Toro Bravo

April 15, 2007 at 8:03 AM (alcohol, dishes by cuisine, Mexico)

    My mother loves to vacation in Mexico. From autumn to spring, Wisconsin can be a bit chilly, and a bit gloomy, which is fine for some- even I don’t mind it so much- but my mother is one of those people who would be happy with sunshine and summer every day. So, at least twice a year, she packs her bags, makes arrangements online, and, after a send-off dinner with the family and a few pecks on our cheeks, she’s off to sun-bathing and margaritas…

    She and her sister, my aunt, are there right now… and this is what made me think back to about 4 years ago, when my mother made a special announcement to our family: she had decided to take a group of people to Mexico with her. This group was to be composed of her best friend, my sister and her husband, and me, and, as I was single at the time, I was allowed to choose one of my friends to join us.  What a Christmas present eh?! Flight and hotel arrangements were made, vacation times were correlated and approved, and the six of us packed our bags and found ourselves in Puerto Vallarta for a week. All memory of the piles of ice and snow and spine-chilling winds we had come from melted in the warm, humid weather, the kaleidescope of flowers that bloomed everywhere, the rushing wings of birds, the people who lazily dawdled through the streets of the city and basked in sunlight on the beach. 

    And to think I almost didn’t go! I was nursing a badly-broken heart at the time. I was truly miserable, and found myself having to piece my self and my life back together again at the sudden demise of a seven-year relationship. Posessions had to be divided, new living arrangements made, goodbyes that needed saying were better left unsaid. My family insisted that the trip would be good for me…just to get away from everything….just for a few days… Finally, and a bit unwillingly, I succumbed… but what possible fun could I have feeling like this?

    Puerto Vallarta is steeped in a bit of history, and a bit of mystery as well. It was not always known by its current name, nor was it always a popular vacation spot. What it is would be hard to describe to someone who has never been there, but I think magical… romantic… with a touch of a masquerade thrown in would do it justice. What struck me first was that I was suddenly a bit wealthier because of the exchange rate; 200 pesos (about 20 U.S. dollars) could go quite a ways… and I don’t know exactly why, but, after a day or so I became intensely aware of how rude and snobbish  many other vacationing Americans were behaving to the hotel staff, taxi drivers and anyone else in a position of servitude. I honestly felt embarrassed to be associated with them in any way. I began to spend most of my days away from the hotel, taking a taxi downtown to wander the shop-lined streets (my American friend often joining me), and then a few paces furthur to what lay beyond.  As I walked along, I kept saying to myself, “I have seen many chickens in my lifetime, but this is something entirely new to me…”

    When night falls there, it is ushered in by a swirl of colour and a parting nod from the sun. The city seems to shift gears and transform into a festive, lamp-lit celebration that doesn’t end until the sun returns. My friend and I found a comfortable and welcoming place to loosen our buttons and mingle a bit. It was called Paco Paco, and if I were to tell of all those tales, secrets stolen from under its sheltering roof, from under its roofless patio in the sky, spied upon only by a veil of glittering stars and a moon that wanders by, I would do a great disservice to you, as they alone would fill up many pages. In the light of day, the streets are swept. Chickens peck busily at crumbs. No trace remains.

     I made a few good friends there. The best goes by Gonzo. When I knew him back then, he lived humbly and frugally in an old and crumbling hostel. He taught me just enough Spanish to be a little witty; his English was near-perfect; his knowledge of Mexican cocktails and the art of living beyond failed love, superb. He and I spent many hours chatting, laughing and sipping under the roof of Paco Paco. In my fleeting memory I can hear the latin-tinged, then-latest disco songs throbbing beneath us, I can see the two of us wandering room to room along narrow stair-cases that would make an American building inspector shudder. We took turns buying each other rounds of drinks, and this particular one he ordered, thinking of me and how I love black russians… just to cheer me up. He did.


Toro Bravo

1 1/2 oz. tequila

1 oz. coffee-flavoured liqueur, such as Kahlua

ice, coarsely crushed or cubes

half of a lime

1) Fill a medium-sized tumbler (old-fashioned glass) nearly to the top with ice.

2)Pour into it the tequila and coffee liqueur; mix gently.

3)Squeeze the lime over the top- discard, and serve.

I was told by Gonzo that this is to be drunk in one swallow like a shot…however, he may have been trying to get me drunk. I recommend sipping it slowly as an after-dinner drink or three.

NOTE: This is one of two variations I found for this authentic Mexican drink, and it is the one I remember. The other way is to use equal parts of tequila and Kahlua(or other coffee liqueur), but I find this cloyingly sweet. There are north-of-the-border versions of this as well made with equal parts tequila, Kahlua and vodka…with or without the lime juice; some of them are also shaken with ice and strained into a glass like a martini. I urge you to try the recipe above before any others.

