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TIP OF THE DAY: Aïoli, The Original, The Modern & A Party

Aioli Dip With Seafood

Basil Aioli

Aioli Platter

Saffron Aioli

Habanero Aioli

[1] As a sauce or dip with boiled potatoes (photo courtesy Quinciple). [2] Tarragon aïoli as a dip with shrimp (here’s the recipe from Real Simple). [3] Le Grand Aioli: make a platter for your next gathering (here’s a story from Edible Seattle). [4] Just open the jar and use these flavorful aïoli from Delicious And Sons: Basil Lemon Aïoli and Saffron Orange Aïoli. [5] Southern Europe meets South America: Habanero Aïoli from Salsa Maya (remember that in Spanish, salsa is a generic word for sauce).

 

Americans eat a lot of mayonnaise, but not enough aïoli: garlic mayonnaise.

The word is pronounced eye-OH-lee from the French word for garlic, ail (pronounced EYE).

What we think of as a bread spread is used as a dip and sauce from Catalonia (the northeast tip of Spain; think Barcelona) through Provence (Marseilles along the coast through Toulon, Cannes, Nice and Monaco.

It hopped the border of Monaco to the Liguria region of Italy. It spread to the south of Catalonia to Valencia, Catalonia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia, and offshore to the Balearic Islands. It crossed the sea to Malta.

In fact, mayonnaise was invented in France by the great chef Marie-Antoine Carême, around 1800. You may think of mayo as a spread, but it was created as a sauce (the history of mayonnaise).

But before then, the original sauce was made with just garlic and olive oil, which, by the way, was not an easy combination to emulsify into a sauce in the centuries before blenders.

Later, possibly inspired by Carême’s mayonnaise, Provençal cooks incorporated egg yolks and lemon juice and voila: a richer, more flavorful, more stable mixture than mashed garlic and olive oil. (When you look at your food processor or blender, remember that everything prior to modern times was done in a mortar and pestle.)

There are numerous seasoning variations. In France, it can include a bit of Dijon mustard. In Malta, some tomato is added.

Everywhere, aïoli is served at room temperature.

Ingredients vary by region, too. Catalan versions leave out the egg yolk and use much more garlic. This gives the sauce a more pasty texture, while making it considerably more laborious to make as the emulsion is much harder to stabilize.
 
AÏOLI USES

Yes, you can put it on your sandwich or burger; but aïoli can be used instead of mayonnaise anywhere, from canapés to to dips to potato salad.

You can even plan a luncheon or dinner party around it. And you can buy it or make it.

Then, serve it:

  • With escargots, a French favorite.
  • With fish and seafood: boiled fish (in France, cod and aïoli are a popular pair), bourride (Provençal fish soup).
  • In the U.S. with broiled, poached or grilled fish and shellfish, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail
  • Spread on hard-cooked eggs.
  • On vegetables, especially artichokes, asparagus, boiled potatoes and green beans.
  • As a substitute for butter, oil or vinaigrette.
  • Fries!
  • Salted boiled potatoes and bay leaf (a Ligurian specialty).
  • Mixed into chicken salad, egg, tuna and potato salads.
  • As a crudités dip.
  • On Mexican corn (elote).
  •  
    SERVE LE GRAND AÏOLI

    In Provence, Le Grand Aïoli (a.k.a. Aïoli Garni or Aïoli Monstre) is a special-occasion dish consisting of boiled vegetables (artichokes, beets, carrots, green beans, potatoes); salt cod or other poached fish, snails, canned tuna, other seafood; hard-boiled eggs, and a large dish of aïoli.

    In Provence, the dish is served in a celebration around August 15th, after the garlic has been harvested. If you like the idea, plan an occasion.

    You don’t have to wait until August. A room-temperature dish, Le Grand Aïoli delightful in the spring or summer with a lightly-chilled Côtes de Provence rosé or a red Bandol.

    If you like crème de cassis (cassis liqueur, made from blackcurrants), it’s a local product; so serve a Kir or Kir Royale as an aperitif.
     
    AIOLI HISTORY

    Aioli, aïoli, alhòli, aiòli or allioli, arjoli or ajjoli: Depending on the country and region, they are different spellings for a Mediterranean sauce (in southeastern Spain, it’s called ajoaceite or ajiaceite).

    Made of garlic and olive oil—two staple ingredients of the area—the name means garlic and oil in Catalan and Provençal.

