We were "those people" on the airplane, the family with the screaming baby. It was a small plane and the close quarters weren't helping the situation. The passengers' contempt was palpable as we were shot such wicked glances, even Mike Tyson would have flinched. It didn't help that some of those passengers had botched plastic surgery, their look of scorn contorted, making their faces all the more menacing. As we walked off the plane, I was greeted by one such woman who pointed at me and said loudly to her friend, "that's the one." I was too tired to react, I was defeated, embarrassed and my box of "give a damns" was empty.
We slowly shuffled towards the baggage claim department, Elora all smiles now that she was off the plane. She waved and blew raspberries to her fellow passengers, while her brother walked quickly ahead of us pretending to be with any other family but ours. I couldn't wait to get out of there, to get home, to crawl into bed with a stiff cocktail and erase the last 3 hours.
As I lay in bed later that evening, I had this fantasy of what I would have said to that lady had I been more cognizant post flight. Of course I didn't come up with anything too rich, what was there to say? "I had a crying baby, it was annoying, I'm sorry, I hope you aren't in the same position in the future." I mean really, I would have hated me too if the circumstances had been right. As I continued to drift, I had an even better idea, what if the next time we boarded a plane with Elora, we handed out ear plugs and cocktails to our flying neighbors? Instead of being greeted with pitchforks and torches as we exit the aircraft, we might instead get a nod, a thumbs up or dare I say a fist-bump? It's nice to dream.
Next time, I will offer to buy a round and a bag of peanuts, but until then, here is a cocktail with enough spunk to help erase those last few hours of grief. Prickly Pear Cactus Cooler is a labor of love since these little cacti are a pain - literally. With a few tips on handling however, I can assure you, your finished product will result without blood, sweat or tears. Prickly Pear Cactus Cooler to the rescue!
Title: Prickly Pear Cactus Cocktail Cooler
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 8 mins
Total time: 1 hour 8 mins
Notes: Prickly pears are found throughout California and other parts of the South West region. My husband was kind enough to pick these in our neighborhood. If you don't have access to prickly pears, you can order them whole or in syrup form from Amazon. If you are brave enough to pick them yourselves, use gardening gloves and tongs to handle them. Each dot you see on the Cactus holds hundreds of tiny little spikes. You will need a kitchen torch, gas flame, or open fire to remove the spikes effectively. Roasting them while rotating them will ensure you effectively burn off the spikes. Once the spikes have been burned off, continue to handle with gloves, cut lengthwise with a pairing knife and scoop the innards out with a small spoon. Place innards in a separate and clean bowl.
1 cup of Prickly Pear juice (from about 3lbs of raw prickly pear cactus)
2 Tbsp of honey (the darker the better)
3 limes (sliced in rounds)
12 mint leaves plus more for garnish
2 bottles of Ginger beer (24oz)
4 oz of Patron Silver Tequila
1 Tbsp of Kosher salt
1.5 Tbsp of Sugar
Once you have your Prickly Pear Cactus innards, place in a pot over low heat and cover. Add your honey once the juice is warm. Cook while stirring occasionally, cook for about 8 minutes. It should thicken slightly. Remove from heat, pour through a fine mesh strainer and into a clean container, set aside.
Mix your sugar and salt in a shallow bowl and set aside.
Take a lime round and go over the rim of each cocktail glass. Flip the glass over and dip the top rim into the sugar and salt mixture. Flip right-side up.
To make each drink, fill the shaker with 2 oz of Prickly Pear juice, ½ lime squeezed, 3 mint leaves, tequila and ice. Shake vigorously. Pour into ice filled glass and top with ginger beer (about 4oz) and garnish with mint and/or lime rounds.
Drink and enjoy. Please drink responsibly.