You'll recall that I've written in previous years about my struggle to follow through with production and distribution of my beloved year end mix CD tradition. This year is essentially no different as this post is quite late, but here it is! You can find the 2016 installment at the bottom of this post!
Mezcal is an unpredictable travel companion.
Allow me to unspool a cautionary tale for those uninitiated. You travel south of the border for an afternoon taco and Mexican craft beer orgy. As the light slowly fades and the dusty streets assume an amber hue, you simply cannot accommodate any more ales or antojitos, so you deliriously saunter into a cantina in search of lighter fare. The bar is lit by a glowing Virgin de Guadalupe, and chapulines are listed as the sole snack option on the menu. While food is minimal, the mezcal list is lengthy. If I recall correctly, there are at least 18; six were unflavored kicks in the teeth, six were flavored with those perennial Mexican favorites like tamarind or hibiscus, and six featured cream, caramel, and coffee to provide dessert and drunkenness simultaneously.
Gauzy hours passed lounging in a modified pink Cadillac convertible that now accommodated a four-top table on the back patio as we sipped cocktails that married the tangy spicy michelada with a kiss of smoky mezcal. Eventually the pull of spit roasted al pastor reeled us across the street, where we coated our stomachs with gooey oaxacan cheese-filled mulitas before hailing a Taxi Libre.
Just moments into the halting and bumpy ride back to la frontera, a sudden sensation that something was very wrong overcame me in waves. Although my heart pounded, my body was gripped by a momentary paralysis of panic before I squirmed and began to plead, "alto, por favor!"
I'd lost my passport.
Wait, did you think this was going to be some yarn of dark alleys and switchblades?
Nah, man. I'm just stupidly inattentive and the damned thing slipped out of my shallow pants pockets.
So remember that age old expression kids: a pocket too shallow is a field gone fallow.
Let's unpack the moral here. I believe I've made it clear at this juncture that the pockets are the antagonist in this fable. I'd also like to cast some blame on the bulky and seemingly outdated design of US passports.
So who is the dear reader expected to root for? Not me, certainly; I already made it clear I'm an idiot.
No. The protagonist is mezcal. It's amazing.
Adapted from this random AV Club piece!
In addition to the nonsense in the post above, there were many reasons why mezcal seemed like the right choice for this year's cocktail-mixtape-blogstravaganza, in particular the amazing little dark mezcal bar that friends and I sought out in Mexico City during the long New Year's Eve weekend.
In surfing the mezcal wave on the world wide web, I stumbled across the Smoke Break recipe. Manhattans are my drink of choice for winter, but this smoky and sweet variation is an ideal accompaniment to the drizzly January nights that have flowed through steadily this year. I will note that the recipe calls for apple brandy, and while I've no doubt that many classy individuals keep their bar stocked with such staples regularly, I am not one of them. With the bar pretty well full, I wasn't keen on buying a bottle, so I decided the substitute-in-a-pinch would be the ever classy Jim Beam Apple. While I'm sure the brandy option creates a more well-rounded cocktail, the Beam provided the subtle hint of warm autumn fruity sweetness that gets the job done.
Note that I like my Manhattans on the rocks, so that's what I'm going with here. But you do yours up if that's your vibe.
- Pour all ingredients into an old-fashioned glass
- Stir with ice
- Garnish with orange peel
- 2-4 dashes bitters*
- 1 oz. Bianco vermouth
- 1.5 oz. Mezcal
- .5 oz Apple Brandy (orrrrrr Jim Beam Apple)
*I used Angostura, and went with 4 dashes because I like it heavy on the bitters. The recipe called for a mixture of orange and mole bitters, but again, not all of us have home bars that are encyclopedic.