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Sangrita (meaning "little blood"), whose origin dates back to the 1920s, is a customary partner to a shot of straight tequila blanco; a non-alcoholic accompaniment that highlights tequila's crisp acidity and cleanses the palate between each peppery sip. The basic conception of sangrita is to complement the flavor of 100% agave tequila, which is also peppery and citrusy in taste. Before increased worldwide popularity and corporate interest in tequila in the late 1990s and early 21st century, few outside of the Mexican Pacific region bordering the state of Jalisco, where tequila was mainly produced and consumed, knew of the existence of sangrita, and much less its recipe. As popularity grew, so did commercial efforts to recreate the mysterious red, spicy drink that was served with tequila. In fact the drink was not that mysterious. While most outsiders would reference its red make up as tomato juice and spices, locals and traditionalists agree that the one ingredient that most likely doesn't belong is tomato.
A popular recipe in Guadalajara (Jalisco's largest city) was said to have originated from the leftover juices (mainly orange) of an equally popular regional fruit salad covered with fine chilli powder, usually piquin. As the fruit salad, known to tapatios (Guadalajara's natives) as pico de gallo, was consumed from a large bowl during breakfast, the remaining juice was saved and poured on a small and narrow clay cup, which itself would be the precursor of the tequila shot glass. In essence, the recipe of the original sangrita is thought to be that and the same recipe of the fruit salad from which it was strained. In almost all cases the drink took its bright red color from a mix of the fine pepper powder, spices, and pomegranate, while the base was mainly orange or sweetened lime juice. The key to a balanced sangrita recipe can be found in the fruit salad's recipes, which would have included any or all of the following: tangerine, cucumber, papaya, mango and jicama.
Traditionally, sangrita is served with tequila blanco, but it can also accompany tequila reposado. The tequila and sangrita are each poured into a separate shot glass (or caballito) and the two are alternately sipped, not chased. Sangrita is used in a drink known as "The Mexican Flag", where three separate double shot glasses are filled with lime juice, tequila and sangrita.
Authentic sangrita from the Lake Chapala region of Jalisco is made with Seville orange, lime and pomegranate juices, with chili powder or hot sauce added for heat. However, most modern sangrita recipes (particularly outside of Jalisco) have mistakenly attributed the red appearance of the drink to tomato juice instead of the chile powder. While some would argue that there is no set rule on what sangrita should contain, as the main ingredient, it is commonly considered by older residents of Jalisco that tomato and particularly branded recipes such as the "Clamato" mix stem from uninformed efforts to recreate the drink due to its growing popularity. It can feature a blend of orange, lime, tomato and/or pomegranate juices, or pomegranate-based grenadine with the addition of something spicy (hot sauce or fresh/dried chile), and sometimes white onion and salt.
A variation on a basic traditional recipe:
- 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3/4 to 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 oz. real pomegranate-based grenadine
- 1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder or 3 dashes hot sauce
- 1-2 slices jalapeño
A basic tomato based recipe (non-traditional)
- 2 parts freshly squeezed tomato juice
- 1 part freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 part freshly squeezed lime juice
- Fresh minced green chile to taste
Mexico City style Sangrita:
- 5 parts tomato juice
- 2 parts fresh lime juice
- 1 part orange juice
- Seasoned with a combination of Jugo Maggi, Salsa Valentina, Worcestershire and Tabasco(original) sauce to taste.