Santa Fe has had a long illustrious relationship with tequila. And the margarita. Since its origins as one of the key outposts along the Camino Real (the “King’s Highway” of Colonial times that stretched 1,200 miles from just north of Santa Fe all the to Mexico City), the City Different has long recognized tequila, especially Mexican tequila, as a strong part of its cultural and economic makeup.
Today, what little most people know about this centuries-old “cactus juice” comes to them in the form of the margarita. Most of which are frozen and machine-made. But this syrupy-sweet, semi-frozen concoction has little to do with a real margarita. In its purest form, the margarita remains an excellent showcase for a variety of flavors.
In its traditional form, the margarita adheres to a 3-2-1 ratio: 3 parts tequila to 2 parts triple sec (orange liqueur) and 1 part fresh lime juice. (The rim may or may not be salted.) That’s it. It’s hard to imagine how something so simple could be commercialized to the point that it can come from a machine, a bottle, or a concentrate. How could these ever compare to the fantastic explosion of tastes contained in a properly made margarita? The one with fresh lime juice, the sensuous orangey sweetness of a good orange liqueur, and the fine flavors of various tequilas.
Many theories about the origin of the drink abound. It’s been alleged to have been invented in 1948 by a wealthy Dallas socialite, Margaret Sames, to entertain friends at her vacation home in Acapulco. Her friend Tommy Hilton enjoyed one so much he began to carry them on the bar menus of all the Hilton Hotels. Others think the drink, and its name, originated from the prohibition-era cocktail the “Daisy.” Supposedly a bartender accidentally poured tequila, not brandy, into a Daisy, and—voila!—invented the margarita (Spanish for daisy). Others contend that a Tijuana bartender invented it for Rita “Margarita” Hayworth, who as a teenager purportedly entertained audiences at the Agua Caliente Racetrack in the 1930’s. It could also be a rebranded Picador cocktail, which was clearly a prototype of the margarita. Regardless, the first recorded mention of the cocktail is in 1930 in G.F. Steele’s My New Cocktail Book. In 1953, Esquire designated it their “drink of the month” (saying, “she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative”).
The origins of tequila itself are much clearer and are steeped in the syncretism found in contemporary North American Hispanic and Mesoamerican cultures. For the early Mesoamerican peoples and the Aztec, the fermented product of the American agave, or maguey, was pulque. This is a simply fermented and mildly alcoholic preparation of maguey sap that was held in great sacred respect and was an integral part of many religious festivals and ceremonies. Following the invasion of the Spanish, the drink was secularized and pulque became a popular libation among the lower classes. The upper classes were oriented to European tastes, so wine and brandy prevailed as their more popular drink.
Distillation of pulque led to the more concentrated and powerful spirits we know today as mescal and tequila (coming from different subspecies of agave). This was made utilizing Spanish technology and techniques to produce a hybridized drink that celebrated the “best of both worlds,” one that echoed the syncretic and hybridized culture that produced it.
Myself, I usually go for straight shots, some lime slices, and salt. (And my tequilas of choice, in the form of a Reposado, are: Patrón, Jose Cuervo Tradicional, and El Tesoro.) But whatever your form of tequila consumption, the Agoyo Lounge at Inn on the Alameda serves them all. Our fine and diverse selection of tequilas makes for an evenly spaced evening of shots, margaritas, or even Jimmy Buffet’s (or the Eagles’) tequila sunrises. But once you get started, our warm and inviting atmosphere will induce you into spending hours in front of our fireplace (in the winter) or, in the summer, relaxing contentedly on the patio.
Add from our menu any or all of these Mexican specialties: guacamole with salsa and chips, empanadas, chicken enchilada casseroles, gordita flour tacos, calabacitas, or Bear’s famous Atomic Frito Pie!
Even better, the Inn on the Alameda and our Agoyo Lounge will be kicking off Cinco de Mayo as one of the top stops along Santa Fe’s inaugural Margarita Trail. The Trail will be offering a “culinary cocktail experience” that shows off the best Santa Fe has to offer, with drinks priced at seven to twelve dollars. We’ll have margaritas of all makes and colors, and our fine selection of top-of-the-line tequilas will have you feeling like John Wayne, who once wrote a letter to the owner of Sauza Tequila telling him that in the Duke’s home, tequila had become “as necessary in our household as air and water.”
But like everything else in life, moderation is the key to happiness. And in the case of tequila and margaritas, to a morning without hangovers or upset stomachs.
