Drink of the week: Prickly Pear Margarita

Prickly pears are a big deal in Arizona. They are not, as you might guess, pears with a spiky skin, but rather a kind of cactus that flowers every spring before growing a red fruit that can be harvested and turned into a syrup. It’s this bright purple-red syrup that then gets drizzled over pancakes, added to salsas and used as a key ingredient in the state’s go-to cocktail, the prickly pear margarita.

Don't let the garish colour disuade you. This really is a great drink!

I sampled my first prickly pear margarita at Serrano’s Mexican restaurant in Chandler, a community in the greater Phoenix area. I liked it so much I immediately bought a 12 oz bottle of Cheri’s Desert Harvest Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup (you can buy it online). On its own the syrup is sweet but with a tart taste and an unusual flavour that can only be described as rather cactusy.

You can't make a prickly pear margarita without a bottle of this syrup, available online or everywhere in Arizona.

Upon my return to Calgary I shook up a couple of prickly pear margaritas in honour of National Margarita Day (Feb. 22, yes it’s for real). If you can get past the shocking neon colour this is a really great drink, as you’re basically subbing in the prickly pear syrup for agave nectar or simple syrup. It adds a nice flavour and gives me yet another way to enjoy my favourite cocktail. I hope you like it!

Prickly Pear Margarita

  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz prickly pear syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and then strain into a margarita glass filled with crushed ice. Rim the glass with salt, if desired, and garnish with a lime wedge.

— Recipe by me!

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