Something with some fruit, but not too fru-fru. Something with a punch, but not a knock-em-out kind of hit. Maybe a little herby, or peppery, or all these things.
A trip to Hershey proved to be the right direction for a jalapeño peach margarita at The Mill— or maybe it’s “the mill,” which is how it’s written on the menu and on the side of the building.
There’s nothing lower case about this place.
The Mill is a massive restored brick mill that was once known as The Curry Feed Mill, dating back to 1880. Set right next to the Norfolk Southern rail line, freight trains rumble past with a comforting whistle.
The three-storied mill now manufactures tasty lunches and dinners, and features an innovative cocktail menu with concoctions like the Cherry Berry Sangria with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, or the Blooming Hibiscus Martini with a real edible candied hibiscus flower. A cucumber melon spritzer sounded fresh and lively. So did the Lime in the Coconut with coconut rum and pineapple juice. The Raspberry Lemon Drop seemed sweet and elegant.
Then I saw the jalapeño peach margarita. Hmmm. Jalapeño. Peach. Tequila. That might just be the right combination of sweet and spicy. And it is. It’s salty and sweet and spicy and refreshing all at once, with an unexpected mix of flavors in one margarita glass.
Dan, the bartender, was happy to take me through its creation step by step. First, was the salt rim for the glass. That’s what keeps the sweet peach puree from being too cloying. Next is the muddling of cilantro, the wonderful herb that has delicate lacy green leaves that look like parsley. The leaves have a refreshing, almost lemon flavor, which is found in practically everything southwestern, like salsa fresca, pico de gallo and guacamole.
I happen to love cilantro, a fondness shared by some 85 percent of the population. It seems that cilantro is a love-it-or-hate-it herb. Researchers believe there is actually a gene that makes about 15 percent of people hate cilantro. Their taste buds tell them it tastes like soap. Mine tell me that cilantro tastes wonderful, like freshness, warmth and sunshine.
Once Dan muddled the cilantro, he mixed up the rest of the ingredients in a stainless steel shaker. There’s the Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila, which really has a bite as only a jalapeño can. It’s smoothed out with agave, the desert plant from Mexico’s Jalisco lowlands, which lends a slight sweetness to the jalapeño tequila. Then there is the luscious pureed peach, which gives this creation a gorgeous sunset yellow orange hue. A touch of orange flavored Cointreau has juice from both sweet and bitter oranges, to add more complexity. Oh, yes, and fresh lime to give it that extra zip that only lime can provide. Lime manages to marry all the flavors together into one cohesive cocktail.
The first sip has some kick with the salty rim and the jalapeño tequila, which is flavored by refreshing hints of cilantro and lime. Then there is the fresh peach, orangey Cointreau and smooth agave to add dulcet notes of sweetness.
The result is only faintly sweet, as the spice clearly takes the upper hand. It’s an invigorating cocktail that matches well with menu choices like seared sea scallops with lemon grits and pancetta or seared Hawaiian tuna with vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, cashews, pickled carrots and Vietnamese sweet and sour sauce.