Now that mezcal is beginning to get the recognition it deserves, we have developed a new line of cocktails based on the intriguing smoky flavor and earthy bite of mezcal.
Mezcal? Hold on, you’re saying. Isn’t that the stuff with the worm in it?
Well, yes. But hang on. Here’s the background. You could call mezcal the mother of tequila. They are both distilled from the heart or piña of the agave plant. If the distillation takes place in certain legally classified zones, mostly in the state ofJalisco near the village of Tequila, and if it is distilled from the blue agave, it can be called tequila. There are several spirits in Mexico distilled from the agave with many regional names. Very few ever cross the border.
For many years mezcal was dismissed as a harsh and poorly-made spirit which was more likely to produce a gag reflex that a smile of pleasure. And some of it as you say, in a misguided public relations gesture, even had a worm in the bottle! Yes, really.
That’s all over. About 20 years ago, a few brave pioneers began tasting and enjoying mezcal from the state of Oaxaca. Ron Cooper, a US painter who went to Mexico looking for art, was one of the first of the modern mezcaleros and his single village Del Maguey mezcals are still the gold standard.
The best of the new artisan mezcals, like Del Maguey, are made by the traditional method of roasting the piña for three to five days over hot stones, buried in a pit covered by a low fire of agave cuttings.
After being uncovered, they are then ground to a mash using stone mills or hand held mallets. The agave mash is then fermented usually on natural yeast and finally double distilled in wood-fired clay or copper stills.
OK. You didn’t need to know all that. What you need to know is that when you taste your first mezcal cocktail you will know that you are on to something special.
Ask about the AWC mezcal cocktail bar for your next party. You could send a request for a sample recipe (no, we can’t email you a cocktail) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, try a mezcal cocktail at one of these three San Francisco restaurants:
Lolo, 3230 22nd Street, (415) 643-5656. www.lolosf.com
Nopalito, 306 Broderick Street, (415) 437-0303. www.nopalitosf.com
Waterbar, 399 The Embarcadero,(415) 284-9922, www.waterbarsf.com
Larry Walker, Chief Mezcalero, Ann Walker Catering