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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tasty Cocktails? Salt is the Key!

We margarita makers have known it for years: salt makes cocktails taste better. You may be thinking, ‘WHAT?’ or ‘HOW?’ or ‘WHY?’ – but it’s true. It’s a cold hard fact and there’s science to prove it.

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Salt suppresses bitterness but enhances sourness and sweetness. That’s why it’s a match made in heaven with citrus cocktails, like Margaritas. But it also works with many more flavours – just like when you season food, it seems to round them out. Putting a pinch of salt into a cup of coffee has been a diner trick for years and we all know salt in caramel and chocolates works deliciously. It’s the same reason that bakers add a pinch to their pastry too.

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As well as reacting with and changing the flavours in a drink, salt also releases molecules that intensify an ingredients’ scent, so as we smell the cocktail before we drink it, the taste is enhanced even more. And then there is the fact that salt forces us to produce more saliva in our mouths, making the texture of the cocktail feel silky and luscious.

Salt works in cocktails because it takes the bite away from the alcohol, allowing you to taste and enjoy the mix of flavours. Generally, a few grains of salt are magic in a Negroni, unless you love your Negroni assaultingly bitter, which some of us do. In that case, leave it out.

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Salt is the secret ingredient a bartender should never be without. You can make your own saline solution to take around with you or use at home by mixing one part salt to ten parts water and decanting into a little dropper bottle, like an old bitters bottle.

May your cocktails never be wonky and unbalanced again!

Filed under: general

The Tahona Society Competition… we enter!

If there’s another group as passionate about tequila and cocktails as we are at El Camion, then it has to be the Tahona Society. These wonderful chaps are a global network of passionate bartenders, that “sets out to recognise and celebrate the ancient art of true Tequila production – the Tahona.”

We recently wrote about the Tahona stone, and the traditional process of managing the agave plants to produce the sweetest and most premium liquid for the spirits. The Tahona society aim to promote knowledge and understanding of that spirit we know and love so much – tequila. 

In fact, they recently held a competition to create a cocktail with Altos Tequila, and a few of our bartenders entered! The competition involved creating not only a cocktail but creating an ingredient as well and this had to be related to your home region. On the day the competition was broken down into a morning of training followed by a quiz and those that passed the quiz got on to the drinks stage. From El Camion, Josh got through to make his drink!

This is Josh and his drink… (loving the shirt)
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We’ll be having an exclusive interview with Josh, all about his exotic looking libation (mmm), so watch this space, and if you see him when you pop in – ask him to make it!

 

Artisan Tequila? It’s all about the Tahona Stone

We’re big fans of Olmeca Tequila here at El Camion – chances are if you’ve been drinking in our little bar then you’ll have sipped on this sweet nectar. And if we asked you what the secret ingredient is that makes the drink taste so good, you might say it was the agave. But have you heard about Tahona Liquid? Because, in this instance, it’s pretty important.

So what is Tahona liquid? Well, it’s the special juice that is squeezed out of the cooked Agave piñas by that mystical and ancient tradition…

THE TAHONA STONE.

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This is a 2-tonne millstone carved from a single piece of volcanic rock, which takes four months to craft. This means there is always a spare on hand, should a crack appear in one. The guys at Olmeco Altos Tequila have been using the same stone for 12 years with no sign of any such problems, partially due to fact that modern distilleries drive the Tahona Stone around rather than pulling it using a mule.

 

The process of producing Tahona liquid using the Tahona Stone is a 500-year-old method. By crushing the cooked pinas then it draws out the sweet juice and syrup from the fibres. After this, cultivated yeast is added to turn the agave into alcohol.

So there we are – next time you’re sipping on Olmeca Altos tequila, give a thought to the ancient method that helps give it such a superior taste!

Filed under: general

The Many Guises of the Espresso Martini

Waaaaay before a Vodka Red Bull sullied anyone’s lips, there was a cocktail in town that was the answer to flagging spirits at a party – and it was a whole lot sexier, too. Since Dick’s creation was born back in 1983, it has grown more popular than ever and you can get an Espresso Martini at a bar the world over.

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This week, our busy Bea whipped up some Espresso Martinis live on air at Soho Radio to celebrate their first birthday party – as cocktail created in Soho for Soho, it was a more than apt celebratory tipple for them. And, after all of the tasty grub they consumed during their foodie special show, this will have been the perfect cocktail to perk everyone up, ready for the party ahead! (The party did go on until the early hours in the Pink Chihuahua, of which Bea and her Espresso Martinis take no responsibility for…)

The Espresso Martini was concocted for a 1980s vodka-swilling audience and was even originally called the Vodka Espresso, and later, as molecular gastronomy glinted on the horizon in the late 90s, Dick renamed it the Pharmaceutical Stimulant for the Pharmacy bar in Notting Hill.

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Nowadays you can find loads of intriguing variations, including the Espresso Daiquiri, made with white rum instead of vodka, the Irish Espresso’tini, with Irish cream liqueur and vanilla vodka, and the Flying Frenchman, a fabulously head-spinning absinthe espresso martini. We also like the sound of the tequila-based Jalisco Espresso. After all, what is mixology if not for experimentation? (And a fair, fair bit of sampling in the process…!)

