Photography: Robert Strickland
Photography: Robert Strickland

 A homegrown desert fruit makes for a refreshing and spicy classic.

Opuntia dot and run along the Rocky Mountains’ lower elevations south through Mexico. From their pads to their prickly pear fruit — nopales and tuna in Spanish, respectively — these cactuses have long been a source of nourishment for those who have called the West home. For millennia, indigenous peoples in Mexico have fermented prickly pears into the spirit called colonche. Stateside, they are often used in contemporary mixology. A prickly pear margarita (recipe below) is on the menu at Dallas-based Urban Taco, which, aside from specializing in traditional tacos served in a modern setting, offers stellar regionally inspired cocktails.

Word to the wise: The pretty pink fruit has its name for a reason. If you decide to go the fresh route and handle prickly pears at home, make sure to thoroughly remove the exterior. The hairlike spines and raised nubs can irritate your skin, mouth, and throat. There’s nothing spirited about that.

Prickly Pear Margarita

1½ ounces silver tequila (preferably Chinaco Blanco)
1½ ounces fresh lime juice
½ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
2 ounces prickly pear purée
Tajín Clásico chile seasoning, for rim garnish

Fill a large cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except the chile seasoning and shake vigorously. Pour into glasses rimmed with the chile seasoning and filled with ice. Garnish with lime slices.

From the May/June 2015 Best of the West Food Issue.

Explore:Food & Spirits