I spent the month of July and part of August in Oaxaca – it was an amazing opportunity. I was awarded a fellowship to the NEH Summer Institute for Teachers there, where we studied Mesoamerican Cultures in History. While we were there, we were educated on the production of mezcal, and even visited a mezcal distillery run by Beneva called Rancho Zapata. The waiters there were kind enough to pass out free samples. As were all of the pretty girls who ran the tasting rooms on the streets of Oaxaca.
The main difference between tequila and mezcal is the type of agave used, and the process for distillation. The main characteristic, I think, for mezcal is that the agave is roasted before it’s fermented. Here is a cute little video that leans a bit in the favor of mezcal…
Anyhoo… When I returned to Atlanta, I was happy to see that at my favorite restaurant - El Agavero Cantina – there was a drink offered called the Smokey Margarita. It was actually a happy accident that I got to taste it. My friend who arrived early had ordered it and did not like it. She mentioned that it had mezcal in it. So, I traded my margarita for hers. Every since then, I have ordered it when I dine there.
Of course, I started wondering just what made it smokey. Sure, mezcal has a smokey taste, but not that smokey. So… to the internet!!!
In my search for the terms “smokey” and “margarita” – this is what I got:
A recipe by Bobby Flay for the Food Network:
- 2 ounces tequila (recommended: El Tesoro)
- 1-ounce Triple Sec
- 1-ounce fresh lime juice
- 3/4 teaspoon simple syrup
- Ice cubes
- 1/2-ounce mezcal (recommended: Del Maguey “Chichicapa” Single Village Mezcal)
Place tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and shake until combined. Serve over ice in a rocks glass and pour mezcal on top; do not stir the mezcal into the drink, as it should “float” on top.
It was kicked up a notch by this reviewer: ” The mescal really adds some nice flavor. Took it one step further and picked up some smoked salt at whole foods to rim the glass and all I can say is that is one fantastic margarita smokey goodness.”
Here is another from the blog Daddy-O’s Martinis:
Build over ice in a double old fashioned glass.
1 oz metl silver mezcal
1/2 oz metl silver tequila
1/2 oz grand marnier
1/1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz agave nectar
Place the bottom of a cocktail shaker upside down to cover the old fashion glass and shake vigorously. Reserve drink in tin and salt rim of glass, pour back into the same glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
This one from Mission: Margarita – it is similar to Bobby Flay’s recipe.
Here is one that uses smoked paprika to add flavor:
Ingredients For 2 Cocktails
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon
smoked paprika,* divided
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 6 tablespoons agave nectar
- 2 ounces tequila
- Mix sea salt and 1 tablespoon of the smoked paprika on a small plate. Wet outside rims of margarita or other beverage glasses with lime wedge. Dip glasses into sea salt mixture to coat.
- Fill cocktail shaker with 2 cups of ice. Add lime juice, agave nectar, tequila and remaining 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika; shake until well mixed and chilled. Immediately pour into prepared glasses.
*The regular paprika you have in the spice cabinet is probably sweet paprika. Spanish smoked paprika is a special kind, smoked over oak fires so it takes on a smoky flavor. In Hungary, there are six classes, or types, of paprika ranging from delicate to hot. In order to achieve the flavors of this recipe, you’ll need to use Spanish smoked paprika.
But this recipe – Carlyle’s Smoky Margarita (notice the smoky instead of smokey?) – gave me some real ideas:
1.75 oz Herradura reposado tequila
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz lapsang souchong syrup
Shake over ice and serve on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass.
Here’s his note about the lapsang souchong syrup:
Lapsang souchong is a delicious Chinese black tea dried over burning pine wood. This distinctive process gives it a strong smoky aroma that lends itself well to use in cocktails. To make the syrup, simply brew hot lapsang souchong and mix with an equal volume of sugar.
So, I’ve been working with smokey things: dried ancho chiles soaked in hot water, powdered chipotle chiles and ancho chiles, paprika (not the smoked kind, though), and I even a couple of packets of All Night Samba Yerba Mate tea I had in the pantry. And, yes, I mixed them all together. It wasn’t bad.
Now, so far, the only variety of Mezcal I have been able to find is Monte Alban. It’s not bad, but I was just curious as to whether or not there was a smokier brand.
But, lucky for me, I live near downtown Norcross, home of a great shop called Taste of Britain. And what do the British LOVE? Tea!!! Strong, black tea. So, I stopped by and bought a large box of Taylor’s of Harrogate Lapsang Souchong tea bags. And, boy are they smokey…
At the moment, this is my recipe:
1 part tequila (Jose Cuervo Traditional)
1/2 to 3/4 part Patron Citronge (or orange liqueur)
2 parts sour mix (I am using 1 part Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix and 1 part Sinless Margarita Mix at the moment)
1/2 to 1 part strong tea mix*
agave nectar to taste
*I am still tweaking the mix. More on that later…