The Up-Styled Spanish Cocktail

by Christina Meyer-Jax, Tastemaker in Residence

Travel is a fantastic teacher! It allows us to see the world differently and if we are paying close enough attention, it helps us see the beauty in the small things.

On my recent vacation to the Costa del Sol region of southern Spain, I noticed both big and small differences in food culture.  For this night owl, I loved how meals started later in the day and were set at a leisurely pace. It took a couple days to realize I needed to ask for my check every time our group finished a meal.  The servers were never in a rush and it felt like they were disappointed we were leaving, even after 2+ hour meals!

Beyond the emphasis of fresh local ingredients, which is often the staple of European food, I noticed a subtle focus on “up-styling” both food and drinks.  Humans eat with our eyes, so it makes sense that visually appealing presentation should be a norm. However, plate and cocktail decorations were taken to a new level with each and every meal in the towns of Mijas and Marbella Spain.

One of my favorites was a Lemoncello-based Margarita with “golden painted” sunflower seeds on top.  Not only was this beyond refreshing and delicious to sip beach side, it literally glistened in the sun!  A moment in time I will never forget, but the small “up-styled” detail cemented it even more.

Completely inspired by the Spanish details, I came home and worked on recreating!  Enjoy the recipe below, it’s worth the extra detail:


Costa del Sol Lemon Margarita

What you need:
For the Drink:
2 oz frozen lemonade concentrate
2 oz water
2 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Silver Tequila
2 oz Limoncello
½ oz Agave Nectar (optional if like a little sweeter)
4-5 ice cubes crushed 

Up-Style Presentation Options:

  1. Mint sprigs
  2. Caramelized lemon and lime slices (see recipe below)
  3. Golden “painted” sunflower seeds (I use edible Wilton Gold Color Mist spray)
  4. Salted Rim 

How to Make

If salting the rim:

  1. Combine coarse sugar, margarita salt & lemon zest in a shallow bowl.
  2. Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with 1/2 slice of fresh lemon.
  3. Turn the lemon-rubbed glass upside down and dip the rim into the salt mixture.
  4. Set the glass upright to let dry a couple of minutes.

If making caramelized lemon slices:

  1. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (or wax paper).
  2. Cut 2 small lemons crosswise into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices.
  3. Arrange in a single layer on pan.
  4. Sprinkle lemon slices with 1/4 cup sugar.
  5. Bake in at 325*F. 35-45 minutes or until lemons are almost dry and covered with a sugary glaze (caramel color). While still warm, loosen slices from paper to prevent sticking.

If making painted sunflower seeds:

  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a single layer place roasted or raw no salt sunflower
  3. Lightly spray seeds with edible golden paint.  Allow drying.
  4. Flip seeds over and repeat spraying and drying.

To make the drink:

  1. Pour crushed ice into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Pour all drink ingredients over the ice, tightly cover and shake 30 seconds.
  3. Pour into prepared glasses.
  4. Decorate
  5. Cheers, and Enjoy!

Cook's Notes
*These Margaritas can be made up to 1 month before serving. Pour margaritas in a freezer container, cover tightly and freeze. When ready to serve, remove from freezer 15-20 minutes before serving.