     
    There are numerous flavored mayonnaises. Since the expansion of specialty food producers in the late 1980s, it became fashionable for producers and chefs to call all flavored mayonnaises—basil, chili, cilantro, red pepper, saffron, etc.—aïoli.

    While purists insist that only the garlic-seasoned recipe should be called “aïoli,” we think, logically, that as long as there’s garlic in the recipe, it can still be called aïoli. Consumers will understand.

    Otherwise, you’ll find even purer purists who insist that only the original garlic-oil sauce—no egg, no lemon juice—be called aïoli.

    RECIPE: A QUICK AÏOLI WITH STORE-BOUGHT MAYONNAISE

    If you want to make your aïoli from scratch, here’s a recipe.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil or other herb*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional: 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon olive oil (to thin)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLANCH the basil in boiling water for 15 seconds. Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. REFRIGERATE, covered, for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow flavors to meld.

    ________________

    *If you want a spice instead of an herb, season to taste.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Polenta Cake

    We have advocated olive oil cake before. But this is a variation with polenta (cornmeal) instead of white flour.

    Olive oil cake is a standard in some parts of Italy, substituting olive oil for butter as the fat. So is polenta cake, with a hearty crumb.

    Both are rustic, uniced cakes. When we first tried an olive oil cake, moist and springy, we had no idea it lacked butter. When we first tried polenta cake, we fell in love with the irony:

    We’ve often called muffins “uniced mini cakes,” because many are so sweet. With polenta cake, it’s the opposite: a sweet corn muffin in the guise of cake.

    In Italy, an olive oil cake is usually made with all-purpose flour and often has citrus accents, which complement the olive oil. But any flavor can be used, including chocolate; as can a liqueur. Some recipes include pieces of fruit in the batter as well as zest and juice.

    For a wine pairing, serve it with an Italian dessert wine wine like Vin Santo. There’s more about wine pairing below.

    The following recipe, adapted from one in the cookbook Cake Keeper Cakes, is fragrant from olive oil and juicy with roasted grapes. Use any seasonal fruit, from berries to lychees to peaches.

    In addition to adding fresh basil, we made basil whipped cream. If you like basil as much as we do, try it! As with all homemade whipped cream, it must be whipped right before serving. However…

    If you want to use it but need to prepare it in advance, make stabilized whipped cream.

    RECIPE: OLIVE OIL CORNMEAL CAKE

    We adapted this recipe from Lauren Chattman’s book, Cake Keeper Cakes, adding fresh basil. It may sound unusual, but it’s terrific, as is rosemary. Made with cornmeal instead of wheat flour, it’s also gluten-free (corn in all ground forms is gluten-free: corn flour, corn meal, grits, etc.).

    Why aren’t there more rustic cornmeal cakes with herbs? We have no idea—especially since some recipes are very similar corn muffins.

    Our guess is that bakers think that American’s won’t try a cake with herbs. (Thanks to cake mixes, we’re all familiar with oil-based cakes.)
     
    Ingredients For 8-10 Servings

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1-3/4 cups (10 ounces) red seedless grapes, washed and dried
  • Optional: 1/4 cup Limoncello*
  • 1-3/4 cups (10 ounces) red seedless grape
  • 1-3/4 cups (10 ounces) red seedless grape
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting -or- crème fraîche -or- mascarpone -or- lightly sweetened whipped cream
  •  
    For The Basil Whipped Cream

  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream†
  •  
    Preparation

    If you add all the grapes at once, they’ll sink to the bottom. So reserve half and scatter them on top of the cake after it’s been in the oven for 10 minutes. They’ll sink slightly, but will still be visible.

    As for the garnish, we’ve never been fond of confectioners’ sugar. Pretty as it looks, it too easily falls onto one’s clothing. Instead, we prefer a dairy topping: crème fraîche, mascarpone or lightly sweetened whipped cream. This toothsome, rustic cake is better with a modestly sweet or tangy garnish.

    If you don’t have a spring form, you can make this cake in a bundt.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch round springform pan.

    2. WHISK together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

    3. COMBINE the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and has increased in volume, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 minute. Turn the mixer to low speed and stir in the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest.

    4. KEEPING the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until just incorporated. Stir in half of the grapes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

    5. SCATTER the remaining grapes over the top of the partially baked cake and continue to bake until the cake is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes longer.

    6. TRANSFER the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 5 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and let the cake cool completely before dusting with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into wedges and serve. When ready to serve…

    7. MAKE the basil whipped cream. Purée the fresh basil and sugar together in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and add the cream, whipping until it forms soft peaks. Serve immediately.

