Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Signature Drinks: Regular Joes and Restaurant Pros

Today's signature drink comes from Rob Pethes, not just a "Regular Joe" but an amazing travel photographer based in Toronto. I have been lucky enough to taste this margarita myself, and can assure you, it's the best margarita I've ever had. Full stop. Don't believe me? Try it yourself! Rob sent me the story behind his favourite drink, and he told it so well, I thought I'd let him tell you about The Perfect South Coast Margarita himself:


Like all great cocktails, this one is partly someone else's recipe, and partly my own inspiration. And of course, like all great cocktails, it comes with an even better story.

I lucked into what I consider to be one of the best margaritas ever as my wife and I were touring around California a few years back. We were staying in a great little B&B called the Blackberry Inn just outside of Yosemite National Park in Groveland, California. The proprietor, Ann Marie Brown has a wonderful place with a big wraparound porch out front and a dozen hummingbird feeders along the porch. In the evening hundreds of hummingbirds come out to feed from the bushes. You're literally 4 feet away from these beautiful little birds, buzzing around back and forth, as you enjoy a glass of Chardonnay on the porch, munching on some of the best home made chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. If you ever make it to Yosemite, I strongly suggest you stay at the Blackberry, which gets consistently amazing reviews on Trip Advisor.

Ann Marie is quite the traveler. She's the author of 13 guidebooks on hiking in California. You can see some of her books on her website. After a few days in Yosemite we were on our way to Big Sur on the Pacific Coast. Ann Marie told us that we simply had to visit Nepenthe for some great food and the best margarita we'll ever have. As a huge fan of spirits in general, I was sold! This place is right on the edge of a cliff and looks out onto the Pacific with a fabulous menu, great views, and apparently great margaritas. Tasting the 'South Coast Margarita' was my new mission for this trip.

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur a.k.a. Rob's mad photography skills

I wasn't disappointed. The margarita was tart and strong, but not so much as to knock you down. We had a great meal, watched the sunset, got a few photos and had a wonderful night. If you'd like to have a look at some photos from California, please visit my website. Above is one of the views from Big Sur, a beautiful part of the Pacific Coast Highway. This part of California needs to be on your travel list. Nepenthe has a great webcam too -- for those dark days of winter, you can click on their site anytime you like and take in the views.


Back to the margarita. Like all cocktails, the trick is to blend good ingredients. You can go cheap and use some silver crap tequila, and Triple Sec, but you may as well use one of those Margarita mixes if you're going to do that. Here is my suggestion: do it right. Once you taste this South Coast Margarita, you'll never be happy again with the weak cocktails they serve at most bars.

Tequila is a lot like Scotch, there are various grades, colours and vintages. For straight up shots, you want as good a quality as you can afford, at least Reposado which means up to 1 year of aging. The more expensive Anejo is 1 to 3 years. Anejo is sipping tequila, but it's pricey. The Silver or Blanco is unaged and frankly not worth mentioning. If the Tequila needs salt and lime to stomach, then you're drinking crap. Good tequila can be sipped without any additives. The last part of the Tequila story is that you want 100% de agave, which is basically the difference between blended Scotch or Single Malt. The one I'm drinking right now is Cazadores (Reposado) which goes for around $40 at the LCBO. A nice mid priced bottle that is smooth, with a little heat on the way down. With a mixed cocktail, you don't need to use the best tequila, but you don't want to use junk either.


As I mentioned, no Triple Sec. That's a cheat. You need to use good ingredients, which means you're going to use Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Get the small bottles first, cause this stuff is pricey. Finally, get yourself some ReaLime in a bottle, some fresh limes, some Tonic water (in a can so it's always fresh), and some ice. The Tonic water is my personal tweak to the recipe. It takes away the strength of the liquor, gives it a bubbly effect, and enhances the limes. This drink is so refreshing that you'll have guests showing up all the time. I'm warning you, be careful who you share this drink with!



Use a medium or tall glass. I rarely measure the liquor in my drinks, but in this case use a jigger to get the right proportions.

  • 3 cubes of ice
  • 1/2 lime, quartered and squeezed into the glass (this isn't a garnish -- use it all!)
  • 3 squirts of ReaLime lime juice


  • 1 oz good quality Tequila, 100% de agave, minimum a Reposado aging(Cuervo Gold, Cazadores, El Jimador, Cabo Wabo, Olmeca, Herradura, Milagro, whatever you prefer)
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

Fill up the glass with tonic water.Stir and enjoy with friends.

If this isn't the best Margarita you've ever had, then please, email me your recipe, because you and I need to be friends!!

The Perfect South Coast Margarita

My extreme thanks to Rob for sharing this recipe with all of us and for his entertaining and honest way of telling the story! I can say from experience, I have been one of those guests that he's made this drink for and I always request it now when I visit! Cheers, everyone!

Rob Pethes Photography

1 comment:

  1. It's been too long since we were together margarita...
    Rob's version is my fav as well!