The Cantarito probably is Jalisco's number one cocktail and combines Tequila with fresh citrus juices from oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
Balanced with just the right amount of salt and topped with fizzy grapefruit soda, the Cantarito is a fabulous, refreshing cocktail. And if you like other Tequila cocktails like the Margarita or Paloma, you certainly should give this one a try.
You can get this tasty drink everywhere in Jalisco. In bars, cafés, restaurants, and at little roadside stalls. They commonly serve it in little clay pots.
The Cantarito cocktail - a forerunner of the Paloma cocktail
It's hard to find many details regarding the roots of the Cantarito. What seems to be clear, though, is that it originated in the state of Jalisco. And even though the Cantarito is famous across Mexico, it's nowhere as popular as there.
Some also claim that the Cantarito is the forerunner of the internationally-famed Paloma cocktail. And indeed, the Paloma looks like the trimmed-back version of this traditional cocktail.
Either way, the Cantarito deserves more recognition than it currently receives. It somehow flies under the radar and is too often overlooked when talking about Mexican cocktails.
Once you try one served in its traditional vessel called "cántaro" or "jarrito", you will discover why Mexicans love this drink so much.
Ingredients of a Cantarito
Every ingredient in the recipe for making a Cantarito is vital to get that refreshing cocktail right. So let's have a look at what is actually in a Cantarito:
- Orange juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Lime juice
- Grapefruit soda
Let's start with the easiest part, the juices. As for most other cocktails, it's best to use freshly squeezed juices from ripe fruits.
I keep saying it: avoid bottled citrus juice, don't do additional sweeteners, and try to use ripe fruits only.
Tequila in the Cantarito
Now let's look at the base of the drink, the Tequila. I found that, when you order a Cantarito in a (fancy) bar outside of Mexico, you'll most likely receive a drink made with a reposado Tequila.
That's a slightly barrel-aged type of Tequila. In Mexico, however, especially in Jalisco, the traditional recipes ask for Plata (silver) Tequila.
And considering the clean and zesty body of a good Tequila Plata, it's hard to argue with that choice, and I recommend sticking to it.
The next ingredient is probably the most overlooked one, the salt. The street stalls in Jalisco use plenty of it.
So a single pinch per drink probably won't do the trick. I usually like to go with at least two pinches. If you've never tried the original version, it's hard to describe. But a proper Cantarito is quite salty even without a salt rim.
And now, let's get to the last element, the grapefruit soda. The classic Mexican version would be Squirt grapefruit soda. A product from Mexico that is pretty hard to get in most parts of the world.
If you are lucky, you can order it online, or you could opt for an alternative like the Fever Tree Pink Grapefruit soda or Q sparkling grapefruit.
Tips to make your Cantarito perfect
I already mentioned some tips above, like using fresh juices, opting for a quality silver Tequila, and going with at least two pinches of salt.
But to make a Cantarito perfect, you need to serve it in a clay pot vessel - the Cántaro. Those traditional and often handmade mugs are perfect for holding a Cantarito.
Before filling it with your delicious cocktail, you should hold the Cántaro underwater to moisten it. That will clean the pot from the inside and also wet the vessel from the outside.
That way, the water evaporates from the outside, which helps to keep your drink cool.
Batching for multiple portions
A Cantarito is a suitable drink to make in larger batches. Perhaps you already came across one or two of the many videos on youtube or social media that show a street stall producing an enormous amount of drinks at once.
If you want to make your own batch at home, you may have to scale down a bit compared to what we see in these videos.
You can easily calculate the amounts used for a single Cantarito. So let's assume you're a group of four. Then you need:
- 8 oz Tequila
- 4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- 2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- Generous amount of salt (preferably sea salt; 2 pinches per person)
- 10 oz grapefruit soda
Add Tequila, juices, and salt into a large pitcher and stir well. Put the pitcher into your fridge until you need it.
When it's time to serve, pour the mix into four vessels filled with ice and top with grapefruit soda.
- 2 oz Silver Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh orange juice
- 0.75 oz Fresh grapefruit juice
- 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice
- 2.5 oz Grapefruit soda
- 2 pinches Salt
- Add Tequila, lime juice, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and salt into your cocktail shaker filled with ice.2 oz Silver Tequila, 1 oz Fresh orange juice, 0.75 oz Fresh grapefruit juice, 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice, 2 pinches Salt
- Shake until your drink is well-chilled.
- Strain into a watered Cántaro or Collins glass filled with ice and top with grapefruit soda.2.5 oz Grapefruit soda
- Garnish with slices or wedges of grapefruit and/or lime.