A reverential, church-like silence permeates the poolside Saguaro Blossom café. This shaded respite serves sunbaked guests at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. The café serves a nosh-tastic shrimp-and-scallop ceviche. Bartenders mix up an impressive Mango En Fuego, an orange-hued cocktail creatively garnished with a chili-coated dried mango. The drink resembles a burning torch.
The Mango En Fuego, however, is not the adult beverage I’ve driven through the Sonoran Desert to discover. Rather, I’m on a mission, a Vision Quest even, to find the perfect Verde Margarita.
Know that despite its name, The Verde is not an alcoholic veggie smoothie or some such. It’s a green-colored version of the classic tequila-based cocktail, infused with…avocado.
Hang on, there’s a backstory. A few months prior to this visit, a server at an upscale Mexican restaurant in San Diego had tried to talk me into trying an avocado margarita. I was on the fence. “No one ever sends it back,” she insisted. Intrigued, I ordered one. I gagged, and sent it back.
A couple days after this incident, I’m attending an Arizona Tourism media event at another tony, San Diego restaurant. The traveling rep from the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale is engaging. She’s talking up the property’s awe-inspiring mountain-scape; the resort’s James Beard Award-nominated chef; The refreshingly unique Verde Margarita…
You have to be ready when the universe sends you a sign. This is one. Timing is everything, and this highly spirited conversation initiates my pilgrimage to Scottsdale, the Four Seasons Resort and the Saguaro Blossom café, reputed birthplace of the perfect avo-rita.
The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
I’m not suggesting the singular reason for trekking into the summer desert is to hunt down a mythical, green pool drink. So, before the big reveal from Saguaro Blossom here are a few things you should know about the unpretentiously chic Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale.
The property’s 210 adobe-style casitas were recently renovated. My room includes a king-sized bed with down duvet and pillows. The bedroom area segues into a living room that faces a shoulder-high, gas-powered fireplace. A sliding door leads to a patio which features a comfy couch atop an Indian weave rug, and an outdoor flat-screen TV.
Just outside the patio, however, is the real show. We stand on the deck and stare up at a rugged, rocky mountain dotted with Y-shaped Saguaro cacti. We watch myriad birds, including a bright-red cardinal, navigate the airspace. We don’t see any signs of threatening wildlife, though a room attendant casually notes that bobcats will occasionally show up in the relative cool of the morning.
The Four Seasons dining scene is covered by two indoor-outdoor restaurants. A casual dining “canteen” is called Proof. Service is outstanding and the food is superb. Our server brings out complimentary warm pretzel knots (and a spicy cheese sauce) that are as airy as any Parisian croissant.
When I wonder aloud about a particular item on the cocktail menu, our server surprises me with a taster. It’s a locally sourced Milk-Washed Del Bac Whiskey (featuring the flavor of whiskey but without the kick in the esophagus).
Talavera is the resort’s finer-dining Spanish steakhouse, and is adjacent to a colorful Gin Bar. The chef at Talavera is 30-year-old up-and-comer Samantha Sanz, a 2019 James Beard Award finalist. My wife and I split an appetizer of Sanz’s octopus—pulpo a la plancha with tender bites betwixt a charred and smoky crust.
Our muy-simpatico server does a thorough translation of the Spanish-language-drizzled Talavera menu. My wife’s veggie-and-noodles fideuà is hypnotizing. My bone-in prime ribeye is mesmerizing; the accompanying mashed potatoes are like a raclette cheese-covered cloud.
After dinner, my wife and I go night swimming—in a pool that is constantly heated (or cooled!) to 84-86 degrees. To set a mood, I tap into Spotify on my phone and play REM’s oboe-and-strings arrangement of “Nightswimming.” The haunting serenity of the song is contrasted by a squadron of Night Jars (hawks) that circle the pool and zoom in and out of the low glow of a crescent moon.
Fade to black…
The Dawn of the Verde Margarita
…Cue the rising sun.
Before the inevitable thermometer spike—and to kill time before heading to the pool to meet our green-hued destiny—an inspection of the Pinnacle Peak hiking trail is in order. There’s a path from the resort to a nearby park that leads up to Pinnacle Peak.
Before even getting to the park my wife and I are momentarily confused about where the trail runs. That’s until an indigenous cottontail rabbit jumps out of the brush and seemingly wants to lead the way for us. True story. However, any ensuing assertion that the rabbit turns to us and says, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”…is closer to, um, fake news.
After an easy, nonchallenging hike, we change into bathing suits and flip-flop over to the swimming pool complex. The Saguaro Blossom opens closer to lunchtime. While we sunbath and wait for the café to open, pool staffers walk by and tantalize us with edible treats. First, frozen grapes. Then cranberry oat bars, followed by tiny Cherry Coke floats brimming with cherry gelato.
Wonderful. Delicious. Above-and-beyond the call. Then at 11 a.m., the pool café opens. It’s go time.
Bartender Andrew Gutierrez is expecting me. If I am the seeker on this Verde Vision Quest, then this calm-souled native Arizonan is the shaman who will interpret this spiritual experience.
“The Verde Margarita start with an ounce and a half of Casamigos Blanco Tequila, a nice mixing tequila,” Gutierrez begins. “We also use a little Cointreau [orange flavored triple sec liqueur]. And then to give it the color, we batch out cilantro, avocado, lime juice, agave and cucumber. We puree that all up. We do the tequila and Cointreau in the blender, add the puree and then it creates the green goodness that you’re looking for.”
Gutierrez has only been working at The Four Seasons for two years—but he was here for the inception of the Verde.
“One of our old bartenders [Drew Payne] got the idea from another Mexican restaurant,” Gutierrez recalls. “The one Drew had tried was over ice. We kind of took it and made it frozen.”
Here comes the secret.
“Just over ice it will get kind of chunky, like a salsa,” he says. “Like a weird kind of guacamole texture. So, we blend it up and it doesn’t taste like salsa or guacamole. I’ve done them a couple times fresh with avocado muddled together, but they’re too chunky—people were not really into them.”
“These frozen drinks are very popular out here at the ‘beach’ at Four Seasons,” he chuckles. “People like to try these because they’re intriguing—because they have avocado in them…Yes, people have a lot of questions. I get two to three questions every day. Some people are scared of them. But they’re pretty. A lot of people will try it once, then they usually come back for two or three more.”
Lips trembling, I take a sip of the Verde. Gutierrez is dead-on correct. There’s a cool hint of avocado—not floating globs of warm guacamole. He salts the rim of the glass, like most Margaritas. The drinks are garnished with a lime and a cucumber. There are two versions of the cocktail, with or without chili peppers. Both iterations are captivating and revelatory.
My wife takes a sip, nods, and agrees that this is how you deliciously mix an avocado into a cocktail. The sun beats down. A few droplets of condensed water roll down the outside of our Verde vessels. We smile, clink glasses and literally drink in the moment.
Our palates are at peace. Mission accomplished. J&J