I reposted this with a lot more information than I had the first time around. Enjoy. -s
The front display window of the Maison du Whisky's new spirits shop is loaded for the moment with a unmatched selection of tequilas and mezcals (well, unmatched in Europe, anyway). Pretending that I'm going to one day work there afforded me, not only several dégustations of Del Maguey's Single Village delights (and a chance to meet founder Ron Cooper (and a chance to chow down on some roasted agave heart)), but also the chance to work out a new drink behind the bar.
In and around the Oaxaca region of Mexico, villages create mezcals (like tequila) from the piña (heart) of an agave cactus. Produced in small batches with still much manual labor, mezcal is endowed with a rich, smoky flavor and typically contains more subtleties and complexity than most tequilas (no, not of course not all tequilas). It's often less refined than tequila which, in this case, has nothing to do with quality -- in fact there's a myth that mezcal is only distilled one time whereas tequila is always distilled twice. Technically this isn't true, though if you ask a maker of mezcal they'll typically affirm that "yes, we only distill it once, but then we refine it after."
To make mezcal, agave hearts are typically roasted for 3-5 days in huge pits dug into the ground (hence the "peaty" flavor). Then they're mashed with a large, horse-drawn stone (no, really, you can't make this shit up). What's special about Del Maguey's product is that it's the first company to bottle a "single village"s mezcal as opposed to creating a blend of different mezcals. Like this, the product stays something supremely unique which showcases the particular preparation of each communtiy. (And and and it's all, by nature of production, 100% sustainable, organic production (we like, we like).)
In Minerothere's a soft, earthy, lightly fruity tones that comes from the clay still and bamboo tubing used for distillation (as opposed to the copper used elsewhere). In a bottle of Pechuga, which has a third distillation with macerated fruits, nuts and a half a chicken (much in the way herbal elements are added to gin), you'll find, well, the soft flavors of fresh fruits, nuts and half a chicken (but it's more special than I make it sound -- they stick a basket with all of this stuff at the top of the still and as the alcohol passes it takes the flavor with it; at the end of the distillation, the chicken's just bones). The Tobalais made from wild agave plants found on a particular mountain and tastes of the wild mushrooms that grow all around them. (You win the stupidly-lucky-of-the-year award if you get your hands on one of these bottles as it's (a) really good, (b) rare, (c) c'esttrois fois plus dificile d'en trouver en France.)
Personally, I find that the flavors and subtleties in mezcal are a lot more accessible than the flavor profile of your typical whisky or gin -- you don't have to train yourself the same way to be able to understand how one mezcal distinguishes itself from another. Plus, Ron promises the high from mezcal is superb, unlike any other spirit you'll find. (I maintain that it's the slow absorbing fructose in the agave that gives this effect; he maintains, "Probably, but who cares ?")
This drink is a pretty straight forward sour but it's made unique by the smokiness of the mezcal and the bit of spice from the tabasco. If you've never tried a sour or fizz made with an egg white, please, please, please don't dismiss it. It lends a velvety, smooth texture to citrus-based drinks -- like adding a dolop of meringue to lemon tart but to your lemon tart of alcohol.
Spicy Mezcal Sour
I originally imagined orange bitters on the top of this drink, but didn't have any at the time -- though I was very, very pleased with what the chocolate brought to the drink. I recommend the chocolate bitters really only if you're using Fee Brother's Aztec Chocolate (which has a lot of coca on the nose but not so much on the tongue). As the bitters are really only meant to be a garnish here, I wouldn't go with anything that could challenge the other flavors in the drink.
If you don't own cocktail glasses make it pretty in a white wine glass.
2 oz. mezcal (though you can substitute a tasty tequila if awesome mezcal is too hard to get a hold of)
Juice of 1 medium lime
1 egg white
2-3 squirts of agave syrup (alternatively, 1 1/2 tsp honey or evaporated cane sugar)
3-4 dashes tabasco
Fee Brother's or other chocolate bitters, or orange bitters (Angostura'll do, too) .
A couple Tbls half & half mix of coarse sea salt (like celtic salt) and coarse sugar cane for the rim
Mix all ingredients except bitters in a cocktail shaker or large jam jar. Add ice. Shake it like you hate it. Strain into salt n' sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with bitters. Enjoy.