This fascinating two-day celebration at the first of November is not only the oldest American ritual honoring the dead, but the most popular holiday in all of Mexico. The native peoples that inhabited Mexico before the Spanish conquest in 1521 had a deep connection with death and dying. While modern western medicine cannot explain what happens after death occurs, neither could the old healers tell anyone what truly lies beyond the veil of life. So when Catholicism became the religion forced upon the Indigenous People, the Church already had two special days of recognizing and remembering the dead: All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
The appealing concept and imagery of this special day remembering the dead helped the merging of the Catholics’ and the Indigenous Peoples’ histories and beliefs. Dia de los Muertos formed a perfect common and similar union between Catholicism and Mexican traditional days of celebration. Ironically, this is a day for the dead with little focus on the Church, Jesus Christ, nor the trilogy. Instead, candied skeletons, skulls, marigold flowers and photographs of the deceased family members adorn the beautiful and personalized shrines and altars throughout Mexico. It is an invitation from the living to the dead to come and share a meal. Often on display can be found tequila, beers, cigarettes, tacos, mole: whatever each individual dead honoree enjoyed the most.
It is widely believed that the American tradition of Halloween stems from the blending of these two traditional celebrations of the dead’s lives. However, as one might expect from a culture of consumerism, Americans buy our children costumes of spooks, ghosts and skeletons and hustle them off to scare people and ask for candy. One can certainly see the American propensity to commercialize what was at one time a day to honor and remember your people now passed over. On the Day of the Dead, one sees all over Mexico activities such as building altars and shrines, cleaning and decorating graves, listening to strolling musicians, telling funny stories about each deceased relative, now again living for two precious days a year in the cemeteries through the energy, respect and honor of their families. The energy is always joyous, never gloomy. It is ironically a celebration of Life, this Day of the Dead!
Modern American culture has morphed this wonderful celebration of life into children screaming “Boo!” as if the dead came back on All Saints Day to scare people. Give me candy or we will “trick” you somehow in revenge. The real trick would be to somehow culturally re-connect Halloween with the wonderful aspects of the Day of the Dead.
So this Halloween, or the Day of the Dead, please stop by the Agoyo Lounge at the Inn on the Alameda in Santa Fe for a celebratory meal and drink and toast your past family members; and through your memories, celebrate their lives on earth.
Santa Fe is a hybrid culture, a unique blend where the parts make up a greater whole. The traditions and foodstuffs of the pre-Columbian peoples, the stylistic influence of the Hispanic culture (both recent and hundreds of years old) and the modern fusion of contemporary upscale dining, all combine to form the distinctive and delicious elements of modern Santa Fe food.
The Puebloan peoples that inhabited the area we now ca3l Santa Fe were, in many ways, defined by their diet and their farming activities. Other tribes and peoples that relied on subsistence hunting and gathering were forced to engage in a constant migration as they followed the brief periods of seasonal abundance, while the peoples who engaged in agriculture were able to become settled and develop agricultural surplus. These factors led to the complex society we call today Anasazi with its later development into the myriad Pueblo peoples that make up New Mexico.
The Puebloan diet was dominated by their staple crops of corn, beans, various gourds and chiles. Seeds and nuts such as acorns and pine nuts would be gathered to supplement the Anasazi diet. Despite domestication of the turkey and the dog, neither of these species seemed to have made up a significant source of dietary protein. Meat seemed to come predominantly from small pest species like mice and rabbits, with larger prey like deer or bighorn sheep being rarer.
Food required a great deal of preparation. Corn would be processed into a more nutritious form through an alkalization process that involved repeated soakings and boilings in solutions of lime chloride requiring significant amounts of labor. Following the process, known as Nixtamalization, the kernels were ready to be ground. Daily hours were spent grinding dried corn or seeds into flours which could be cooked over hot flat rocks, forming the precursor of today’s tortilla. The usage of pottery in cooking indicates that stews, soups and porridges likely made up most of the prepared diet. During the harsh New Mexico winters the Puebloans would rely on their stored and dried food, predominantly corn.
The Spanish brought with them their own cultures and food habits. They introduced multiple species of domesticated animals which greatly increased the proportion of meat in the native diets. They introduced crops like rice and brought the technology of cheese making with them.
The dominant Hispanic culture, with its emphasis on meats and cheeses, influenced the native cuisine and was, in turn, influenced by the agricultural innovations of the native people. Hybrid cuisine developed. The New Mexico enchilada, for example, is a prime example of this fusion. Traditional indigenous chili sauces and corn tortillas were melded with European foods such as cheese and chicken or pork to create a delicious hybrid cuisine.
