Pico Marias and Pico Marys — Fresh and Spicy Summer Cocktails

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Tennessee tomatoes are one of the best features of summer in Tennessee. It’s the season for homemade mayonnaise, BLTs, caprese platter salads, and our all-around favorite summer tomato side: pico de gallo. It goes with everything, especially whatever we throw on the grill.

All this easy side dish needs is your salad brain, not your recipe brain. Just start chopping and make it up as you go along. So, the contours of this pico are typically diced Tennessee tomatoes, onion, fresh lime juice, and jalapeño or serrano peppers mixed in a bowl. Next, we toss in chopped cilantro and a small clove of garlic mashed into a paste with a generous pinch of Kosher salt. In ten minutes or less, you’ll have created a dish that captures summer in Tennessee.

As the pico rests and the flavors come together, you’ll notice that those juicy tomatoes will produce quite a bit of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. This is good news, so don’t pour it down the drain after your dinner tacos! Store the pico juice in the fridge and at the next cocktail hour put it to use in a round of pico marys or pico marias, our absolute summer favorites. Warning: after one sip, you will be forever ruined; forget about the variety made with thick, cloying tomato juice. The leftover juice makes a drink that’s light, bright, and full of pico flavor.

If you’re using tequila (and your fresh tomato liquid deserves a 100 percent agave brand), moisten a short glass with a lime wedge and rim with coarse salt. Add ice and tequila and top with the spicy tomato liquid. Or, forget the salt rim and use vodka for a pico mary. No need to add crazy bloody mary-gone-wild garnishes like bacon, shrimp, pickled okra, tater tots or a giant Nashville Hot Chicken wing. These cartoonish props simply clutter the purity of the cocktail. In fact, do your best to resist completely any addition because those bright little tomato and cilantro bits are the perfect adornment.

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