The first time that I experienced La Bandera, I was sitting outside a distillery in the tequila region of Mexico. The “Bandera” cocktail is inspired by the flag of Mexico. If you know your world flags, you know that the Mexican bandera/flag is green, white and red. The cocktail mimics those colors and is served in three separate glasses.
One glass is filled with fresh-squeezed lime juice—green—one is filled with un-aged or blanco tequila—white—and the “red” glass is filled with Sangrita. (If you don’t know what Sangrita is, more on that later!)
The liquid in the three glasses are meant to be sipped slowly and combined in your mouth. Some people say that the order doesn’t matter, some say that it is lime, tequila and Sangrita. Others say it is Sangrita, lime and tequila. Drink it and combine it in your mouth however you like. If you are skeptical, just try it. It’s a fun interactive drink and very tasty.
That first time, the Bandera was served to me in three square shot glasses and that is still my favorite way to drink it. I love how you can line them up in formation so that they—kind of—look like a flag.
But during a recent trip to Mexico City, I had it served many ways. My top two presentations were a) when the lime and Sangrita were served in shot glasses and the tequila was served in a Riedel tequila glass, and b) when all three were served in mini sniffers like the presentation at Contramar restaurant.
This cocktail is meant to be sipped. So, the quality and the sip-ability of the blanco tequila is important.
I recently discovered Nosotros blanco. It is a great tasting, smooth sipping tequila with a great story. Nosotros began as a college assignment for Founder Carlos Soto and that hypothetical paper turned into a passion for making tequila and mezcal.
Nosotros means us/we in Spanish and as Carlos told me, the origin of the name Nosotros happened organically. “I was drinking with some friends, and I genuinely kept asking questions about how to name the brand. There were some silly names in there getting thrown around but nothing that really felt right. At one point one of my friends said (in English), ‘dude forget about it for a little bit, let’s just have fun. Cheers to us (it was one of our last nights of college)’, and I was like yes, that’s it,” recounts Carlos.
He explains, “us in Spanish is Nosotros. It seemed a perfect fit. At the end of the day, drinking is meant to be a social experiment to lower your guard and connect with other people. That [for a while] has been the North Star of our business, and it comes from the inception of the name.”
The brand’s culture is very inclusive. The juice itself is also inclusive. When Carlos was first blending and creating his tequila in 2015, he was the first to blend tequila from both the lowlands and the highlands in one bottle. The flavor is smooth and balanced and very easy to sip. It is tailor made for La Bandera.
According to Carlos, the “award-winning juice is the result of blending two agave regions to create a taste profile that is both complex and delicious. Highland agaves give Nosotros its sweet and citrus introduction while lowland agaves bring an herbal finish, truly one of a kind.”
The female-run distillery launched the first bottle in 2017 and almost as an afterthought, Carlos entered his tequila in the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It surprised the industry and won three coveted awards; Best Tequila, Best Blanco/Unaged Tequila, and a Double Gold Medal.
Once you’ve decided on your tequila, making the drink is easy. The hardest part is finding the right limes and the right tomato juice for the Sangrita.
Mexican limes are smaller and rounder; more akin to the Florida key lime than Persian Limes, the larger grocery-store limes, that we have in the states. They are also more flavorful and I’ve found that a mixture of half lemon and half (Persian) lime juice approximates the “limon” flavor for this drink.
At its most basic, Sangrita is frequently served in Mexico with shots of Blanco or Reposado tequila. Urban legend has it that people in Jalisco started serving the juice from pico de gallo with tequila—I like to think that it started the same way that “pickleback” shots happened in the US. There was a lot of leftover juice—from the pico de gallo—and someone figured out that it made a great sipper/chaser with a shot of tequila. Incidentally, tequila is also made in the state of Jalisco.
Sangrita is a combination of tomato and orange juice, and every version that I had in Mexico City was different. I’ve created my own recipe by mashing up the things that I liked best.
The texture of the tomato juice is key to this. If you are like me, you do not like a thick, grainy tomato juice. This is a big turn off for me in Sangrita and my Bloodies as well.
As someone who has tasted homemade tomato juice many times, I don’t understand where the thick saucy texture in store-bought tomato juice comes from. Fresh tomato juice is thin and silky. And to me that makes the best Sangrita. Because I don’t have access to fresh tomato juice, I decided to make the next best thing.
Perfect tomato juice is as easy as straining a can of crushed tomatoes. By straining a can of crushed tomatoes, you are left with a thin silky and concentrated—read: full of flavor—tomato juice, like a highly flavored tomato water. This is the perfect base for homemade Sangrita.
Next, you need fresh-squeezed orange juice. Again, the texture is very important here. Fresh squeezed is also a lot less acidic and you are going to add your “limon” juice to the mixture to balance the acid and make it tangy. If you don’t feel like straining tomatoes or squeezing oranges, Natalie’s Juice has just come out with a good thin tomato juice that would work well. They also sell excellent orange juice.
After that, you can customize your “juice” however you like it. I use Worcestershire sauce and jalapeño hot sauce. You could add chopped cilantro and minced onion, course-ground pepper, and coriander if you like. It all depends if you want a clear liquid or a liquid with some “chew” to it!
A Tribute to La Bandera Cocktail
This is my version of the Mexican Cocktail La Bandera, or Bandera for short. Bandera means flag in Spanish and the “juice” in the three glasses are inspired by the colors of the Mexican flag; green, white and red. The drink is interactive and meant to be consumed in sips, not shots. The fresh-squeezed juices in the Sangrita make all the difference in the drink, so take the extra time to make this from scratch.
Makes 4 drinks
To make the “Limon” juice, use the ratio of 3 limes and 1 lemon for each batch of juice.
Pour about 1.5 ounces in each glass.
Tequila Blanco, a good sipping blanco such as Nosotros
Pour about 1.5 ounces in each glass
½ cup tomato juice, preferably strained from a can of crushed tomatoes or Natalie’s Tomato
¼ cup fresh orange juice, approx. 2 oranges or Natalie’s Juice
1/8 cup fresh lime juice, approx. 3 small limes and 1 lemon*
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
8 shakes Tabasco Jalapeno hot sauce, or other favorite hot sauce
Optional garnishes: Tajin, chopped cilantro, minced onion, ground black pepper, ground coriander, etc.
Special Equipment: 3 matching shot glasses per person, preferably square shot glasses.
1. Mix tomato juice, orange, lime and lemon “limon” juice together.
2. Add Worcestershire and hot sauce and mix well. Add any other garnish or seasoning that you would like to use.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use.
4. To make the Bandera cocktail: Pour about 1.5 ounces of each liquid in each glass.
5. Serve each person one of each in a row; limon juice, Blanco tequila and Sangrita.
6. Take tiny sips of all three and swish together in your mouth to combine.
7. Enjoy the Bandera experience. Salud!