Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, The Features, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Tacos and Tequila at El Rey

I’m done with this cold, rainy nonsense. It’s time for spring, people! I want to see more balmy temps, cool drinks, sundresses, and cherry blossoms. But most of all, I want tequila and tacos because nothing quite puts me in the spirit of warm weather quite like drinking tequila and eating tacos under the sun. So I’m sure you can imagine my feelings towards the opening of El Rey last week, Shaw’s new U Street tacqueria/beer garden. It went sort of like this (only replace “bacon and eggs” with “tequila and tacos”).

I walked into El Rey’s soft opening, having done shameful little to no homework, with a very short check list. First order of business: lots of tequila. Yeah they got that. Second: tacos. I think so. Lastly, not cold. It might have been rainy and nasty all week, but under those heat lamps you could have fooled me. Close my eyes and I’m back to undergrad, eating tacos off a truck and lounging on the sunny quad. Only this time there’s tequila. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Mezcal, Los Spirits de Muertos

As a native New Englander there’s no time of year that I enjoy more than autumn and, hands down, the best part of the season is Halloween. No question about it. When you’re young, you get to dress up like a monster and get free candy for it. How amazing is that? Then, when you’re an adult, you get to use it as an excuse to go out drinking at inappropriate times–got work on Friday morning? Who cares!–and dress as ridiculously as you can financially and imaginatively afford. That being said, I’ve always had a fascination with the Day of the Dead too. Maybe it’s because my mother was a Spanish teacher for over twenty-five years, and each year she would set up her little sugar skulls and Catrinas around Halloween. I’ve always been intrigued by the holiday and wished that more people celebrated it. So this week we’re doing a tribute to seasonal cocktails and Dia de Muertos. And to me that means we’re doing mezcal (whoops!).

If you’ve never had it, mezcal is a little spirit that comes from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Similar to tequila, it’s distilled from agave (albeit a different species, but that’s a bit too wonky for now), the primary difference is that the hearts of the agave plants are roasted for three days in ovens dug into the ground, which imparts this beautiful, earthy, smoky flavor. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Mezcal, mi corazon

Photo courtesy of Jenn Larsen
Mezcal cocktail, American Ice Company
courtesy of Jenn Larsen

Friday Happy Hour is back! Every Friday we’ll highlight a drink we’ve recently enjoyed. Please share your favorites with us as well.

Mezcal is made from the heart of the maguey plant. Never one to skip over symbolism, dear reader, I find it interesting that since recovering from a heart infection, mezcal is one liquor I can tolerate without issues. Traditional uses for mezcal include as a treatment for hypertension, so obviously I’ll have to continue my informal medical research for your benefit – a trip down to Oaxaca, Mexico, where mezcal is predominantly produced, may be in order.

The plant is also known as agave, while mezcal is also spelled mescal. Knowing that will not affect your drinking, however. The maguey hearts are roasted in underground pit ovens, which results in that earthy flavor distinctive to mezcal. Though there’s a similarity to the smokiness of some whiskies, it’s not quite the same taste. After being mashed up and allowed to ferment with water, the liquid is distilled in clay or copper pots, and can be aged for a few months or several years.

That rich smoke flavor makes mezcal a tricky element in a cocktail. I do enjoy drinking it neat, but many local bartenders play with it in unexpected ways. Yesterday I visited Patrick Owens at American Ice Company for a second glass of a cocktail he crafted for me last week with mezcal, Punt e Mes, St. Germain, and walnut liqueur. When he first told me the ingredients, I was a tad skeptical that all the boozy elements could mix in harmony. Yet the resulting cocktail was incredibly smooth and well-balanced. The earthy quality of the mezcal was complemented by the rich walnut, and set off by the sweet vermouth and floral notes. Asking for a repeat performance is rare for me, as I usually get tempted into ordering something new, but this one definitely hit my heart the right way.

As with tequila, stick with makers who use high quality, artisanal production methods. That’ll go a long way towards saving you the next morning!

Downtown, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: Oyamel’s Tequila and Mezcal Fest

Photo courtesy of
‘Oyamel 4′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Tequila flies under the radar as connoisseur’s drink. It’s had an unfair representation from co-eds pounding back shots on spring break in Cancun and middle aged women drinking slushy margaritas by some pool. But Tequila, much like anything, can be done right and can be done wrong. Chef Jose Andres and Co. at Oyamel want to highlight the former, something that they do annually with their two week Tequila and Mezcal Festival.

This celebration of all things agave is becoming a highlight of the DC cocktail scene. Not only do you get to sample some of Mexico’s finest in carefully constructed flights, you find some truly creative cocktails crafted by the mixologists at Oyamel, and from a few guests they bring in. The festival kicked off Monday night and I was fortunate enough to be able to sample a few of their highlighted drinks and appetizers.

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