If you aren’t already aware, mezcal is an increasingly popular liquor among the craft cocktail crowd. It’s distilled from agave, like tequila, but while all tequila is mezcal, not all mezcal is tequila.
Let’s differentiate mezcal from tequila. You remember hearing about a “worm” in a tequila bottle? Some brands of mezcal do that, but I don’t think tequilas do. From there, the flavor is where you really start to tell a big difference.
I hadn’t tasted mezcal until recently (hear us taste Don Amado for the first time on the podcast). Compared with agave-brother-tequila, mezcal is much smokier. Much smokier. I heard someone say “mezcal tastes like a campfire,” and I think that’s a great description. From what I’ve read, that flavor has to do with the way the agave is baked to prepare for distillation. There is less muggy-ness to mezcal, too, as the smoke is predominant. If you like smokier scotches, mezcal might be an interesting liquor for you to try.
Traditionally just served on the rocks, mezcal is appearing on cocktail menus now, and there is a lot of ways to experiment with it. At Tales of the Cocktail, we tried the following cocktail. Tasted alone, it was overly smoky, but that smoke paired perfectly when the drink was served with ribs.
Brandy is one of the 5 base spirits that most cocktails are based on (the others are vodka, gin, whiskey and tequila) For some reason, I don’t have much brandy in my home bar. In fact, I currently have 1 bottle, Presidente, pictured above.
Brandy is the result of distilling wine, though brandy can be made from grapes too, like in Grappa or Pisco, even (almost) Ciroc vodka, though Ciroc’s not aged, so it’s not quite brandy.
The bottle of Presidente I have, a gift from a friend who traveled to Mexico, is the most popular spirit in Mexico. Surprised? Yeah, me too. It’s by no means a complex spirit, and you can get a bottle for around $10 here in the States, which is a great value for a 3-year-old aged spirit. The taste of Presidente is mild (it’s only 35% abv), a little sweet, and pretty pleasant with just a little touch of cheap-liquor-burn. It’s easy to drink straight from a snifter and like I said, you can’t beat the value for a sipper or a cocktail base.
The Brandy Crusta is a classic cocktail in every sense. Recipes for the drink appear somewhere near the mid-1800s, and it’s the inspiration for what’s probably the most popular brandy cocktail today, the Sidecar. Try this one out at home:
in a cocktail shaker, add:
2 oz brandy
1 tsp triple sec
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 dash bitters
shake with ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass
Coming down from our New Orleans high. Lisa’s googling “rent-a-father.” Complete Tales summary page. Tales tally. “If it’s Hotmail, I don’t trust you.” Check out our vermouth page. We taste 3 types of La Quintinye Vermouth Royal. “Last night I made you a gin Martini.”
Over half a century ago on Mexican Independence Day (September 16), Don Francisco Javier Sauza (yeah that same Sauza), created Hornitos tequila, an aromatic 100% blue agave experience that’s sweet and calming with a little bit of bite.
Hornitos Plata. This is Hornitos’ unaged tequila (“plata” is Spanish for silver). Plata has never made contact with wood barrels, so it’s a clear tequila. Because of its young age, Plata is more of an herbal and floral experience in the smell and taste. This is agave at its purest: very sweet, crisp and clean.
Hornitos Reposado. This “rested” tequila has an aromatic rush of blue agave, unexpected and exciting. The sting in the air that is immediately present in the nose of other tequilas is non-existent here. Instead, a sweet, calming waft of blue agave gets your attention. The flavor is mellow and very smooth, with a bit of welcome spice. Not a tequila I would associate with taking shots, Hornitos Reposado is smooth enough to sip, and enjoy the warmth in your chest of a nice, aged tequila.
Hornitos Reposado will run you $25 and Hornitos Plata, $20. The flavors of both are subtle, and though they’d be fine cocktail tequilas, I will likely enjoy Hornitos Reposado more often as a sipping tequila. The Plata is a little more floral and herbal than I’d prefer.
The driver picked us up from the airport and asked us where we all were from, I could tell Greg was a bit hesitant to tell him “Albuquerque.” Once he did, the conversation went from remarks of how long the distance was to what I can only think was confusion in the driver’s geography. He skipped around from saying he loved “Cancun, New Mexico” and all those beautiful beaches to talking about his quick trip through Deming (which actually is in NM). After telling him this was in fact our first visit he turned to me and said: “Baby girl I’m sorry to say this but your gonna gain some weight on this visit……here in New Orleans, we like are girls to look like bell peppers.” I figured that was the most accurate thing he has said so far.
My Tales of the Cocktail trip was not 100% full of excitement or eagerness, but more like self consciousness and anxiety. Let’s face it, I was more then a little bit out of my element. If you’ve listened to our podcast you’ll realize my place: I’m your average at-home cocktail party host who’s not too bad at salting that mug and poring the refreshing Corona ever so smoothly. The one who up until recently would order a more-dirty-than-vodka martini. I’m the timid bar guest who thinks that cocktails can taste like bitter dish water….. but I’m probably just not drinking it right (or fast enough). Continue reading →
For the first time ever, Lisa and I went to Tales of the Cocktail! Tales is the world’s premiere cocktail event – about 20,000 people head to New Orleans for the week-long annual show in July. Attendees are usually bartenders, writers, liquor brand reps, craft cocktail enthusiasts, public relations folks, marketing people, “founders” of the craft cocktail movement – even restaurateurs or hospitality folks.
Though we had a good idea of what to expect from the event from the schedule we’d received, it’s hard to summarize the vibe of Tales until you’re in the midst of it. For 5 days, we learned, partied, ate, and drank our way through the conference, and here’s what I thought of the experience:
My Favorite Parts
Because we were podcasting daily from the show, we had a great excuse to talk to some of the biggest names in cocktails, like Dale Degroff, David Wondrich, and Chris McMillian. They couldn’t have been kinder to us.
I had a great time working together with Lisa and discovering New Orleans with her as first-time visitors. If we met you at Tales, I’m sure you’ll agree that Lisa is much more fun to hang out with than me.
Interviews that were unforseeably and awesomely well-timed. We talked to Ivy Mix, who won “American Bartender of the Year” at Saturday night’s Spirited Awards, and we interviewed Sean Kenyon, whose bar in Denver won “Best American Cocktail Bar” (Kenyon himself won Best Bartender last year, too).