When I was young, we lived on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, surrounded by the beautiful Sonora desert. We kids would pick the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, braving the tiny spines that lodged in our fingers to peel and eat the fruit. My mother would make prickly pear jelly, although one year in our eagerness, we kept fussing with the jars, which never set, and we had pancakes with prickly pear syrup instead.
When I recently saw prickly pear fruit in the grocery store here in the Seattle area, I couldn’t resist. I knew there was no way that these supermarket specimens could be as ripe and delicious as the fruit I picked off the cactus in the backyard.
What they were was full of sneaky little barbs that found the tenderest part of my fingers despite my care in handling them. Be sure to keep your tweezers around when you use these fruit.1
The first thing I did with the fruit was peel off the tough outer skin and last few straggling spines. The inside fruit was a beautiful deep red. The outermost layer was a bit soft, but the middle was firm and even a bit crisp. The flavor of the fruit is a bit like a rich, spicy concentrated watermelon.
Being a desert fruit, the natural liquor to start with was tequila. I chose to muddle the fruit with a little agave syrup. Then I added some lime juice and orange liqueur to balance the flavors.
1.5 oz blanco tequila (Tequila Ocho)
0.75 oz orange liqueur (Citronge)
0.5 oz lime juice
1/2 large prickly pear fruit, quartered
1 tsp agave syrup
Muddle prickly pear fruit in agave syrup in shaking tin. Add rest of ingredients and ice. Shake until good and cold. Double strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with slice of prickly pear fruit.
To be honest, the result is a flavored margarita. But the prickly pear brings an unexpected, new flavor that I really enjoyed. I gave Bryan a taste, and his immediate was response was this drink is something he’d be happy to order in a bar.
I did have to pick out a couple of stickers from my fingers in the process, but it was definitely worth the effort. A little taste of my childhood in a great tasting drink. What’s not to love?