April 8 is National Empanada Day so we’re naming the Pastry War Margarita as the Drink of the Day. And you’ll know what to have as a snack. After all, everybody loves empanadas, or their culinary equivalent in a different cuisine, so it’s a twofer. From sweet to savory, anything is better when you can just pick it up and stuff it in the old pie hole, so it’s time to pay tribute to the empanada and have a drink.
An empanada is a fried or baked kind of turnover, consisting of dough folded around a seasoned stuffing. The term comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to coat with bread. So they go by that name in Iberian-influenced cultures around the world. Apparently a 1520 cookbook written in Catalan mentions them by name.
But let’s face it, pretty much once civilizations learned to grind flour these little packets of goodness came into being. That likely happened somewhere in the Middle East, but they spread around the world under a variety of names. Hand pies, knish, meat pies, samosas, jiaozi, pierogis, pastelitos or panzerotti, what have you. Practically every culture has a variation on the theme, though the typical shape and fillings vary quite a bit.
Nonetheless, this is National Empanada Day, so we’re focused on those from the Iberian-influenced world. Empanadas by that name are big in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela and the Philippines. Brazil’s in on the game too but call them pastéis.
Fillings are all over the map. Typical ingredients could be meat, fish, eggs, cheese, onion, peas, shrimp or potato. But the sweet side isn’t ignored, with banana, guava, chocolate, vanilla custard and other variations also exist.
You’re on your own in terms of procuring some empanadas, but virtually any city will have some form available, either pre-made in markets, served in restaurants, or sold out the door of a sweet little abuelita’s home kitchen. Whether you look in a Mexican or South American grocery, a deli with knishes or a eat samosas in an Indian restaurant you’ll be nibbling on the right stuff.
The Pastry War Margarita
The Pastry War Margarita wasn’t exactly created as an accompaniment to empanadas, but we think using the word “pastry” in its name qualifies it. And the Pastry War did occur because of pastry, or perhaps we should say a pastry cook. So it works for us.
The Pastry War itself was a brief and relatively minor skirmish between Mexico and France at the end of 1838 and early 1839. It arose from the claim of a French pastry cook living near Mexico City that some Mexican Army officers had damaged his restaurant. He pressed the Mexican government to pay for his losses, but when he did not succeed France got its military involved. The British brokered a deal, the pastry chef got paid, and everyone went home.
This got turned into the Pastry War Margarita sometime much later, at the now defunct Bastille Café & Bar in Seattle. It’s got the familiar elements of a Margarita, namely tequila and lime, but omits orange liqueur and sugar. It relies on the more complex combination of Amaro Montenegro and an Elderflower liqueur to temper the acidity of the lime. This works well, and this is one to add to your armamentarium of Margaritas and other agave-based drinks.
Pastry War Margarita
- 1 oz Tequila A reposado is preferred.
- ½ oz Mezcal
- ½ oz Amaro Montengro
- ½ oz elderflower liqueur St. Germains is what you'll see on the shelf and is a top choice.
- ½ oz Fresh lime juice
- pinch Salt Make it a very small pinch.
- Garnish Lime wheel or wedge.
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled coupe.
- Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge.