Thanksgiving has long been the source of mixed emotions for me. On one hand it's a day when I can unleash my monster appetite without abandon. I love to eat, and I love to eat well. Yet on the other hand I consider myself a person of conscience, and Thanksgiving is a yearly reminder of how much a particular group of people have sacrificed, usually by force (I'm speaking of Native Americans here), so that another group could thrive (I am, of course, referring to the European immigrants). In my younger years I felt a sense of guilt when celebrating the holiday, as if somehow I was compromising my principles.
Later in life I realized I wasn't ever really compromising anything (other than my caloric intake limit) because I was never really celebrating Thanksgiving. Nobody in my family did. It's not like we ever prayed or performed any pre-meal ritual to honor the day. That wasn't ever my family's style, and that's something I've always been thankful for. Of course we served turkey along with many of the other obligatory Thanksgiving items, but even then it was usually a mashup with dishes found on a traditional Persian table. Rather than traditional stuffing for example, our turkey was stuffed with saffron-scented Persian rice and barberries.
Eventually I concluded that in my family Thanksgiving was simply an excuse for everyone to get together over great food, and I suspect that's the case for many other families as well, especially families like mine whose members are predominantly first generation immigrants.
The immigrant perspective as it relates to Thanksgiving is an interesting one too because it's the perspective that tells us everything we know about that so-called first Thanksgiving gathering at Plymouth. As the story goes, the Pilgrim immigrants were set to freeze their asses if not for the generosity of their native hosts who shared with them their bountiful harvest. And per that old axiom, the natives not only provided fish, but also taught the visitors how to fish so they could survive in this strange new world.
So at its most basic, the story of Thanksgiving is a lesson on how to be a great and generous host. And whether we're talking about a bunch of family members coming over to your house or a bunch of poor families coming over to this country, the same lesson applies. Just be a good fucking host and stop whining about how somebody broke the gravy dish or drank too much wine.
So does all this have anything to do with cocktails? Well, a little. The stuff above is what's been on my mind all week, so I channeled it into this week's creation which I call Dolores' Huerto, made with tequila, Chartreuse, lemon, ginger, and apple butter.
The name of this drink is a play on the name Dolores Huerta, a woman that's been on the forefront of immigrant rights for over four decades. Along with Cesar Chavez she founded the United Farm Workers in the 1960s which helped propel the Chicano movement. The drink's name literally translates to "Dolores' Orchard," (the word 'huerto' means orchard in Spanish) which is both a reference to the fruit fields where she led numerous strikes and the apple flavor found in the drink.
When I was coming up with this drink it was clear that tequila should be the base, because it represents the farm workers and immigrants who were the base of the UFW. But just as symbolically important as which ingredients I included is also which ingredient I didn't include, grapes. "No uvas" or "no grapes" was the chief rallying cry of the great Delano grape strike and boycott of the late 1960s that first put the UFW on the map and helped the struggle of the farm workers gain national attention, and eventually won over Bobby Kennedy as their champion in Washington. For that reason I made sure there was nothing in the recipe related to grapes.
1 1/2 oz tequila blanco
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz ginger syrup (see recipe near bottom of this post)
2 barspoons apple butter (about 2 tsp)
Apple slices for garnish (optional)
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: cocktail or coupe, chilled
Shake all ingredients fervently as if you're shaking your fist at the man. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Here's to being a great host. Cheers!
*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.