Mexican “Firing Squad” Special.
While the “Firing Squad” might sound like some modern student bravado shooter it’s really something much older and wiser. Charles H Baker’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask is a quirky globe trotting cocktail guide* part of which includes his frustration at trying to get a decent cocktail in Mexico City in 1937. While it is interesting to note that is no mention of a Margarita in his book (supporting our theory that it is somewhat more modern) he does eventually find satisfaction the La Cucaracha bar with the above named drink. It’s a cocktail that has – just barely – survived the following decades as something of a niche tequila drink but has evolved markedly from his original recipe and for good reason. Baker’s spec of “2oz good tequila, the juice of 2 small limes, 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of grenadine and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters” simply makes for a very lopsided sour/bitter concoction. Que pasa? Were limes smaller and sweeter in 1930s Mexico? Was grenadine crazy sweet (unlikely as there is literally a limit to how sweet you can make a syrup)? Or were palates simply more acquired to a tart cocktail? Who knows? Not me. In any case the recipe has evolved significantly with most modern versions containing equal quantities of lime juice and grenadine. Marvellous. However, unlike some modern iterations I won’t be adding soda or anything else to the recipe just re-balancing it for modern tastes. I’m none too enamoured of the name which smacks of cultural stereotyping and violence and take Baker’s use of quotation marks as a licence to just call it the Mexican Special. But whatever. When all of this is taken into consideration we are left with a rich and rewarding drink** although it does trouble me a little that the tequila flavour doesn’t really come to the fore – it’s just kind of hanging there in the background. That might be fine with some folks though. Another problem is that Baker states “use a tall collins glass and snap fingers at the consequences” but there’s really not enough to fill a Collins glass even if you fill it with shaved ice as he suggests. What to do, what to do? My take is to serve it over a big block of clear ice in a double Old Fashioned glass as that simply seems to suit it best but I can see that on a very warm day it could be pretty tasty in a long glass with a metric shit-ton of crushed ice.
2oz / 60ml Blanco tequila (100% agave as always).
0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.
0.75oz / 22ml grenadine (good stuff – preferably your own).
2 dashes Angostura bitters (although I like a few more).
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled double Old Fashioned glass containing a large block (or ball) of clear ice.
An orange garnish seems to suit it well but is certainly optional.
Toast Charles H. Baker (1895 – 1987).
*Which is available as an inexpensive reprint as seen in the picture.
**Bonus points if you noticed that it has much in common with the Shrunken Skull.