ANOTHER NOTE: The last time he and I communicated, he delivered great news to me: he and a friend had opened up a pastry and coffee shop! Besides pastel de tres leches, and pastel de chocolate(3-milk cake and chocolate cake, respectively), he informed me of the delicious carrot cake they also serve! I had no idea…! It’s too bad that my mother doesn’t speak any Spanish, save margarita and cervesa; I would ask her to locate his shop to stop by and give my regards Oh, well…



  1. bee said,

    what a wonderfully evocative writing style you have. i will be trying this drink. it has all my fav ingredients. kahlua is beaten hands down by tia maria as a coffee liqueur, i think. so i’ll try it with tia maria.

    I like Tia Maria too; actually, I heard somewhere that the best coffee liqueur can be made at home, but I haven’t tried it yet. This is a simple drink, but I think the flavour of tequila is so nice; when i go out I just ask for a black russian made with it instead of vodka (plus a lime). Thanks for the compliment- I’m trying! when I started this blog, it had been years since I had written anything!

  2. bee said,

    your right side bar is all mucked up, pel, with things running off to the blue section. .
    is it my IE browser or do others see this as well?


  3. Anita said,

    Ahh, if only I had spotted this a couple of hours sooner….before I sat down for that margarita! 🙂 But it seems like it may be a nice drink for a Mon night too (the weekend is too far away)! You are right, there is no way I wouldn’t like this drink.

    Good one, Pel. Cheers!

    I had a feeling you would! Sorry I couldn’t squeeze any potatoes in there… 😀

  4. Anita said,

    I know what Manisha is going to say, “Get Firefox, people!” Everything looks fine to me, Bee. What did they use before Firefox, I can’t even remember? It was a long time ago! 😀

  5. Manisha said,

    Get Firefox, people! It’s a better browser!

    Pel, I need to detoxify before I can try your Toro Bravo. My friends were just telling me about Puerto Vallarta, especially the villages around it. Maybe one day…

    That sepia-toned picture is just perfect for this post! Slightly blurry yet clear enough to tell the story. Love it!

    Tia Maria brings back wonderful memories. I grew up on swigs of Tia Maria. Yum! Does it have a market here in the US? I thought it was a European liqueur (maybe not? too lazy to look it up right now) – which I refuse to pronounce as likor. I am often corrected when I say likyuer. I find Kahlua a bit too sweet. But in a mudslide, it’s perfect!

    Oh yeah…Tia Maria is everywhere…I’m not sure where it’s made…Mexico too? Look it up dearie…get back to me. I’ll wait! 🙂

    Don’t say likyoor!….you’ll sound so gauche… 🙂 say it this way….lee- koer…I don’t know how to write that vowel; it isn’t in Umrikan….the Germans use it and spell it “oe” or in Icelandic it’s the “o” with the two dots over it…..or, if you know Vietnamese, 🙂 it’s the vowel in the noodle soup called “Pho”….kind of like “fir” but with a speech impediment problem with “r’s”… 😀 If you aren’t getting it I’ll send you an mp3… 😀 You can say “lychee martinis” OK, right? 😀

    I knew you were gonna say something about the pic! Glad you dig.

    You gotta go to Pto. Vallarta Manisha… but bring TH with to keep an eye on you or you’ll end up falling in love with one of the many charming men who flock to the city from all over Mexico and the rest of the world… it’s that romantic… could be the tequila… ? 🙂

  6. kittie123 said,

    are u a chef i want to be a chef i thinks that would be so so so sos os so os so much fun […..]

    No kittie, I am not…I think it’s a wonderful study, but I wouldn’t enjoy the long work hours. I prefer to cook at home for friends, family and myself. Catering would be the furthest I would ever like to go with this hobby. Do you do any cooking now?

  7. Anita said,

    I wanted to comment on the pic too…but had hit ‘submit’ twice already…

    The pic has what I would call ‘atmosphere’ (for the lack of not being able to recall a much much better word – please help!)…the tones, and not to miss the background…very effective! Quite the artist, Pel. (I am waiting those ‘feedback reviews’…)

    Mexico…[sigh] your $20 will go a long way here as well – and try to imagine what happens to me when I visit Umreeka…look at the price tag, appreciate it very much, thank you.

    PS: Did you have one too many when responding to the comments? 😀

    Ha ha! Non, au contraire…too few! 🙂 I’m glad you like the pic; that means a lot to me!

