It's prickly pear fruit, or tuna, season in SoCal, which means the landscape is dotted with an array of hues from orange to magenta and crimson. With their brilliant color and sweet flavor reminiscent of watermelon, the cactus fruits are an excellent ingredient for cocktails. This refreshing drink combines prickly pear pulp with cachaça (Brazilian sugarcane rum), fresh lime juice, and rose petal syrup. The result is fruity, tangy, and subtly floral. And if you're looking for some health benefits to your cocktail, herbalists consider both prickly pear and rose to be anti-inflammatory, cooling, and moistening, making them perfect for these late summer days.
When harvesting prickly pear fruits, color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, poke the fruit; when it is perfectly ripe, the skin will tear easily and the fruit may even tumble off the pad. To harvest, grab the fruit with tongs, and twist — it'll come right off and protect your fingers from getting poked. If you aren't up for foraging, you can also find tunas at some Latin American markets and farmers' markets.
Prickly Pear and Rose Cachaça
Makes 1 drink
1 ounce prickly pear pulp (see Recipe Notes)
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce rose syrup
2 ounces cachaça
Lemon balm and/or mint sprigs for garnish
Combine the prickly pear pulp, lime juice, rose syrup, and cachaça in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lemon balm and/or mint.
• To prepare prickly pear pulp: Carefully remove the glochids or spines from the prickly pear fruit by burning them off with an open flame (use a torch, lighter, gas stove, or grill). Cut the fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Press the flesh through a fine-mesh strainer to extract the pulp. Discard the seeds. Depending on size, 1 prickly pear fruit yields about 1 to 2 ounces of pulp.
Makes about 1 cup
1 cup water
1 cup fresh, pesticide-free rose petals (or 1/2 cup dried)
1 cup granulated sugar (or 1/2 sugar, 1/2 honey)
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in the rose petals, and cover the pan. Let stand 1 hour. Strain and discard the petals.
Return the rose water to the pan and add the sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.