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How to make killer red and green sangrita from a SoCal spot tequila lovers MUST visit

There are perks to being an adventurous lady who knows her liquor. Like getting invited to check out Rancho Valencia, a stunning resort in Rancho Santa Fe, which is just north of San Diego. The resort just completed the last phase of its $30 million renovation by revealing a new pro shop and updated tennis courts (there are 18 of them).

Since I was going out there anyway, I decided to tack on a few extra days to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a rented Ford Mustang convertible with my friend Kristen. Because why not?! From San Luis Obispo to Monterey, the road wound along the jagged edges of the coast. Since my husband Jay happened to be in San Diego for work, he was nice enough to meet me at the airport before the ride began, bearing Ballast Point Bloody Mary mix and Smirnoff vodka for the girls (he’s a keeper). Stops along the way included the Elephant Seal Vista Point, beers and lunch 800 feet above the ocean at Nepenthe in Big Sur (I recommend Mendocino Brewing’s Eye of the Hawk) and the view from Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, where we met a man playing guitar with a rabbit on his head.

From top left: the view of the ocean from the Bixby Bridge viewing point; taking a picture from our convertible; the goods hubby bought for the girls' road trip; and enjoying a brew at Nepenthe.

From top left: the view of the ocean from the Bixby Bridge viewing point; taking a picture from our convertible; the goods hubby bought for the girls’ road trip; and enjoying a brew at Nepenthe.

The two-day trip was completely relaxing and liberating: wind blowing in our hair, plenty of sun, plus beautiful views and memories with my girlfriend. When it was over I met back up with Jay for the night and checked into Rancho Valencia, where we got comfortable in our casita with an outdoor fireplace and ordered room service in our robes. I’d come to the resort mostly to check out the beverage program, specifically the All Agave Project (we’ll get to that later), but wound up trying tons of new things, like getting my butt kicked at TRX (a super hard suspension strength training system), being coached by U.S. Open tennis champ Robin White, enjoying a Mediterranean massage and wrap at the spa, and finding a new favorite summer sparkling (Billecart-Salmon rose champagne), and go-to cabernet sauvignon (2011 Hill Family Estate Baker Vineyard).

From upper left: Rancho Valencia's luxury bathrooms; the spa pool; Jay with our room service and outdoor fireplace.

From upper left: Rancho Valencia’s luxury bathrooms; the spa pool; Jay with our room service and outdoor fireplace.

Rancho Valencia's dining options are stunning. From top: inside the Pony Room, home of 160 tequilas; the wine cellar; the back patio of the Pony Room.

Rancho Valencia’s dining options are stunning. From top: inside the Pony Room, home of 160 tequilas; the wine cellar; the back patio of the Pony Room.

Back to the Agave Project: if you love tequila, you need to visit (it’s always time for a vacation, right?)

Rancho Valencia boasts more than 160 agave spirits that include tequila, mezcal, sotol and bacanora, which are mostly served out of the Pony Room, a chicly decorated locals bar (see above). Those who live close can join the All Agave Club, which costs $295 a year with access to monthly tastings hosted by a visiting distiller, branded swag and a tasting book. Each time you taste a new agave spirit on the menu, a server stamps it in your book. The first person to taste 100 agave spirits in a year wins a trip to Jalisco, Mexico – the heart of tequila country! But visitors can get also in on the fun by arranging private tastings or by booking stays during the third Thursday of the month for the scheduled tastings ($60) in the Sunrise Room. In a tasting guided by Rancho’s food and beverage director Justin Wilson, I learned blanco Tequila Fortaleza was my favorite for its slightly sweet, light and aromatic qualities but the blanco Tequila Ocho, which is tangy and slightly herbaceous qualities, was runner up (though technically it was a precursor to the official tasting).

From left: the Sunrise Room set up for a tequila tasting at Rancho Valencia; a tequila tasting with red sangrita; the tasting book for the All Agave Project.

From left: the Sunrise Room set up for a tequila tasting at Rancho Valencia; a tequila tasting with red sangrita; the tasting book for the All Agave Project.

In addition to the breadth of tequilas and unique cocktails such as the Oaxacan Wonder (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Cocchi Torino vermouth, orange muscat and housemade mulled cider), the beverage program encourages people to try tequila neat. And that’s what I’m all about! Straight tequilas are made even more enticing with a side of sangrita, which is a traditional Mexican drink consisting of juices and chiles. A verde (green), vegetal sangrita is served with floral, sweet tequilas from the highlands, while a rojo, fruitier sangrita is served with the earthier, spicier lowland tequilas. The tequila and sangrita come side by side on beautiful custom made wooden paddles, making for a pretty display. To marry the best of both, you’re supposed to alternate sips of the tequila and sangrita.

Is your mouth watering yet? I snagged Rancho Valencia’s recipes so you can try them at home. Don’t forget to let me know how they turn out on Facebook and Instagram!

Neat tequila is served with a side of sangrita at Rancho Valencia.

Neat tequila is served with a side of sangrita at Rancho Valencia.

Red Sangrita

Using pomegranate instead of tomato, this rojo version is sweet and just a little spicy.

3 cups orange juice

2 cups lime juice

1 cup grenadine*

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons chile powder

2 jalapeños, sliced

1 Serrano pepper, sliced

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend for only a few seconds. Taste for spiciness level and blend longer if more heat is desired. Refrigerate or serve immediately.

*Make Grenadine 

3/4 cup pomegranate juice

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 drop orange blossom water

Blend all ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved.

Green Sangrita

Dill and cucumber add the herbaceous, summery qualities you’d want to balance sweet and floral tequilas.

4 cups cucumber juice

3 cups orange juice

2 cups lemon juice

 8 ounces dill simple syrup*

 6 basil leafs

 2 jalapeños sliced

 1 Serrano sliced

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend for only a few seconds. Taste for spiciness level and blend longer if more heat is desired. Refrigerate or serve immediately.

*To make the dill simply syrup, simmer ½ cup of fresh dill in 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water over low heat. Let cool.

The Silver Pony cocktail at Rancho Valencia is refreshing and balanced.

The Silver Pony cocktail at Rancho Valencia: Tres Agaves blanco, Cointreau, serrano simple syrup and lemonade.

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