Happy Birthday Soho Radio!

This week our favourite radio station, Soho Radio, are celebrating their first birthday!! And we are delighted to be celebrating with them!

Over five days, Soho Radio are running a series of special shows, and yesterday saw their foodie special go out live on air: William Sitwell’s Biting Talk Vs Aldo Zilli’s After Service.

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The show featured a bevy of Soho’s finest foodie establishments, including Cinnamon Soho, House of Ho, Rosa’s Thai Cafe, Firezza Pizza, Blacklock, Cerviche Soho and many, many more! And, of course, El Camion were there to supply the cocktails!

Our very own Bea Bradsell took over the mic to describe live on air how we make our famous vodka-laced caffeine hit, the Espresso Martini (the secret’s out!), and then proceeded to whip up a couple for the party, followed by a few Galvanina cocktail specials!

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If you missed it, here’s the Espresso Martini recipe she revealed on air:

25ml Fresh Espresso (the stronger the better!)

15ml Kahlúa

10ml Tia Maria

50ml vodka

Shake and pour into two lovely and chilled martini glasses, et voilà!

If you’ve got Periscope, you can watch Bea live here:

Melt Room toasties were exactly the munch that was required after quaffing a few martinis, and everyone’s collective sweet tooth was satisfied with delicious gelato from Snowflake.

What a way to get the party going than to get Soho’s greatest foodies and drinkies all in one room together! And, of course, where do you think the after-party was? The Pink Chihuahua called and Soho listened…

Follow the rest of Soho Radio’s birthday antics on their Twitter page @sohoradio

Protecting our agave

Can a bunch of bartenders save artisanal mezcal and tequila? We bet you they can!

It’s no secret that here at El Camion we love tequila and we love mezcal – two awesome spirits made from the wonders of agave. But, if the agave is not protected, what does this mean for the industry and the livelihood of the noble agave farmer?

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This informative article from PUNCH talks about TIP (Tequila Interchange Project) and how this group is influencing government policy in Mexico regarding agave production.

TIP’s story began in 2010. Five bartenders, who were originally on a trip to find out more about tequila, learned of the changing nature of the agave spirits and together, with a mezcal producer, embarked on a mission to preserve the sustainable, traditional and quality practices in the tequila industry.

Mexicans have been farming agave for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that international demand started to soar, due to a global desire for cocktails. Multinational spirits companies started buying up farms, turning them into high production facilities. The agave rush had begun – but with it came over-planting, early harvesting, diseases within the crops and lots of wastage.

Because of demand, the future does mean innovative industrial production, which, of course, risks wiping out artisanal practices that have been passed down through families for generations.

TIP have campaigned to protect small distilleries and have already stopped policies going through that would have been a threat to the traditional culture of mezcal production. Now, a thriving non-profit organisation, they comprise of bartenders, consultants, educators, researchers, consumers and tequila enthusiasts and are seen as a leading advocacy group for agave distilled spirits.

Keep updated about TIP here on their website.

@ThinkTequila

So how did YOU celebrate Cinco De Mayo?

Well, this time last week we were holding our heads and groaning slightly, ready to indulge in our of our Mexican Hangover cures. Yep, it was the morning after Cinco De Mayo – a time when all of El Camion and The Pink Chihuahua get their party sombreros on.

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There was a great atmosphere in the bar for Cinco De Mayo, with people dropping in for margaritas, nachos, and general good cheer. So how did other places celebrate the victory over France at the Battle of Puebla? We take a little look…

FOOD:

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San Francisco loves a good bit of food – and so whether to celebrate the rich cultural history of Mexico, or simply another good reason to get tiddled on Margaritas on a week night, then the Bay Area threw a good party. These homemade tacos and corn chips represent some of the tastiest cuisine of the area, and there were several authentic menus, street fairs, and chances to immerse oneself in the Mexican culture.

FIREWORKS:

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It wouldn’t be a good party without a firework or two (Mexico has a whole festival dedicated to gunpowder, don’t you know!). Fireworks lit up the sky from California to the Southern tip of Mexico, marking the victory of the battle over a hundred years ago.

FIESTAS:

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From street fairs, floats, dancing and stalls celebrating traditional Mexican customs and costumes, the streets of Mexico City were a riot of colour and excitement!

And some good old patriotism..

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This image shows two caballeros in traditional riding outfits proudly lead the Cinco de Mayo parade displaying the flag of Mexico.

 

But remember – Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day! This occurs on Wednesday, September 16th. Just enough time for us to start planning another big bash…

 

The Perfect Margarita

Now, if there’s one thing that can divide a bar quicker than the time it takes to say ‘Ay Caramba’, it’s the age-old question: ‘How do you make the perfect margarita?’

Is it stirred or shaken, served with ice or straight up? Should you only use Mexican limes? How much triple-sec do you use – and should it only be Cointreau? And the salt – rock salt, pink salt, cayenne salt or no salt at all? The glass – a coupette or a rocks glass? And the TEQUILA. White, aged, expensive, cheap – and we haven’t even touched on RATIO!

