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Veracruz - El Torito Cocktail Recipe

Little Bull, the Jarochos’ favourite tipple, packs a powerful punch. Based on heady fire water, the aguardiente made of sugar cane, and tinned milk, both evaporated and condensed, the Torito is sweet to the point of sickliness and yet deeply refreshing – let alone hopelessly moreish and a thirst quencher redolent of warm tropical climes! Like all alcoholic cocktails which contain a good amount of cream or fruit, it is easy to underestimate its strength and drink it with gay abandon - the resulting hangover, however, is proof of its muscle as well as an education.

The Spaniards introduced sugar cane to Mexico from the Caribbean Islands in the 16th century, establishing vast plantations worked by African slaves - and it is still one of the state’s main agricultural crops. The alcoholic drink distilled from the sugar cane is known as caña or cañada, which finds its way into a variety of tipples, including what I have always called Cuba Libre or rum and coke. The Torito however is the star of Veracruz’s bar culture. It is drunk throughout the state but is a real speciality of the coastal Sotavento region - served ice cold, it is drunk as an apéritif, a digestif and even as an accompaniment to a meal instead of the more usual glass of beer. The Little Bull can be flavoured with anything from peanut butter – by far the most common – and coffee to any of the tropical fruits grown in the area: pineapple, guava, papaya and mamey, guanábana (soursop), blackberry and coconut. While bottles of commercial mass-produced toritos are available, many Veracruzanos see it as an artisan production. But why buy it in a bottle when it takes just minutes to make?!

Unless you have access to cañada, white rum is the best substitute, just as punchy and also somewhat smoother.

Peanut Torito – Torito de Cacahuate

This may sound like a bizarre combination of flavours – milk, peanuts, rum – but it works very well indeed, resulting in a rich, aromatic concoction.

Serves 2

200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup evaporated milk
200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup unsweetened condensed milk
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup white rum
50 g/2 oz smooth peanut butter
50 g/2 oz piloncillo or molasses sugar or to taste
Ice cubes

Blend the first five ingredients together until very smooth and velvety. Check the sweetness and add a bit more sugar if necessary – the sugar brings out the flavours and gives them roundness.

Place at least three ice cubes in each glass and pour the Torito over them.

Drink immediately – and beware, it slips down easily and effortlessly!

Pineapple Torito – Torito de Piña

This fruity Little Bull is lighter and brighter than the peanut version and can be drunk with greater impunity, but it is still very lethal!

Serves 4

1 large pineapple, about 1.8 kg/4 lb
200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup evaporated milk
200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup unsweetened condensed milk
375 ml/13 fl oz/1 1/2 cups white rum
50 g/2 oz white sugar or to taste
Ice cubes

Peel the pineapple, discard the core and dice the flesh – you should have about 850 g/2 lb net weight.

Blend the pineapple with the milk, rum and sugar until very smooth and velvety. Taste and add a bit more sugar if the Torito is not sweet or fragrant enough – the sugar will bring out the fruitiness. Strain through a medium mesh sieve, pressing down on the solids to extract all the liquid.

Place at least three ice cubes in each glass and pour in the Torito.

Drink immediately.

Buén provecho!

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