A recent edition of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle featured this clue: Spicy fruit beverage often used as a tequila chaser. The answer? Sangrita. And just like that, sangrita cemented its place in our modern lexicon. But how did it get there? It had help from a few great chefs and bartenders who have made it their mission to teach Americans how to drink tequila.
Dating back to the 1920s in Jalisco, Mexico, sangrita (which translates to “little blood”) is classically made with orange juice, pomegranate juice, lime juice and either chili powder or hot sauce. That said, there are no real hard and fast rules about making sangrita. There’s no sangrita police, waiting to take your tequila away from you should you dare to add Worcestershire or grapefruit juice. Roughly, sangrita should be spicy, acidic and include some fruit juice (tomato juice counts). In practice, sangrita is served chilled in a small glass alongside a shot of tequila. You take a sip of tequila, you chase it with a sip of sangria, and finally you have a good experience drinking tequila—no lime wedge-biting or belly buttons involved!
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Sangrita might not be de rigeuer at every neighborhood bar yet, but don’t worry, it will be. With tequila sales soaring in the U.S.—high-end tequila brand sales have grown 189 percent in volume since 2002—expect to see the country’s tequila drinking IQ rise accordingly. Gone will be the days of slamming down shots and we will arrive in a golden age of sophisticated sipping with a side of acidity enhancing, palate-cleansing sangrita thanks, largely, to the work of knowledgeable chefs and bartenders creating their own delicious versions of the chaser. Here, a few places across the country to try some terrific sangrita right now.