Many a youthful happy hour did I spend at Austin’s famously peripatetic Cedar Door bar, the self-proclaimed inventor of our state’s most famous native cocktail, the Mexican martini. A frosty metal shaker of sweet-tart elixir, a salt-encrusted coupe glass, fat green olives impaled on a wee plastic sword—this was what summer in Texas was made of. Little did I know the bar’s concoction was just a glorified margarita made exotic by a novel presentation that’s DIY yet somehow decorous (until you pour half of it on the table). According to Cedar Door lore, the idea was introduced to the bar about thirty years ago by an employee who returned from Mexico with tales of a margarita served up rather than on the rocks. The Austin establishment latched on to the idea, someone dubbed the drink a Mexican “martini” (prompting someone else to throw in some olives), and the rest is history.
Alas, the Mexican martini you’re likely to get nowadays is a mass-market impostor composed of premade margarita mix and delivered in a cloudy plastic shaker. And recipes for the home mixologist are all over the map, from nothing more than a top-shelf margarita with some olives to a syrupy abomination mixed with Sprite. Yuck. So I and my otherwise sensible colleagues experimented until we came up with something that jibes with what folks think they’re drinking and what we think they ought to be. In this recipe, smoky tequila squares off with salty olive brine while sweet orange liqueur plays mediator. Not particularly Mexican and not a martini, this is a damn tasty, fittingly weird gift from Austin to the rest of the world.
3 ounces añejo tequila
1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce green-olive brine from the jar
a splash of fresh orange juice
lime wedges and olives
Agitate everything in an ice-filled shaker, then strain into a small, chilled coupe or martini glass rimmed with salt. Add a couple of olives and a lime wedge. Proceed to drink slowly, preferably with a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa, and clear your calendar for the rest of the day.