Calm down, calm down. The Margarita is meant to be a simple drink – it has been drank for years in places where they don’t have posh glasses or fancy salt. Simple it may be, but balance is vital to the taste and quality of this drink.

First of all… The Glass

Well, it does depend on whether you want your margarita straight-up, on the rocks or frozen – and also what you have to hand. There’s an actual margarita-specific glass, which resembles something like an upside-down sombrero and this is a good if you want your margarita frozen or straight-up. For straight-up margaritas, you can also use a martini glass, coupette or even a wine glass. On the rocks is best served in an Old-Fashioned glass.

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Salt

Classically, you run a cut lime around the rim of the glass and roll it in a small saucer of salt. It might be preferable to salt only half of the rim and just add a pinch of salt to the cocktail, as a heavily salted rim can be too overpowering. As for white, pink or cayenne? Pink isn’t much different to white, apart from it looks pretty – and cayenne salt will have nice red speckles it in and give a spicy kick. Avoid harsh table salt though – flake form salt is the best.

Limes

Mexican limes are traditionally used – and these are probably what you’re using anyway as Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of limes. This kind of lime is often nicknamed the Bartender’s Lime.

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Triple sec

The triple sec most commonly used in margaritas is Cointreau, which will make a nice margarita, but a more superior triple sec is De Kuyper, which unlike other liqueurs that are made from a third-party essence, is made from distilled oranges in their 100 year old distillery.

Tequila

A good-quality, 100% agave tequila should be used. We use Altos Blanco. An aged tequila, like Altos Reposado is good in the more distinguished Cadillac Margarita, which calls for a weightier, smokier taste.

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Ratio

The 2:1:1 ratio works best – two parts tequila, one part lime juice and one part triple sec. Sometimes a dash of agave syrup can lend it a nice sweetness – or substitute the triple sec for agave syrup all together and you’ve got our infamous (and delicious) Tommy’s Margarita.

Umbrella

Optional. Everyone likes an umbrella, though.

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So, there you have it. The perfect margarita is all about quality ingredients and balance – drink it out of a shoe for all we care. On second thoughts, don’t. Drink it in (slightly) more civilised fashion our Pink Chihuahua basement bar and enjoy!

El Camion’s Margarita Travels!

If there’s one thing we love at El Camion, it’s margaritas. We would consider ourselves connoisseurs, in fact. But – you can’t be a connoisseur if you aren’t out there in the open world absorbing all there is to know – and (it goes without saying) continuously trying and tasting all the margarita world has to offer.

Recently, on a trip to Thailand, we stumbled across WooBar in Bangkok’s Hotel W. It has to be said, we were pretty impressed at the column space their menu gave to margaritas. ‘MARGARITAS ARE HOT!’ it announced. Yes, yes, they are. We think we’ll get along juuuuust fine…

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We like the way that you can have your margarita YOUR way. Firstly, you have a choice of whether you want it straight up, frozen or on the rocks. Then, you can (if you want) add up to two ‘enhancers’. With a whopping sixteen to choose from, they range from things like pomegranate and passionfruit to coriander and cucumber.

But if you’re not hot on your flavour combos, you can leave it down to the work of the mixologists. They’ve put together four bad boys – the Beer Margarita, the Blueberry and Sweet Basil, the Watermelon and Kaffir Lime and the Spicy Mango Margarita – for you to pick from.

Knowing we’d be in good hands, we chose the Spicy Mango Margarita, made with tequila, mango, Tabasco and lime juice, and (a little experiment of our own) a Dragon Fruit and Sweet Basil.

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Served on the rocks and garnished with a bright red chilli, the Spicy Mango Margarita was fresh, zingy and sublimely tropical-tasting. Real mango, whizzed up there and then, was used, making the margarita come alive with flavours and colour. The Tabasco gave it that firey kick, which went so well with the sweet mango, and the scent of the fresh chilli lingered after every sip. A triumphant margarita.

The Dragon Fruit and Sweet Basil was an awesome combination, if we do say so ourselves. Herbaceous, floral and delicate, the fresh dragon fruit did enough to set off the distinct flavour of the sweet basil without being too sweet and overpowering. Again, we had this one served on the rocks with a slice of dragon fruit and a lone basil leaf to garnish. A very fun, playful and attractive margarita, too.

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WooBar is down as a destination bar in Bangkok, and now we know what it can do, we’ve made it one of our destinations for a great margarita. If margaritas are your favourite drink too, come down to El Camion and ‘talk margarita’ with us. How do you like yours?

It’s nearly Cinco De Mayo!

It’s celebrated both in the US and in Mexico… people get dressed up, there’s folk dancing, maricahi music, parades… but it’s NOT MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Do you know the history of Cinco De Mayo, which will be celebrated next Tuesday? Well, the 5th of May1862 is a pretty big deal in Mexico, since it commemorates the victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Despite being outnumbered two to one, a rag-tag group of soldiers defeated the french imperialists. And, although it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.

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We’ve found this awesome video for you, which pretty much explains the whole shebang.

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo/videos/ask-history-cinco-de-mayo

Now make sure you pop down to El Camion to celebrate Cinco De Mayo and the Battle of Puebla – with a margarita or two!