Prickly Pear Sparkles in Holiday Cocktails

Welcome guests with tasty prickly pear cocktails.

Welcome guests with tasty prickly pear cocktails.

It’s Carolyn Niethammer here this week. First, I want to welcome all the new subscribers. I speak for my fellow bloggers when I say we are so happy to have you join this little community of food lovers. Please feel free to join in at any time with ideas and comments.

Today I want to talk about using prickly pear syrup in holiday cocktails. We all know and love prickly pear margaritas, but there is a world beyond that beloved beverage. And these cocktails don’t have to include alcohol. In fact it is nice to be able to offer your non-drinking guests something tasty and sophisticated way beyond diet coke and seltzer with lime.

There are several keys to delicious cocktails. One important ingredient is fresh juice. It makes a big difference and here in Arizona we have an easy abundance. Some of you need only walk as far as your backyard to grab a handful of oranges or tangelos.  If you are using alcohol, you can choose vodka, tequila or rum.

Make your prickly pear syrup.

Make your prickly pear syrup.

If you have stored some prickly pear juice in your freezer, make a syrup with 1 cup juice to 1 cup sugar.  Simmer gently to evaporate some of the liquid.  If you didn’t get around to storing any juice this year, there are several good commercial syrups made by local entrepreneurs.  You can find Cheri’s Desert Harvest products widely in stores or on-line and Jeau Allen is at farmer’s markets with her products and they are available on-line.

You can buy commerical syrup and a special prickly pear/lime blend.

You can buy commerical syrup and a special prickly pear/lime blend.

To elevate your cocktail with a more sophisticated flavor, you need to add a bitter or sharp flavor such as you get with ginger.  To make ginger syrup, I grate a 5-inch piece of fresh ginger and simmer for 30 minutes in a cup of water.  Strain out ginger and reduce liquid to a half cup.  Add a half cup sugar or agave syrup and cook a few minutes to dissolve sugar. You can also add a few drops of bitters. Angostera bitters is the most available brand and they hold their recipe closely, but bitters is usually a blend of herbs and spices.  You can find some recipes to make your own here and here.

As a final step, top each glass with a little flavored sparkling soda.

Here are some recipes to get you started. Then experiment.

Arizona Sunset

Fill glass with ice. Pour 3/4 full of fresh orange juice. Add a shot of tequila or rum and a tablespoon of ginger syrup. Add two tablespoons of prickly pear syrup. It will sink to the bottom and look like one of our gorgeous sunsets (see picture at top of blog).


1/2 cup pineapple juice

1 ounce rum

1/2 ounce Triple Sec

5 drops bitters

1 ounce prickly pear syrup

1/2 cup crushed ice

Combine all in a blender and serve in a glass with a swizzle stick speared onto a chunk of pineapple.

Carolyn’s Christmas Cocktail

2 ounces fresh orange juice

2 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce prickly pear syrup

1/2 ounce ginger syrup

2 ounces cranberry sparkling soda

Combine first four ingredients and pour over ice in large wine glass. Top with cranberry soda. Garnish with lime wedge or circle on glass edge.


Want more prickly pear recipes?  Take at look at The Prickly Pear Cookbook.  Available at Native Seeds Search, The Tucson Botanical Gardens, your local bookstore  or on-line here. 


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