     

    Olive Oil Cake

    Cake Keeper Cakes

    Olive Oil Cake With Orange

    Olive Oil Cake

    Olive Oil Cake Citrus Garnish

    Vin Santo

    [1] and [2] A polenta cake with grapes, from Cake Keeper Cakes (recipe at left). [3] Olive oil cake with orange top (here’s the recipe from Newlywed Cookbook. [4] Olive oil cake made with Grand Marnier and white flour (here’s the recipe from Food 52). [5] Polenta olive oil cake with citrus garnish (here’s the recipe from Frog Hollow Farm). [6] Vin santo, a wine served with biscotti, is a good pairing for the cake—as well as the options below (photo courtesy Blog Siena).

     
    You can store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrapped in plastic at room temperature, for up to 3 days. Otherwise, freeze the leftovers.

    MORE OLIVE OIL CAKE RECIPES

  • Lemon & Olive Oil Cake With Strawberry Syrup (AP flour)
  • Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cake (cake flour)
  • Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cake With Yogurt (AP flour)
  • Olive Oil Cake With Amaretto & Orange Zest (AP flour)
  • Orange Olive Oil Cake (AP flour)
  • Rosemary Olive Oil Cake (AP flour and cornmeal)
  •  
    WINE PAIRINGS WITH OLIVE OIL CAKES

    A dessert wine, of course! Suggestions:

    Sweet Sparkling Wines

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy
  • Asti Spumante (sparkling moscato) from Italy
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne)
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain
  • Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington, USA
  • Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California, USA
  •  
    Sweet Still Wines

  • Banyuls from Roussillon in the south of France
  • Late Harvest Zinfandel from California
  • Lustau Muscat Sherry Superior “Emlin” fom Spain
  • Recioto Amarone from Veneto, Italy
  • Ruby Port from Portugal
  • Vin Santo from Tuscany, Italy
  •  
    Liqueurs also work.
    ________________

    *The first time you make this cake, you may wish to leave out the liqueur and concentrate on enjoying the basil.

    †The difference: Whipping cream contains 35% fat while heavy cream contains 38% fat. They are interchangeable in recipes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Popcorn & Wine Pairings

    Popcorn & Wine

    Chocolate Popcorn Red Wine

    Popcorn Wine Pairing

    [1] (photo courtesy Hidden Valley). [2] (photo courtesy Coupons.com).[3] Go whole-hog with a pairing flight (photo courtesy Skinnygirl).

     

    For the Oscars on Sunday, how about some popcorn pairing fun?

    If you typically watch the show with a bowl of popcorn, consider moving past the beer and soda in favor of wine pairings.

    Wine and popcorn? Why not?

    It’s another opportunity to see how your palate responds to different flavor pairings.

    As with all foods, wines are paired to the seasonings of the dish. That big combo can of three flavors—buttered, caramel and cheese corn—enables you to try three different wine pairings, with more flavor pairings below.

    WHAT WINE GOES WITH POPCORN?

    As with beer, sparkling wine goes with anything, whether white (cava, prosecco), rosé sparkling or red sparkling (such as brachetto d’asti or lambrusco). (See the different types of sparkling wine, and rosé sparklers).

    But you can also create a pairing party. Your personal preferences take precedence over “logical” recommendations below. If you prefer pinot grigio or rosé, serve it!

  • Buttered Popcorn: Look for a buttery wine—chardonnay or grenache. Rosé is another option.
  • Caramel corn: Pick a dessert wine, like moscato; or a wine with caramel notes such as Montilla-Morales, or late harvest Pinot Noir.
  • Cheddar or Parmesan Popcorn: Strong cheese flavors require a robust wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel or an oaky chardonnay.
  • Chile Popcorn: For Cajun, chipotle, jalapeño, etc., gewürtztraminer, riesling or sauvignon blanc pair with heat. On the red side look at malbec or pinot noir.
  • Dark Chocolate Popcorn: Calling the dessert wines: banyuls, late harvest zinfandel, maury, port, shiraz, vin santo.
  • Global Spices: With curry, harissa and other strong flavors, try gewürtztraminer, riesling or sauvignon blanc.
  • Kettle Corn: Try an off-dry/semi-dry (slightly sweet) or sweet wine: demo-sec champagne, lambrusco semisecco, sercial madeira, sweet riesling.
  • Milk Chocolate Popcorn: Look for montilla-moriles, moscatel de setubal, sherry (amontillado, cream or PX), port, vin santo.
  • Salted Caramel Or Chocolate: Dry sparkling wine works here, or one of the suggestions for chocolate-wine pairings.
  • Salty Popcorn or Bacon Popcorn: Like lots of salt? The best pairing is beer or a Margarita.
  • Truffle Popcorn: Earthy truffles like an earthy wine: barolo,cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, tempranillo.
  • White Chocolate Popcorn: Dessert wines are called for, especially brochette d’acqui, ice wine, lambrusco, muscat/moscato, port.
  •  
    POPCORN HISTORY

