Jiggers of mescal are popping up in cocktail bars all over town as mixologists discover the herbal, often smoky flavour of Mexico’s agave spirit.
Tequila might be the most recognised Mexican spirit, but mescal is shaking off its reputation as the rocket fuel cousin – much of it because of the passionate of work Nick Peters, who has been serving variations of mescal in bars and restaurants around the world since the early 2000s. Nick (pictured right on a taste testing mission) helped launch Melbourne’s hippest Mexican Mamasita, which still gets queues down its Collins St stairwell five years after opening. Nick is now a partner in the Mamasita business, continuing his love affair with agave spirits as a certified Merzcalier (the first outside North America). He also teaches budding mezcaliers about the history and culture of the drink – and the best ways to drink it, of course.
Here are five of Nick’s favourite mescal cocktail recipes to try at home. Find the mescal brands at good bottle shops.
1. Dixeebe (di-chee-be)
Zapotecs are the indigenous people of Oaxaca, and “dixeebe” is Zapotec for “cheers”. In this recipe, we pre-blitz the chipotle, tamarind pulp and agave nectar. The mixture will keep in the fridge for about a week. If you can’t find tamarind pulp, tamarind syrup will do (but you’ll need to water it down slightly). Use a tall glass, with a thick salt rim.
45ml Bruxo No.1
45ml lemon juice
15ml agave nectar
10ml blitzed chipotle
15ml tamarind pulp
Combine ingredients in a Boston glass with ice. Shake and pour into glass. Top up with ice if necessary. Garnish with a lemon cheek and a pinch of nutmeg.
2. Vampiro (mezcal-based Bloody Mary)
Use a tall glass for this cocktail, lining the rim with a Tajin mixture – dried chilli, dried lime and salt.
60ml Vago Elote
90ml sangrita (a traditional mix of pomegranate, tomato, orange and lime juices with salt and habanero)
90ml tomato juice
30ml lime juice
15ml pickling liquid (vinegar, sugar, water and jalapeños)
Pinch of smoked salt
Combine ingredients in a boston glass with ice and shake well. Empty contents into glass. Garnish with a celery stalk, poached habanero prawns and a lime wedge.
3. Mitla Sour
This is our take on a Manhattan Sour. Mitla is the most important archaeological site in Zapotec culture.
15ml Ilegal blanco
30ml oloroso sherry
30ml lemon juice
30ml sugar syrup
1 egg white
3 dashes orange bitters
30ml tempanillo/grenache/malbec – your choice, depends on your preference
Shake everything over ice, except the wine. Empty contents into glass. Float the wine (pour it over the upturned cap straight into the drink). Garnish with an orange wedge.
30ml Bruxo No 2 Ensamble
30ml antica formula
20ml Jamaica (hibiscus) syrup (make hibiscus tea, reduce by half and add dark agave nectar).
Add ingredients into Boston glass and stir over ice. Strain into large tumbler full of ice. Garnish with a good length of orange peel, pith removed. Squeeze orange skinside down over drink to give the drink the flavour of the orange zest oil.
5. Cucumber jalapeño cooler
45ml Delirio blanco
15ml sugar syrup
30ml cucumber juice (use skins and all for more colour and nutrients)
15ml lime juice
5 thin slices jalapeño
Muddle jalapeño and sugar syrup, then add remaining ingredients to a Boston glass. Shake over ice and pour into glass. Top up with ice if necessary. Garnish with coriander root as a stirrer.
For more information about the Mission Foods Mexican Festival, head to the website.