Thursday, September 17, 2015

Think Pink! Prickly Pear Cocktails

I was first introduced to the delightfulness that is prickly pear during a road trip through Arizona.  We had prickly pear ice cream, prickly pear candy, prickly pear syrup, and more.  However, what I hadn’t been introduced to, until a recent trip to Denver of all places, was the prickly pear cocktail.

Denver the ART, a hotel FIRE Lounge Brazilian Baroque prickly pear cocktail

I had my first prickly pear cocktail at Denver’s the ART, a hotel in the FIRE Lounge.  This electric pink cocktail is on FIRE’s “fresh” cocktail list as the Brazilian Baroque.  The ingredients of this prickly pear cocktail are Pitu 51 Cachaca, prickly pear, fresh ginger, lime, and ginger beer.  Cachaca, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a Brazilian distilled spirit made from sugarcane and is often found in Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha.  The Pepto Bismal pink color of the cocktail might lead one to believe it is going to be super sweet, but the addition of ginger, ginger beer, and lime make it a fresh and somewhat complicated tasting cocktail.

Prickly Pear Cactus

FIRE’s Brazilian Baroque is not the only prickly pear cocktail.  In Tucson, the season for prickly pears is at the end of summer in August and September.  Every August, Chef Sergio Rocha of Tanque Verde Guest Ranch leads his staff into the cacti-filled Saguaro National Park to pick prickly pears.  They de-thorn the fruit and use the prickly pears for their famous prickly pear margaritas, BBQ sauce, syrup, and more.

Tanque Verde Ranch Prickly Pear Margarita

Tanque Verde Ranch’s Prickly Pear Margarita Recipe

3/4 oz. reposado tequila
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. Drambuie
2 dashes bitters
1/8 oz. prickly pear juice
1/8 oz. agave nectar
juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon

Shake and strain into Martini glass or 
serve on the rocks in a collins glass.
Lime ring garnish.


Another place to enjoy a prickly pear margarita is The Wigwam, a historic hotel which opened in the western part of the Phoenix area in 1929.  The hotel’s recently renovated Red’s Bar & Grill serves this favorite cocktail.

The Wigwam’s Prickly Pear Margarita Recipe

1.5oz Herradura blanco tequila
.5 oz. triple sec
1.5 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. prickly pear syrup

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake for 
15 seconds to incorporate ingredients. 
Pour over ice in martini glass. 
Salt or sugar rim optional.

Another resort in Arizona with a prickly pear beverage is L’Auberge de Sedona.  Sedona’s wellness retreat offers a non-alcoholic version.  Their Prickly Pear Mocktail is a mixture of sweet and sour, prickly pear, and soda.

I was so inspired by these prickly pear cocktails I decided to try my hand at creating my own with some prickly pear syrup we picked up during our trip to the Grand Canyon.  (You can also purchase prickly pear cactus syrup on Amazon.)  

Passports & Cocktails' Prickly Pear Old Fashioned
Passports & Cocktails' 
Prickly Pear Old Fashioned

1.5 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
.4 oz prickly pear syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 splash carbonated water

Combine bourbon, prickly pear syrup, 
and water in a double old fashioned glass.
Add ice and swirl.
Pour bourbon over ice and swirl again.


Don’t be intimidated by the bright pink beverage.  Order a prickly pear cocktail the next time you’re in Arizona or any other place serving cocktails with this unusual ingredient.

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Cocktails inspired by a desert fruit.  Prickly pear cocktails, where to find them and recipes.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.