Mezcal – better known as the smokier, more complex older brother of tequila – is more often than not, a spirit that typically takes the backseat in most cocktail recipes. But to best enjoy the flavors of small-batch mezcal, keep it simple, having fun with different flavor combinations which allow the spirit to shine.
“Sipping mezcal is an experienced that people should take seriously,” says Ronaldo Colli, a mixologist who serves the spirit in a number of different ways at his bar, the Ivy Room located near San Francisco in California. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it – and in the case of some of my favorite cocktails, it’s playing up the earthiness and peppery notes of the mezcal with herbs like thyme.”
Colli credits himself with kicking off the trend of shaking up mezcal in bars up and down California. At 45, Colli – who was born in the Yucatan province of Mexico – has won countless cocktail competitions throughout the Golden state. Over the course of his two decades in the industry, Colli has earned a reputation as a master mixologist known for creating unusual flavors for cocktails, but he attributes this to the fact that he’s always kept one foot in Mexico with his use of Latin ingredients. His favorites? Think dark chocolate mole bitters, Mayan honey liqueur, tamarind juice and yes, the use of mezcal.
“Tequila is a spirit that most people feel they know, but mezcal still has this allure of the unknown,” explains Colli of the spirit, which unlike tequila, can be made from any type of agave (premium tequilas are made entirely from blue agave), roasted in deep pits. He suggests picking up a can of mezcal, and breathing its aroma, sipping carefully to absorb its flavors. Smoke, pepper and spice will inspire you think of creative ingredients to blend with it, says Colli. And if you need a bit of inspiration to kick off your new-found mixology skills, begin with Colli’s recipe for the KamaSutra, named for its sultry appeal and depth of flavors thanks to fresh thyme, whose lemony attributes are accented by grapefruit. This in turn compliments mezcal’s deep, earthy notes.
1 1/2 oz Partida Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse Liqueur
1/2 oz Benesin Mezcal
1 Thyme Branch (garnish)
1 Grapefruit peel (garnish)
Preparation: In a pint glass add all the ingredients then stir add ice and stir for second time. Strain into a chilled bucket glass and garnish with a thyme branch rolled with a grapefruit peel.