    Where would we be without popcorn?

    Americans consume approximately 17.3 billion quarts of popcorn each year.

    The history of popcorn—originally not a snack food, but ground into flour for subsistance far.

    The history of popcorn in the U.S.. It was first used by the colonists as a breakfast cereal, served with milk and sugar.

    What makes popcorn kernels pop—only strains developed to pop are used for popcorn.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Chicken Tortolloni On Arugula

    This quick and easy recipe, from Buitoni, combines two different types of their refrigerated fresh tortolloni with fresh arugula.

    Tortellini are larger versions of the bite-size tortellini.

    You can also substitute ravioli or other stuffed pasta (check out the different types of pasta).

    Serve it for lunch, dinner, or as a first course for dinner. We also enjoyed the leftovers cold the next day.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 15 minutes.

    RECIPE: ARUGULA, PESTO & GOAT CHEESE TORTELLONI

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 package Buitoni Refrigerated Chicken & Roasted Garlic Tortelloni (20 ounces) or 2 packages Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini (9 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Buitoni Refrigerated Pesto with Basil (7 ounces)—or substitute your own pesto
  • 1/4 cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups baby and/or micro arugula
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • Optional: toasted pine nuts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.

    2. PLACE the pasta and reserved water in large bowl; add pesto and tomatoes. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and cheese; toss gently. Top with pine nuts.
     
     
    MORE TORTELLONI RECIPES

    Tortelloni With Cherry Tomato Sauce

    Tortelloni with Roasted Eggplant & Cherry Tomato Sauce

    Tortelloni With Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Arils

     

    Ravioli With Arugula

    Tortolloni With Brussels Sprouts

    Buitoni Chicken & Garlic Tortelloni

    [1] Chicken & Roasted Garlic Tortellini with fresh arugula and goat cheese. [2] The same tortollini with Brussels sprouts and pomegranate arils. [3] Look for Buitoni Tortellini in the refrigerator case (photos courtesy Buitoni).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Margarita Vs. Not A Margarita

    Cherry Margarita

    Grape Margarita

    Guava Margarita

    Classic Margarita

    Smoked Salt Rim Margarita

    Margarita Glass

    Will the real Margarita please stand up? [1] Cherry Margarita (photo courtesy Created By Diane). [2] Grape Margarita (photo courtesy California Table Grape Commission. [3] Guava Margarita (photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann). [4] and [5] The real deal, from Casa Noble Tequila: a classic Margarita and the classic with a smoked salt rim. [6] A Margarita made with GranGala orange liqueur in a Margarita glass.

     

    Around this time of year, we get bombarded with every imaginable recipe for National Margarita Day (February 22nd).

    In fact, most of these drinks are Margarita in name only.

    Because Margarita and Martini are the two most popular cocktails in America, some tequila companies (who know better) and establishments (who should) call too many concoctions by one of these names. Grape Margarita? Avocado Margarita? Seriously?

    Here are just a few of the oh-so-wrong Margarita recipes we’ve received in recent weeks:

  • Avocado Margarita: blanco tequila, triple sec, lime, avocado (one entire avocado per drink!), fresh cilantro, cayenne pepper.
  • Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita: tequila tequila, lime juice, 3 slices of scotch bonnet pepper, diced mango, mango jam.
  • Raspberry Margarita: oro tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, black raspberry syrup, fresh raspberries.
  • Spicy Raspberry Margarita: reposado tequila, Chambord, Sprite, sour mix, Tabasco.
  •  
    When did this all begin? In our experience, it was the mid 1980s, when we first saw a “Peach-arita” featured on a menu in East Hampton. It substituted peach schnapps for the Cointreau.

