As I meant to say before, when Americans think of Nevada they think of Las Vegas. And oh, so much comes to mind when we think of Vegas: casinos, gambling, singers - and whatever you would call Céline Dion, buffets galore (the one time I went I spent some quality time with the buffet at the Aladdin), CSI, the Strip... excess beyond excess!!! (yes, even one of my favorite forensic dramas. Any forensic scientist will tell you the equipment they have there just doesn't exist yet. Again: excess). It should surprise no one that many Vegas casinos regularly gave free drinks to patrons of their casinos. It should surprise few that mixologists have found a prominent place here. It should surprise everyone that, despite the many cocktails that have been created in Sin City, none of America's most famous ones come from here.
Official Name: State of Nevada
State Nicknames: The Silver State; The Sagebrush State
Admission to the US: October 31, 1864 (#36)
Capital: Carson City (2nd largest)
Other Important Cities: Las Vegas (largest), Henderson (2nd largest), Reno (4th largst), Sparks (5th lagest)
Region: West, Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, Southwest; Mountain (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Pinyon Nut; Chile Pepper
Bordered by: Oregon & Idaho (north), Utah (east), Arizona (southeast), California (south and west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: desert bighorn sheep (mammal - though generally not hunted); single-leaf pinyon (tree - for the pine nuts); Lahontan cutthroat trout (fish - whose low numbers are currently being replenished)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Native American and frontier foods, specificalyl Native foods typical of Great Basin peoples (including pine nuts); Basque cuisine; buffets and Vegas-style excess (in Las Vegas)
Many American cities boast signature cocktails. New Orleans has its Sazerac. New York has a few, it's so durned big (the Manhattan, the Long Island Iced Tea, etc). And while the Mint Julep isn't indigenous to Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is its most famous venue. Hell, even Baltimore has its Black Eyed Susan around Preakness time (not the most famous drink, but I had to recognize). So I figured that Las Vegas has contributed at least one famous cocktail to the American culinary landscape. While investigating the many cocktails of Las Vegas, I found many that I had never heard of, some of which having been designated among the top American drinks of their year. One notable one is the Cable Car, cousin to the Sidecar. Notably served throughout Las Vegas, it was created by Tony Abou-Ganim at the Starlight Room... in San Francisco. He did bring it with him to Vegas, but it isn't an indigenous cocktail.
One very popular (but again, non-indigenous) cocktail in Las Vegas is the Mexican Mojito - according to the I4Vegas website, it is perhaps the most popular one in Vegas. I wouldn't know, but apparently it is a common one, a twist on the classic mojito replacing rum with, of course, tequila.
The Recipe: Mexican Mojito
While there are slight variations, the version of the Mexican mojito I used comes from Deborah Schneider at Leite's Culinaria. For one of hers you will need:
* 100% agave blanco tequila (Since I don't drink many cocktails, and never drink straight liquor, I have fairly little around my kitchen - especially tequila, which will hit you when you least expect it like a ton o' bricks: Morelia, 2000, and an all-you-can-eat taco bar - trust me, I know. I could have bought a large bottle for $40 or $50 that would have lasted me, probably, my entire life. Instead, I bought a one-shot bottle of Patrón for the eye-popping price of $7. This had better be a damn good cocktail.)
* fresh mint sprigs (hmmm, sounds like that mint julep so far. None fresh from my garden this time. I had to buy some for $2)
* lime wedges (about half a dollar for one lime at Giant)
* ice cubes
* carbonated water (a bottle isn't that pricey, under a dollar)
* lemon-lime soda (you may have some lying around)
* more mint and lime for garnish
First, muddle the mint, lime and sugar together. I could'e used a spoon. Instead I used my pestle. Be careful if you go that route.
Add a few ounces of ice to the glass.
And then add your tequila. Next you shake it. Schneider suggests using a shaker, which I didn't have on hand.
A few stray splashes over the sink later, the tequila, ice, lime, sugar and mint are all mixed up.
To this you will add some carbonated water...
...and some lemon-lime soda: Sprite, 7-Up, Sun Drop, hell why not go crazy and use ginger ale instead? Of course, that will make a different cocktail.
I'm glad the lady at The Wine Source recommended the small bottle of Patrón, because it was a good white tequila to use for this drink. It's got the nice kick of tequila inside a mojito. What else can I say? It's a lovely drink. But once again, I was reminded just how hard tequila can hit a person. Even with this meager amount, I wasn't stumbling but I was feeling it for more than a few minutes at least.
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We'll be spending some quality time mostly on the East Coast for a while, and our next stop is one of those early primary states. Bust out the maple syrup and pie dough: it's Granite Time in New Hampshire.
Detterick-Piñeda, Cynthia. "Piñon Cakes - Pine Nut Cakes How To Make Pine Nut Cakes". WhatsCookingAmerica.Net, date unknown. Copyright WhatsCookingAmerica.Net 2011.
Elllingsworth, Christy. "Basque potatoes". The Daily Dish, posted January 4, 2011.
I4Vegas.Com. "Popular Las Vegas Drinks". Date unknown. Copyright I4Vegas.Com 1999-2011.
The Modern Mixologist (TheModernMixologist.com). "Cable Car: Tony's Signature Cocktail". Date unknown. Copyright The Modern Mixologist, 2007.
PineNut.Com. "History of Pine Nuts & The People of the Great Basin". PineNut.Com, date unknown. Copyright PineNut.Com 1998-2011.
Schneider, Deborah. "Mexican Mojito". Leite's Culinaria (LeitesCulinaria.Com), posted May 5, 2010.
Zubir, Nancy. A travel guide to Basque America: families, feasts, and festivals. University of Nevada Press: Reno, NV, 2006. Also partially available on Google Books.
Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Nevada" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Nevada".