Natural Cocktail Ingredients from the Desert

Desert Rhubarb One of the nicest aspects of being in the cocktail business is that work is play and play provides material for work. Early yesterday morning during my guided tour of the Arizona desert, our group passed bushes, plants, and cacti that Native Americans used in cooking and that we see in our diets today. From the look of my group, I'm guessing that I was the only person imagining what these shrubs and 100-years-old Caryophyllales would taste like with tequila. But that's me summing up people who wear crocs with knee-highs and carry Sparkletts-sized water bottles for a 40-minute walk around the Ritz-Carlton.

Desert rhubarb looks related to the rhubarb available in our farmers markets and supermarkets, but its leaves are toxic and not for consumption. However, the stems can be safely eaten once separated from the leaf. Traditionally, the plant's use is strictly medicinal and has not yet found its way into bartenders' hands, but there's hope. Remember the history of absinthe!

According to the locals, Creosote smells like rain when you break a piece off and rub it between your hands. Some say it has the medicinal power to cure TB if used in a tea or smoked. But the FDA strongly urges people not to use this "herb" because of possible liver and kidney damage. Where do you think the FDA stands on mixing Creosote with vodka?

Prickly Pear Cactus is a paradox thanks to its menacing beauty. But it's the flesh that lends itself perfectly to drinks. Once you peel the outer layers and discard of all the spines, you're left with a pink, naturally sweet meat that reduces down to a delicious juice. I've tried a few Prickly Pear Margaritas and I think they're very, very good. It will take a few more though before I'm totally convinced. Look for the recipe tomorrow.

Desert Cocktails: Prickly Pear Margarita

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