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!