and pop it back into the fridge. Allow at least three weeks for it to age -- this process will take the edge off and will mellow the flavor tremendously.

The simplest way to drink it is to serve three-ounce portions, either over the rocks or shaken and strained into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and a slice of lime. A little lime juice squeezed into it is really nice too.

Paul Clarke had an excellent idea too -- use it to make a Paloma.



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Chuck Taggart   email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com