MEZCAL AND FRESH HERBS
Its so much fun to experiment with mezcal in cocktails as it has so much flavour of its own – earhty, vegetal and then it also has that interesting smokiness which truly adds another dimension.
Many flavours naturally fits together and after a while with trial and errors you more or less learn which flavours marries well and which doesn`t, and even if taste is something personal in general those flavour combinations that are natural companions (and these often also comes from in the same type of climate or area) goes best together.
When i experiment with flavours i try to look for either matching or contrasting – like when you paint a room and paint one wall in a contrasting colour which sticks out but in the end still harmonizes with the rest of the room. Something like that.
Naturally mezcal pairs with the same things that tequila goes well with such as citrus fruits, agave syrup (and other syrups like for example balsamic syrup which has an earthy flavour) spices like ginger, fresh herbs, peppers like jalapeno, habanero and ancho to name a few. And believe it or not but mezcal pairs very well with Campari – another of my favorite libations.
I`m very fond of fresh ingredients and at the farmers market (which here is only open once a year (!) for a few weeks i think it is) i picked up two varietes of basil i haven´t tried before, cinnamon basil and ararat basil. The cinnamon basil has green leaves and look somewhat like thai basil but i was surprised that the flavour was so strong and so crisp fresh! it has stronger flavour than the thai basil. I didn´t exactly pick up any pronounced cinnamon flavour but it did have something spicy.
The ararat basil looked different, its leaves are variegated in green and purple and it has a slight anis taste and is not as strong and pungent as the cinnamon variety. The cinnamon basil plants had flowers on them as well, very pretty.
So my first experiment with these basil plants and mezcal was to muddle a few chunks of fresh pineapple with both types of basil and some simple syrup. A flavoured syrup here would only disturb the other flavours i think. Then i added mezcal, fresh lime and to boost the hint of anise from the ararat basil i added 1 tiny tsp of absinthe. To crown the drink and add aroma i garnished with sprigs of the ararat basil and the blooming cinnamon basil.
Don`t neglect the garnish in those kind of drinks where garnish may add completeness and a feast for the eye. Before we drink with our mouths we drink with our eyes.
Here´s the recipe:
2 oz mezcal
A handful of fresh pineapple chunks and a handful of basil, preferably two different varietes
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Muddle pineapple, basil and syrup in shaker, be gentle with the basil so start with the pineapple. Add mezcal and absinthe. Shake and strain into a glass with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil.
One of my favorite herbs, thyme is lovely and it has such a fresh yet “grassy” aroma, everytime i get fresh thyme i bury my nose in it. This experiment includes muddled thyme and honeysyrup, pineapple infused mezcal and habanero infused tequila, some fresh lime, a little Ting and finally a mezcal soaked cherry to enjoy when the drink is finised.
Both Ting and thyme is common use in Jamaica and married with the Mexican flavours ut turns out fresh and flavourful at least to my palate but i don`t claim to be an expert on flavours, just a happy experimenter.
The best part in making cocktails is the playing with flavours and trying out the result or letting others imbibe it and give their opinion (hopefully they like it) and the worst part is naming the drink. I hate to try to name cocktails sometimes, its so hard! Camper once said that if i didn`t take so long to name my drinks i would get much more things done in life – i think that was fun..well finally i came up with this:
1 oz pineapple infused mezcal
1 oz habanero infused tequila reposado
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz honey syrup
Ting to top
Garnish sprig of thyme.
Muddle the thyme and honey, then add the tequila and mezcal. Squeeze a half lime and shake, strain into a ice filled collins glass. Top with a little Ting (Jamaican grapefruit beverage). Garnish with a fresh aromatic sprig of thyme.