For nearly 300 years the New Mexico territory was a largely neglected colonial backwater of New Spain, which led to isolation and the development of local culture and cuisine. This isolation accounts for the differentiation between New Mexico cuisine and the more familiar hybrids found in California and Texas.
The evolution of tastes and dining following the incorporation of New Mexico into the United States provided the final element in the hybridized cuisine of this region. Throughout the 20th century, new people brought their tastes and left their imprint on the diets of Santa Feans. In 1944, for example, Rosalea Murphy brought elements of traditional French and American cooking to Santa Fe in the form of the Pink Adobe. French Onion soups and Tournedos of Beef met Chili Rellenos and the resulting fusion cuisine continues to be popular. In 1978 Upper Crust Pizza brought the Italian-American classic to the city, incorporating local elements like Green Chili and Piñon nuts. Many chefs have brought their unique perspectives and influences to Santa Fe and have left their mark on the tastes and appetites here.
Today we like to think we exemplify this hybrid cuisine at our Agoyo Lounge restaurant. We pride ourselves in producing a well-balanced menu based on locally grown regional cuisine, presented artistically, to assure a memorable and nurturing dining experience. Regional classics like the chicken enchilada or empanadas with mole sauces meet dishes like the Alsatian Tart or the baked encrusted goat cheese. Specialties like the New Mexican Cobb salad coexist next to excellently realized classics like Caesar salads or onion puffs. Come visit us, say “hello” and experience Santa Fe’s “Food Done Fine!”
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Thanksgiving is a day usually filled with remembrances of smells of turkey and pumpkin pie, uncles and aunts, cousins, football and fall weather. But a review of the underlying history of Thanksgiving reveals a story that is far from the Norman Rockwell image of Dad carving a turkey at the dining room table in some imaginary New England home.
The real Thanksgiving celebration most likely only occurred once…and lasted three days. Neither turkey, nor potatoes, nor pumpkin pie were on the menu, but waterfowl and venison were – oh, and unsweetened cranberries (as no sugar was yet available in New England). This Thanksgiving was a very appropriate one. The first English pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 with hardly any survival skills suited to their new land. Most died during that first winter from starvation and exposure to the elements. 1622 proved no different; in fact, it wasn’t until 1623 that the harvests became more reliable and bountiful. If it were not for a sole Patuxet Native named Squanto, colonization would likely have been set back by decades.
To paint a more balanced picture than Norman Rockwell’s, it is rarely mentioned that in 1614, English explorers initially returned to England in ships loaded with as many as 500 Patuxet Indian slaves bound for market. This was the hapless tribe that happened to be at ground zero of these European explorers’ arrival. Later, when New England’s first settlers arrived, only one Patuxet remained alive, English-speaking Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and returned later to New England thanks to the graces of a befriended Englishman. During the first two horrible years of near starvation, the Pilgrims were taught by Squanto and the neighboring Wampanoaga people how to grow corn and to survive in this new land. Squanto also negotiated a peace treaty for the Pilgrims with the nearby and very large Wampanoaga tribe. At the end of the hardships of the first year, there indeed was a 3-day Thanksgiving feast honoring Squanto and their new neighbors, the Wampanoagas, but in reality the harvest was meager and there was little to eat that winter following this thanksgiving.
Despite the continual hardship, the word spread throughout England of this newly found “paradise” in America, so countless new settlers arrived. And as always in such situations, when a more technologically superior people enter a less advanced peoples’ land, tensions increased between races until a state of war for survival arose. And such was the case with the New England Natives and the waves of land and freedom hungry colonists. Unfortunately, soon both governors and clergy began calling for days of thanksgiving following successful victories against the natives.
In 1789, President George Washington called for “ a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favours of God Almighty”. In 1863, during the Civil War, to foster a sense of national unity, Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. FDR in 1939 set the date as the 4th Thursday of November to add additional economic energy prior to Xmas, and hence the term Black Friday was probably coined, commemorating the day when retailers went from being in the red to being in the black. Our consumer driven culture solidified over the 20th century the iconic foods, settings, and modern traditions of our national holiday.
Now with the history under our soon-to-be straining belts, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than coming to the land of the ancient Pueblos who had already been in existence for hundreds of years prior to the English explorers’ arrival on this continent?
The Inn on the Alameda’s restaurant, the Agoyo Lounge, traditionally prepares a “reservations-recommended” Thanksgiving dinner for guests and locals alike. We cook up a unique and special menu, which you can view on our website. Please join us around the fires to enjoy a day of thanksgiving for living in one of the greatest countries in the world and certainly enjoying it in one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world.