    It was delicious—we had two—and the name was delightfully catchy. Many variations have appeared all over the ensuing 30 years. But in retrospect, they aren’t Margaritas at all; just cocktails riding on Margarita’s coattails, appropriating the name.

    We are complicit: We’ve published numerous poseur Margarita recipes, because they were really good cocktails. But the madness (at least ours) stops today.

    We’ll still publish good cocktail recipes, but any faux Margarita will be linked to this conscious-raising rant.
     
    WHAT IS A MARGARITA?

    The original Margarita combined tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice: a orange-flavored tequila cocktail with a salt rim, served with a lime wheel (here’s the Margarita history).

    Unless you’re talking Frozen Margarita—where any flavor can be added via fruit purée—Margarita is an orange drink, not a cherry, grape or pineapple one.

    Once you take great license with ingredients, you create a different cocktail.

    Would you make a Pineapple Cosmo, substituting the standard cranberry juice with pineapple juice? Create a Grapefruit Screwdriver?

    A Screwdriver combines orange juice and vodka. Grapefruit juice and vodka is a Greyhound.

    Adding cranberry juice to a Greyhound produces a Sea Breeze.

    And that’s how it should be. Cocktails should observe a nomenclature, like everything else.

    MARGARITA VARIATIONS

    That being said, there is license to slightly vary the original ingredients. Each change marginally alters the original flavor profile, but the drink is still recognizable.

  • Tequila: You can use reposado or anejo tequila instead of the original blanco (silver). But you can’t make a “Mezcal Margarita,” any more than you can make a Vodka Margarita. Call those drinks something else!
  • Cointreau: You can use a different orange liqueur. Many bartenders quickly adopted the less expensive triple sec (generic orange liqueur); Grand Marnier promoted the “Grand” Margarita, making it seem a better choice (although Cointreau is the most expensive of the orange liqueurs—$10 more per bottle than Grand Marnier). GranGala did the same, calling a Margarita made with its liqueur the Ultra Margarita. We received an Orange Blossom Margarita recipe that included both Grand Marnier and Pavan Orange Blossom Liqueur—all right—but further added agave and club soda. We’d call that an Orange Blossom Fizz.
  • Lime juice: You could substitute or add a different citrus juice, creating a Blood Orange Margarita, a Grapefruit Margarita, a Lemon Margarita.
  • Rim: Instead of plain salt, use flavored salt (chipotle, smoked, whatever) or a seasoning blend like Tajin, a blend of chile, lime and salt.
  • Garnish: This is where you can express creativity without altering the integrity of the drink. You can add to, or substitute, the lime wheel with a wedge, and with something decorative (a red chile on a pick), or tossed into/onto the drink: jalapeño slices, berries, a sprig of cilantro or tarragon.
  • Glass: The original Margarita was served in a rocks (Old Fashioned) glass. Over time, bartenders chose whatever they had on hand, such as a Martini glass or a coupe. A “Margarita glass†” was invented in Mexico, and can be found in use at Mexican restaurants in the U.S.Use whatever you like.
  •  
    If you want to add a fruit flavor (guava, mango, strawberry, whatever), add purée to the original recipe. We’d even grant passage to a something like a Mango Basil Margarita, with the purée and torn basil leaves in the shaker.

    But a recipe of tequila, lime juice, spicy mango syrup, grapefruit bitters and basil leaves? Call it something else—even if that’s Margarita’s Sister.

    Ditto, an Apple Cider Margarita, tequila, apple cider, lemon juice and a cinnamon-sugar for rim.

    Ditto, tequila and lime juice with muddled cilantro.

    If you get rid of the orange liqueur and lime, it’s not a Margarita.

    Give your raspberry-tequila cocktail another name—or look it up: There aren’t many combinations that haven’t been otherwise named.

    (That said, We just looked up “raspberry tequila cocktail” and got the usual slew of Raspberry Margarita recipes, although Deliciously Organic forthrightly called it a Raspberry, Lime and Tequila Cocktail. Right on!)

    Final rant:

    The Margarita is the most popular† drink in the country.

    Give it the respect it deserves.

    Create a new name for your cocktail—just like every other drink recipe has done.

     
    ________________

    *The Margarita glass is a variation of the classic champagne coupe, and is used to serve blended fruit Margaritas and frozen Margaritas. The same glass can be used to serve shrimp cocktail and other appetizers and desserts. The glass was originally made from recycled Coke bottles, and the mottled green color of the original survive.

    †Some industry reports place the Martini first. It depends on the survey and the year.

     
      

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