Cinco de Mayo and The Lost Dutchman
By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
Rim a cocktail glass with lime and coat with Tajin
Add remaining ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and strain into the cocktail glass
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Nothing quite captures Cinco de Mayo like Mickey Mouse. Now, before you start to worry, this story ends in the Arizona badlands circa 1860, but it begins just outside the home of everyone’s favorite rodent — on the streets of Toontown, to be exact.
One of the questions that we get a lot around 12BB is “Why no tequila?”, and our reply is typically a short “Name a classic tequila drink outside of the Margarita. Tequila Sunrise? Ever ordered one?” And that usually ends the conversation. Given that we live in Los Angeles, shrugging off the tequila becomes a bit more difficult as May approaches. Don’t get us wrong, we love Margaritas (we’re Angelenos, after all), and we felt compelled to come up with an interesting variation on the tequila-based sour – embracing the 12BB roll call while still capturing a serious dose of Mexican-American tradition. As luck would have it, the toddler loves mango, and it was mango that we bought for him from a Toontown cart during his first visit to the Happiest Place on Earth this past January.
Mango in and of itself is no revelation when it comes to cocktails. What is – and what was – is Tajin, a Mexican seasoning that, packetized, came wedged inside the plastic mango container. Simply, Tajin Classic Seasoning is a mixture of dried chili peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. Even more simply put, it is God’s gift to seasonings – everything tastes better sprinkled with the stuff (or, at least, David thinks so). And, it was while we dug into Junior’s fruit that we discovered the wonderful medley of mango, lime, salt and chili, which in turn made us realize that we had the beginnings of a great Margarita variation. The only problem was the tequila – which really wasn’t a problem at all.
You might think rum would be the way to go with mango and lime, and, while you wouldn’t be wrong, you’d be overlooking the perfect tequila substitute: genever. Okay, that statement may be a bit bold, but if you enjoy tequila — especially the funkiness of mezcal — odds are you’ll be quite happy with the funkiness of genever. Like mezcal, genever can be a tricky mixer, and it takes just the right ingredients in the right proportions to make it shine. Borrowing a cue from the Holland Razor Blade, we know that a genever sour with a pinch of chili powder is an absolute delight, so adding a few additional flavors that compliment the malty warm notes and tart bright notes of the whole – namely mango and agave nectar – wasn’t a stretch. And, while there’s a lot that goes into the drink, everything revolves around a central woody tartness that makes the drink not only a great – and more interesting – Margarita substitute but also a lovely testament to the flexibility and depth of “Dutch Courage” – which brings us to the namesake of today’s tipple.
Our tale begins deep in the rural wilderness just outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Then, as now, it’s a brooding landscape, where swirling mists often give way to sudden rain storms. Rising out of this rugged wilderness are the imposing Superstition Mountains, home to one of America’s greatest legends – that of the Lost Dutchman Mine and a golden mother lode waiting to be discovered.
Prior to achieving statehood, the lands of Arizona once belonged to Mexico, and it was during that time that the Mexican Peralta family established a series of rich gold mines in the Superstitions. After the formation of the Arizona Territory (1861), the Peraltas wanted to make one last trip to their mines, but an 1840 expedition had left most of their family massacred by Apaches. Enter the proverbial “Dutchman” of our story, a fellow named Jacob Waltz (Waltz was, in point of fact, German; back in the 1800s, “Dutchman” was a slang term for a German, evolving from the German word for German: “Deutsch”) .
As one version of the story goes, Waltz and his partner Jacob Weiser were hired by the Peraltas as “Indian hunters” and, in return for protecting the family from marauding Apaches, our two “Dutchmen” struck a deal to purchase one of the Superstition mines and work it themselves. One day while working the mine, Waltz headed out for supplies, leaving Weiser to continue working the gold. When Waltz returned, his partner was gone, the camp raided by the Apache. Laden with what gold he could carry, Waltz turned his back on the mother lode and made his way back to Phoenix where he lived for many years, never telling a soul about the mine. Curious neighbors often wondered why he paid for expenses with small pieces of gold ore and where he went each winter, leading a pack animal and heading toward the Superstition Mountains. It wasn’t until he was on his deathbed that Waltz confessed the entire story to his kindly nursemaid Julia Thomas, who in turn sought out the mine herself without success.
Depending on which version of the story you read, Thomas unwittingly fueled the legend by selling fake maps showing the mine’s “location”. And, some years later, it’s said that she even gave an interview to one Pierpont C. Bicknell, writer/ lost mine seeker, who is the first to have linked the Peralta mines with the story of Waltz in an 1895 article. The Peraltas and our “Dutchmen” have become the stuff of legend and, over the years, the Lost Dutchman Mine became something of an Atlantis for Southwestern treasure hunters.
In 1931, the bullet-riddled skull of amateur adventurer Adolph Ruth was found six months after he set out to find the Lost Dutchman mine; his death made national news, further kindling the treasure-hunting flame. Then, sometime between 1949 and 1956, four large rocks – three tablets and a heart-shaped stone carved with symbols and Spanish writing – were found near the mine’s reputed locale by a vacationing Oregon police officer and were believed to provide an encoded map to the mine’s location.
In 1964, Life magazine published a story about the stones and their link to Waltz’s mine, again fueling the lust for gold. Despite being dated at more than 100 years old by one expert, the pedigree of the “Peralta Stones”, as they have come to be known, is continually shrugged off by numerous historians. Still, if you want to try your luck at solving the mystery, just take a gander at one of the many treasure-hunting forums on the web. You are sure to find like-minded enthusiasts who continue to attempt to solve the riddle of the pictograms.
Whether the story of the Lost Dutchman’s gold is true or not, we certainly enjoyed mining its riches, so to speak. One can easily imagine the Peraltas and the “Dutchmen” huddled over their cache of gold, clinking celebratory bottles of tequila or mezcal in the Arizona desert. That alone (plus the exquisitely convenient Dutch/Mexican connection) is enough for us to lay claim to the story and seize the opportunity to reach for our beloved, funky genever. This Cinco de Mayo, try turning the traditional Margarita on its ear, and what you may uncover, my friends, is quite simply liquid gold.