The Mescal Thing
2 oz Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal
1 oz Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
Juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon
1 oz orange syrup reduction
The first and most likely is that you just aren’t cool. In the last decade or so, hipsters have discovered their mixology repertoires weren't complete without the Lagavulin of Mexican distilled agave drinks. To meet this pressing demand, American entrepreneurs started to import Mescal in much larger quantities. I've heard that it's cooler to drink mescal straight up, as the Mexican producers of it do, rather than mixing it. But of course, the fact that I know anything about Mescal is just incontrovertible proof that it's fast on its way to being no longer cool. So there's that.
Another explanation for your mescal oversight is that you don’t like tequila. I get it. I don’t like broccoli and that’s healthy too. But what you need to know is that Mescal is like a really smooth, smoky tequila made from the fermented mash of pit oven roasted maguey plant hearts. Technically, some people will say, it’s not tequila at all. To me, that’s like saying a slider isn’t technically a hamburger. Technically, maybe not. It’s like a smaller, more expensive, tastier version of the form. But does anybody ever really need more than an 1/8 pound of ground sirloin at a time? I mean, outside of Wisconsin. The answer is no.
A third explanation for your mescal problem might be that you don’t want to buy an artisanal distilled alcoholic beverage imported all the way from Oaxaca, Mexico. Cuz it's expensive. And that’s a good reason not to buy it. I'm not going to argue with it either. Personally, I refuse to buy fancy patio furniture. We aren't made of money. Fancy chairs that get rained on? No. But I have my priorities. And most of them are related to alcohol. OK, that sounded wrong. But seriously, mescal is the Lagavulin of agave drinks. The slider of tequilas. The pit oven roasted fermented mash of cool.
I mixed some Del Maguey mescal recently into a drink that I served before a Mexican meal. I’ve been teaching myself to cook Mexican food. Why? Well, it’s a widely known fact that I am obsessed with Mexican food. That’s because while French food is good, and Italian food is tasty, and Japanese food is extremely yummy, Mexican food was invented by the God of Food You Never Get Sick Of. You can eat an avocado in lime juice with melted cheese and crispy fresh corn tortillas every day for a week, then want that same meal again the next week and the next week after that. You can't say that about lasagna. Scientific fact. Look it up.
In one respect, this drink recipe is tricky. And not particularly fair. Because my mom candied the orange peels for me. She brought me not only the candied oranges, but also a mason jar full of the bittersweet orange syrup that she cooked them in. Why did she do this? Because she knows I am crazy about homemade mixers. Of course she does. It's her fault I'm like this.
So, if you want to make this drink, you need to first candy some orange peels and save the syrup. Another option is just to make a homemade sour mix with this recipe, and mix in some extra sugar and orange bitters. I used orange bitters too, but you could use more. The drink is basically a margarita, with a twist. I know I've featured a margarita in this column before. But the margarita was invented by the God of Drinks you Never Get Sick of. And if you serve these drinks (as I did) with chipotle tacos, lump crab guacamole, mango salsa, pico de gallo, trout escabeche – and creamy alcoholic margarita popsicles for dessert – you will see the light.
A note on presentation. I used the candied orange peels as an edible garnish. Also, I recently kicked my bar service up a notch by purchasing a new ice cube mold. This is the one I bought. It makes neato ice balls that (if you have a wide mouthed rocks glass) are perfect for keeping a cocktail cold without the slushy melting mess. I felt like this ice made a huge difference in enjoying this drink. But chilling the ingredients before mixing -- and enjoying it up (without ice) -- would be good too.
A final note on this drink title. I named/copied this drink after a cocktail I enjoyed at Heritage Tavern in Madison recently, called The Malort Thing. This isn’t a post about Malort. So that's all I'm going to say about that. But you should try that too. It’s the Mescal of weird Chicago drinks that taste like grapefruit rinds.
Arriba, Abajo, al centro, pa dentro!