    Ah…the exchange rate….my friend Rakesh and I had a long discussion of that a few years ago…it was shocking for both of us! Neither of us had ever been to the other’s country. He knew a few Americans and Europeans that, while they were visiting Mumbai, he had met; he assumed all westerners were rich. When I told him what my pay vs. living expenses here in the states was, he understood better: that westerners jump up the socio-economic ladder a few rungs only when they cross the border. I remember him telling me I could get a decent hotel room for $5-$15/day! I really don’t understand world economy at all. To say it’s not fair would be a gross understatement. It took him 2 years to qualify for a visa to go live and work in Manchester, UK. He sends all the spare money he can, from working at a restaurant, back to his family in Mumbai, where it makes a big difference. (I can’t even talk him into taking some of his money to go out for a night in the city). Whereas I could charge a plane ticket and be on a flight to Mumbai tomorrow. It makes no sense.

  8. bee said,

    manisha, firefox made my system super slow, i think its virus scan clashes with norton’s. i had it for a long time, and gave up.

  9. Manisha said,

    Not in Europe nor in England, I won’t. (I think). See this – I use the second pronunciation. As far as the Food Lover’s Companion is concerned, I use the first. 😉

    TH? Really? Won’t Anita mind? 😆

    Bee, I don’t think a virus scan is part of Firefox. There are add-ons to Firefox that will scan anything before you access it. I think you hit a known bug. I don’t particularly care for Norton and use AVG Free, which is no longer free. If you ever have to upgrade your Norton, consider switching to AVG.

    It’s a French word, so …I use the French pronunciation…pretentious as hell! 🙂 Dating a French major’ll do that to ya… 🙂 I’d go with the other pronunciation though Maneesh, it’s closer to the French than sticking that “y” sound in there!

    Doesn’t TH mean “the husband”?!!! No…you can’t borrow V… unless they do that sort of thing… lol

  10. Vee said,

    Wow, you have a way of telling stories, pel. That is a marvellous write up. I agree, that pic goes great with the story you were setting up. And another drink I have to try now. Ok, it is not that I haven’t had tequila dunked Kahlua before, but this tia maria beast, I have yet to try. This post is getting me there 😀
    And oh, you need just one over-the-top bollywood love story to know that dunking drinks in one shot is the only way to nurse a broken heart. 😉

    It helps!!! Temporary fix though, but it’s nice to have a break… I’ve never seen one actually… but I have the soundtrack for Hum Saath-saath Hain… I have no idea what anyone is singing about until they get to the alphabet song, but there’s a track called Maiyya Yashoda that I dearly love- it must have something to do with getting drunk eh? A few tequilas and I’m dancing around to it and singing along….”maiyya yashoda… pling..pling…pling…”

  11. shilpa said,

    My husband tries to talk me into drinking Tequila. He has tried all possible drinks before marriage, that means now he has stopped. Looks like I am very strict :). May be I will surprise him sometime by making this drink.

    I love to read your intro to each post. You write very well.

    Thanks Shilpa! 🙂 Most liquor can be used for cooking as well- the heat evaporates the alcohol and leaves the flavour- cakes even!! 🙂 That way if you have the bottles in the kitchen, you can take a swig before using it to make sure it is good… 😀

  12. Musical said,

    Hey Pel,

    While i don’t have much idea about kahlua or Tia Maria (or any liqueur in general), i loved reading this post, for the wonderful writing, the combination of nostalgia and food and the sepia hued picture…..your writings have that cozy, home like, full of warmth feeling…..

    Do they? I’m gonna have to work on that… 🙂 The coffee liqueurs are nice because they have caffeine which counteracts the drowsiness effects of alcohol….plus you don’t need to go to the bathroom as much as when you drink beer!

    If you haven’t tried them yet, I recommend Kahlua or Tia Maria with cream…..or poured over ice cream…it’s a low alcohol treat!

  13. Vee said,

    Oh god, of all the gazillion movies, the one you have is Hum Saath-Saath hai?? Dear God, you are in urgent need of bollywood 101. Will get to that whenever I have the time or maybe I should just wait for Manisha to comment. I am sure she will do a better job of explaining why hum saath-saath hai is not a good choice. btw, I don’t know the whole song, but dear pel, I am afraid ‘maiyya yashoda’ doesn’t have anything to do with tequilas. But, laughing my head of imagining you getting drunk and dancing to it. the ‘pling, pling’ thing, so true and so cheesy…

    Oh! You are so cruel! 🙂 The reason I have that one is there’s this very kind Tamil lady who, with her hubby, runs an Indian (read: watered-down-westernized Punjabi) restaurant nearby… she was playing the music on the speakers at lunch and I asked her about it. She was so nice and offered to order me a cassette…so next time i went in, she had it…and I played it constantly until I was ill of it…(the only Indian film music I had before this was a collection of classic Vijaya Anand…and don’t you say anything about those ones, cuz they’s great!!! dheem thana-nana….dheem thana-nana….I even have modern dance remixes on file…dheem thana-nana-nana-nana-nana) Well, besides being so kind to procure this copy for me, she also put it in EVERY time I came in to eat….for like a year or so…. but i couldn’t say anything of course…cuz I’m nice….and she’s so sweet…she gives me free gulab jamuns on my way out all the time cuz she knows i loves ’em…. 🙂

  14. Anita said,

    You’re fine with the use of ‘TH’ here – Manisha is just being herself. But it may not serve the purpose – more likely, I’ll be keeping an eye on him! From a tee-totaler before we married, he has come around to really enjoying his drinks! Even I didn’t drink till I came across the two alcohols that make up this drink!! They taste so good!

