QUENCHING A CINCO DE MAYO THIRST

050315 downtown  butler3 Downtown bartender John Butler makes PieHole a fresh strawberry margarita.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

050315 downtown margarita4Maybe it was the sterling weather this past weekend, or maybe it was the swarm of happy folks packing the restaurants and bars in town that put us in a celebratory mood.

Remembering that Cinco de Mayo is this week, PieHole made its way to the Downtown in Red Bank with its enormous open front window view of Broad Street. Finding a couple of empty bar stools at the ready, we joined the already cheerful customers.

050315 downtown2Customers at the Downtown wait for tables at the bar while watching a baseball game. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

John Butler, a seasoned bartender with 15 years experience under his belt – seven of them at the Downtown – had some good ideas about what to drink to celebrate El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla, or the day of the battle of Puebla on the Fifth of May, 1862, when the Mexicans fought the French and won. Cerveza, or Mexican beer, was an obvious choice, as was tequila, but we wanted something with a little more zip to it.

“How about a jalapeno margarita or maybe a fresh strawberry margarita?” Butler asked.

When we settled on the strawberry margarita, Butler went to work, hauling out a container of fresh cut strawberries, organic agave syrup and fresh limes. He muddled the fruit, adding the syrup and packing the glass with crushed ice. He then added 100-percent agave Cabrito tequila, Cointreau, a splash of orange juice, and more lime juice. Giving it all a nice strong shake, he poured it into a salt-rimmed tall glass decorated with a fresh strawberry.

This strawberry margarita was a far cry from the overly sweet frozen slushee machine drinks of yesterday. Refreshingly tart, it was a fine example of what an experienced mixologist can accomplish. His handy use of ingredients produced a well-balanced, thirst-quenching taste of fruit and alcohol that enhanced each flavor.

We may not get to Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but Red Bank’s own Mexican community is reason enough to celebrate. Salud!