As a freelancer I don’t get to go on holiday as much as I’d like, so I love it when generous friends and relatives bring me back souvenirs from abroad – it’s a breath of exotic climes in a gift bag. On the down side, it was always a toss-up whether I’d be given an objet d’art or an objet dire.
But lately they seem to have switched (not unprompted perhaps…) to selecting presents of a more useful nature – namely a contribution for my drinks cabinet. Recent retrieves have included lavender liqueur from Provence, Fernet from Prague, creme de myrtle from Sardinia, herb brandy from Croatia and red currant syrup from Holland.
And now others are supplementing my cocktail supplies from far-flung places. The PR for Cox and Kings who specialise in tailor-made holidays, came up with the bright idea of giving alcohol from far-flung destinations to drinks bloggers to get stuck into. Other companies please feel free to emulate.
It was my lucky lot to receive a bottle of Mezcal from Mexico (Gusano Rojo – apparently the country’s best-selling brand). It’s a rather light Mezcal so relatively easy to mix with (recipes below). The Rojo Mojo was inspired by a drink I had many months ago at the Experimental Cocktail Club and is, in my opinion, frankly sublime. The other two are just classic recipes in which I’ve substituted the traditional spirit for Mezcal. Although I’d usually choose a premium spirit for an Old Fashioned, it was still delicious and the chocolate bitters added some missing richness.
Tommy’s Mezcal Margarita
50 ml Mezcal
50 ml lemon
10 ml agave syrup
Dash orange bitters
Shake all the ingredients and serve on the rocks (or straight up if you prefer – I did, and I recommend salting the rim of the glass in that case).
Good handful of chopped sweet red pepper
50 ml Mezcal
25 ml Dry Oloroso Sherry
25 ml lime juice
25 ml chipotle syrup or teaspoon of smoked chilli jelly
Dash tabasco (optional)
Firmly muddle the pepper in a shaker. Then add the Mezcal, sherry, lime juice, chilli syrup/ jelly (and tabasco if using) and shake hard. Double strain into a cocktail glass (ie through the shaker and a fine mesh sieve to ensure a clear drink) and garnish with coriander leaf. NB. I like my drinks tart so do add a dash of agave syrup if you have a less acidic palate.
Tip: I used Belazu Smoked chilli jelly in this recipe which worked really well – a more economical substitute would be to buy whole dried chipotle peppers and make a syrup. You can get these at Borough market or Casa Mexico in Bethnal Green. Or order online if you have the patience. To make the syrup, add 2:1 cups of sugar and water to a pan along with a couple of dried chillies and simmer gently till sugar dissolved. Allow to cool, remove chillies and refrigerate. Make sure you use chipotle as the smokiness they impart enhances the Mezcal beautifully.
Mezcal Old Fashioned
75 ml Mezcal
Teaspoon agave syrup
3 dashes chocolate bitters (I used Bittersmen Xocalatl Mole)
Stir the Mezcal and agave syrup with ice in a mixing glass until well chilled. Strain into a tumbler filled with ice and add the chocolate bitters.
Tip: Cherries are in season now so try making your own – I used this recipe which has a great flavour but am going to try another batch adding the cherries once the syrup is off the heat.