Classic Margarita, or “Mesquite-a-rita”

I just got back from a month-long friend, food, and family extravaganza in Texas, towing behind me an overflowing suitcase full of new cookbooks, chile peppers, knick-knacks, random gifts and great memories.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to know Tom and Lisa Perini of the famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse near Abilene. Tom grew up working in the cattle ranching business, where he learned and perfected the art of real, down-home, and delicious cowboy cuisine. He opened the steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, TX, population 450.

Tom Perini

I’ve been asked, “Tom, what do you do to make your restaurant so Texas?” and I say, “We don’t DO anything, it just IS Texas.” That’s what makes the difference. When you try too hard to do something, that’s when you start having problems. But when you’re really true to it, if it really is Texan, then you don’t have to DO anything to it. And people can feel that. —Tom Perini

And people DID feel that. Perini Ranch Steakhouse has become a real destination restaurant, luring diners from all over the state, country, and world (including famous politicians, singers, and hollywood stars), and have been featured in countless publications. As its fame spread, however, the restaurant hasn’t compromised its dedication to serving straightforward and delicious Texan fare in a cosy and unpretentious atmosphere.

I am not a chef, and this is not chef-driven cuisine. That’s not what we’re trying to do, we just want to make this place as good as it can be, for what it is. And this is a building, on a ranch, serving good, simple Texas food that sticks to your ribs. We don’t need white tablecloths. —Tom Perini

Perini Ranch Steakhouse

We made a special 3.5 hour drive to go meet the Perinis and share a wonderful meal with them at the steakhouse, not to mention fantastic conversation and some killer margaritas. We also went home with a signed copy of Tom’s beautiful cookbook. It would be useless (and perhaps a bit mean) to describe in detail all the delicious dishes we consumed that night, you really have to experience it for yourselves. I would like to share, however, the recipe for that margarita (or “Mesquite-a-rita” as it’s known at the restaurant). I think it properly illustrates the philosophy behind Tom’s cooking: simple recipes, quality ingredients, great flavor. There are no secrets and no fancy mixes involved here: just good Tequila and freshly squeezed lime juice. They’re delicious enough to be dangerous, though, so be careful!

We stayed the night in a cottage on the ranch and had to hit the road way too early the next morning. The first word out of Emilio’s mouth when I tried to roust him out of bed at 6 A.M. was a pained “Mesquite-a-rita.” We were rewarded for our efforts with a mind-blowing Texas sunrise, which we fully enjoyed notwithstanding the lingering effects of those unforgettable margaritas.

Perini Ranch Mesquite-a-rita

  • 1 jigger Cuervo Gold Tequila
  • 1/2 jigger Grand Marnier
  • 1 jigger Triple Sec
  • 1 jigger freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Lime slices, to serve

Rub the rim of a glass with a fresh lime, quartered. Dip the rim in coarsely ground salt. Combine ingredients in shaker, shake well and pour over ice. Garnish with a lime slice. Serve.

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