    Because I was much older (as compared to a naive teenager, M) when I started to drink, I have never been drunk and out of control! B-) I think, it’s cool anyway.

    Well…that’s nothing to be bragging about! 🙂 You gotta get wild and crazy and have a little drama at least now and then…. You just wait ’til A. is off and on his own and the “rebirth” period comes… 😀

    I also didn’t drink until I was in my 20’s, and I’ve found my own balanced relationship with alcohol in the interim… I don’t think I would ever drink on a daily basis (I’ve seen too much reality in the nursing homes), but I have had nights of being totally sloshed- very few to pepper the diary with though thank god. “Partying” is big in gay social life the world over, I think because most, but not all, of us have never had responsibilities beyond our jobs (ie:children), as also because the bars and clubs serve as a common meeting place to find reprieve from the straight community at large, not that we don’t have our hetero-passengers for the night… especially straight women friends who’d like to be out for the night without the pressures and anxieties(read: annoying persistent men) found in the straight haunts… which reminds me I need to go out soon, been awhile. 😀

  15. Anita said,

    😳 I’m still learning – that should have been 😎

    Yes…getting comfortably drunk without “tossing your cookies” is definitely an art form…I’ll teach ya! 😀

  16. Trupti said,

    I get drunk sniffing a beer cap…you see, this is not for me, 😦

    you have the “hum saath saath hain” tracks, if you don’t mind me asking, what made you buy that one?? I can recommend MUCH better music than that, you know. 😉

    I loved reading your post though…..I would like to make it to Mexico one day….maybe when the 2 boys are older? hmm…let’s see.

    Mexico is an interesting place…. a lot of history and culture and natural beauty…plus the different cuisines are distinct and delicious, from the little I know…they have cooking sauces made almost entirely of chiles. (mild ones form the base) 🙂

  17. Trupti said,

    never mind, I read the answer in Vee’s comment..but, my son, that’s one cheesy ass track. as far as movie soundtracks go, I am not a fan…I am way too into Classical Indian stuff.

    see ya. 🙂

    I enjoy that too…I have many of Ravi S.’s older albums…plus the soundtrack for Ghandi…Charly…his collaboration albums with Phillip Glass and Ali Akhbar Khan. Do you ever listen to Sheila Chandra or Nadjma?

  18. Sharmi said,

    Nice write up !! dont know much on drinks though!! so can’t comment on that.

    Well, it’s like a cold cup of coffee that loosens the tongue… 🙂 I’ll return to solid food on my next post… 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

  19. Anita said,


    Thanks for a great recipe! I am going to chill (and check on all my virtual friends intermittently, as they get ready for a work day) 😉 To the Person of the Year!! [as I sit down with TH to some chill time with roasted masala peanuts and the above drink]. ‘Later…

  20. shilpa said,

    Oh goddd…Ham saath saath hai?? ewww ewww… But I should agree that at one point when I was kid, I liked those songs. But no more.
    My vote for latest songs would be for “Fanaa”. I played it everytime I sit in my car and my husband gets all irritated. He is fed of them and he refuses to listen to any songs when he is my car. I have a Fanna + Rahul Sharma (Maya the illusion) CD which keeps on playing in loop :D.

  21. shilpa said,

    Btw..forgot to mention….Maiyya yashodha and Tequilla? Don’t say this infront of any grandmas …they will chase you down….
    Actually the original Maiyya Yashodha is a devotional song. Yashodha is the mother of lord Krishna. I don’t remember this song from Ham saath….. but still…I guess they have also shown some dance which is no where related to tequilla.

  22. You could call it Kootu, I suppose « A Mad Tea Party said,

    […] lucky to have two additional people helping out!) I knew I needed a special meal.  TH brought me a Toro Bravo while I was still at my desk.  It needed to be a rice-night (that means, rice as the main starch […]

  23. Couch Potato « A Mad Tea Party said,

    […] cocktails of the evening – Crimson Passion (nice!) for TH and a coffee based one for me (no Toro Bravo, I’m afraid). [More about the drinks here.] Soon other invitees started to arrive. It was a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: