Sierra Madre Sunrise

Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere is this very clear memory I have of accompanying my mother to this one liquor store when I was a child. We were probably there to buy wine coolers for her (as was the hip thing for moms to drink in the late 80’s). In my memory the store was gigantic, like a well-lit supermarket, but instead of produce or cereal boxes, it was just aisle after aisle of colorful and exotic liquors that I felt the need to stop and read all the labels of.

I’m sure that it wasn’t that big, but I do remember that this was the first place I ever saw tequila at. You know, the kind with the scorpions at the bottom. I don’t remember how or when I learned that not all tequila requires there to be a scorpion, but there’s a good chance it is much later in life than I am willing to admit to.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I wish I could remember the first time I tried mezcal, or even heard of it. Although I’ve tried to rack my brain for that one time, it exists as if I somehow always knew about it. I wish I was that cool. Probably it was sometime over the past 5, maybe 7, years when we collectively started giving other liquors a chance to star in our drinks.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now I like to put mezcal in everything. And today’s drink is one from my ongoing “to make” list. Here my notes were: meaty, but refreshing. I’m guessing this was a late night scribbling where I had something particular in mind but what exactly is no longer clear. But I like these challenges. To make things even more interesting, bitters will play a unique supporting role in transforming the drink into two different sips. For a slightly savory cocktail, Angostura will be dashed in. And for a sweeter alternative, chocolate bitters will be used. All versions have Aperol there, an assertive liquor that stands up next to the flavors of mezcal without getting lost.

It’s kind of a choose your own adventure cocktail.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now that I’m remembering that liquor store, I’m realizing that the other reason I liked going over there was that next door there was a Christian store that sold Bible action figures like Samson and Delilah. What a way to get kids thrilled about the Old Testament. When I was Catholic I was all in, until I wasn’t anymore.

Ok, enough about Bible Liquor stores. Let’s get to cocktail making!

1 ounce mezcal, Del Maguey Vida Organic used here
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
3 ounces club soda
2-3 dashes of either Angostura or Chocolate bitters, like Scrappy’s Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

lemon peel for garnish

  • In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice and bitters of your choice. Shake to combine and then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.

I’m using the Vida mezcal here because it’s both a wonderful sipping liquor and it mixes well with others. It’s assertive without being aggressive. Aperol is not too bitter and not too sweet. (But it’s just the right amount of both that you don’t need to add another sweetener.) Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds in a touch of tartness, and the whole thing is topped off with a glug of club soda to mellow it out and give some effervescent pep. Angostura adds spice that compliments some of the cinnamon and earthy flavors found in the mezcal. Or you can change that up with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The sweet, roasted chocolate flavors in the bitters play up the sweet and bitter orange in the Aperol and also some of the vanilla found in the mezcal. This makes the drink excellent for a slightly sweet digestif or a surprisingly refreshing nightcap.

*I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats.

Negroni Week Starts June 2nd! And here's a Mezcal variation called Viva Negroni!

Viva Negroni! for Negroni Week // stirandstrain.comNegroni Week is almost upon us folks. Starting June 2nd through the 8th, bars across the country will be donating proceeds from every Negroni or Negroni variation that they serve all in the name of charity. Drink and be good to your fellow man. More info can be found on here (Imbibe and Campari are putting the whole shindig together).

Find a local bar and help participate for a good cause. You’re out drinking anyways.Viva Negroni! for Negroni Week // stirandstrain.com

While I also will be out and about that week seeing what Los Angeles bars have concocted, I’m also offering up a favorite variation here on the site that you can try all year round.

I’ve swapped out the gin with mezcal (because I can’t help myself), and the sweet vermouth with Amaro Nonino (I don’t need a reason other than to tell you I love this stuff). The Campari stays the same.Viva Negroni! for Negroni Week // stirandstrain.com

Viva Negroni!
1 ounce Vida Organic Mezcal
1 ounce Amaro Nonino
3/4 ounce Campari

orange peel for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, stir together the mezcal, amaro and Campari. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Express orange oils over the ice and plop the peel in the glass.

Bright, juicy citrus battles it out with the mezcal and licorice on the nose. The first sip is rich, smooth with a not subtle bitter hit from the Campari immediately with the earthiness of the mezcal right behind. Campari can really stand up to the aggressive nature of the smoke in a mezcal and I love pairing them here. The Amaro Nonino adds some spice and complexity, as well as a nice mouthfeel to the whole drink.

Do you have a favorite Negroni variation? Or do you prefer the old tried and true recipe? Also, don’t forget that Stir & Strain is running a GIVEAWAY (check it out and enter).

Jewel of Oaxaca

Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhoa. What a week it’s been. Towards Wednesday I started to feel like an NPR telethon with all the requests for Saveur mag votes. Except, the only fun swag I can offer you guys is more recipes, and you all know those are coming anyways. Like this one..

This recipe was originally going to have grilled pineapple, but that’s DONE (I’ll probably be eating those words in two months). So, instead, grilled mango was tested out to see if that would pair nicely with some mezcal in a cocktail. Results all pointed to yes. It may only be April, but that’s no reason not to think about grilling. Indoor grilling is doable as long as you have the right equipment, i.e. a Grill Pan. It’s a lot more efficient to oil up a pan and get it hot than turn on the propane (or light some charcoal). The sad fact is that we have a nice grill outside that ran out of propane I’d say… 2…3 years ago? I’ve lost track of how long at this point. And we’ve lazily resorted to just using a grill pan for the two of us. Now that I type this out I’m realizing that the amount of entertaining we’ve done at home has drastically decreased since the demise of the propane. Hrm.Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Ah, but the cocktail. A grill pan in this case is best if you are just going to grill up a single mango. Seem like a lot of work for one cocktail? Grill up two and save the rest for later; you’ll want a second one of these.

The savory component here gets some earthy smokiness from ancho chile peppers. Ancho chile peppers are the dried form of a poblano pepper if you weren’t aware (it’s ok, I was schooled on this point too). I put ancho chiles and mangoes in my salsas so I thought I’d try them out as a cocktail.Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pro tip: use a Hawthorne strainer for this. Oh what a mess this made the first time around with first the shaker strainer, then the julep strainer; the holes were not big enough and there was a mango backup that resulted in half a drink lost. I took one for you guys so you won’t have this problem. The Hawthorne excels at separating the mango pulp from the juice. You will still get pieces of pulp, but you will also get all your booze out of the mixing glass too.

For the ancho chile pepper syrup:

2 ancho chile peppers (or 1 tsp ancho chile powder)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

  • Combine chile peppers (or powder), sugar and water in a medium sized sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the temperature to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Strain into an airtight container.

For the cocktail:

1/2 mango
1 ounce Ancho Chile Pepper Syrup (see recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 lime
1-1/2 ounce of mezcal, Del Maguey Vida used here

  • Take your mango half, with skin still on, and score the flesh lengthwise and widthwise, careful not to cut through the skin. Next, using a grill pan, or outdoor grill, oil the grates with a neutral oil (like vegetable oil). Over medium-high heat, place mangoes flesh side down for 5 minutes. If you would like criss-cross grill marks, use a spatula to turn the mangoes 45 degrees halfway through cook time. Remove from grill and let cool. Once cool, turn flesh inside out and using a paring knife, cut cubes away from the skin.
  • Next, in the bottom of a shaker, combine mangoes and syrup. Muddle until puree-like consistency. Add ice, lime, and mezcal. Shake for 20 seconds and using a Hawthorne strainer, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Mezcal is a very assertive liquor that can sometimes overpower the other ingredients in a drink. But, here, mangoes, chile peppers and lime all work well in combination because they also have strong flavors. The mango’s rich sweetness, enhanced by the smoky undertone of the ancho syrup, makes for a great partner to the Mezcal, accentuating its vegetal aspects and softening its domineering palate.

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site

The Little Pink Sombrero

Little Pink Sombrero Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWell, after a break I think some of you might be groaning to hear that I’m coming back with yet another Tiki drink. But wait! It’s so much more than that! It’s…. got Mezcal in it. Oh yeah I did.

In making this drink I realized that Mezcal on its own CAN work with the world of Tiki, and also, when you add Cruzan Black Strap Rum to the drink, it’s total magic.pinksombrero-2

I’m happy I took a little break, I feel like I cleared out the cobwebs and have some great ideas I want to work with. You should do that too. Go take a mental break.

Admittedly the name came WAY before the drink. I have an Evernote notebook filled with just names of drinks I should make some day because at the time I thought they were clever. I clear it out frequently. Cause a lot of the times I’m drinking coming up with these and you know, it’s not the same the next day. Why would you name your drink the Canine Chasm? What the hell does that even mean?

This cocktail started as a variation on the Jungle Bird, but then flew off in another direction. Campari, with its bitter citrus flavor seemed a good candidate to start mixing with Mezcal. It is, FYI.

The only issue I ran into here was trying to photograph a flame; a liquor flame. It’s blue and in daylight fades, and at night, you can see it but not the drink. Frustrating, but after some tips from a bartender the other night, I will have to go at it again with some minor adjustments to my camera (I’ve unlearned a lot of my photo skills from college apparently). For this post you’ll have to just accept the shaky garnish and Oh and AH at the only picture to come out IN focus WITH a flame in it. But really, the drink will more than make up for any displeasure the image causes you.

If you are interested in creating a drink there are several techniques for creating a flame that lasts a bit while you imbibe. One method is to use a toasted cube of bread doused in 151 rum, another is to soak a sugar cube in the same 151. I chose the later; it smells good. Also, if you want to really create a WOW effect, sprinkle some cinnamon on top, it will crackle and pop a bit. And also smell good.pinksombrero-1

1-1/2 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
3/4 oz. Campari
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum

For garnish: pineapple wheel, spent lime shell (with pulp removed), sugar cube, 151 rum

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake well to combine and pour, strained, into a chilled coupe. Garnish with pineapple wheel with flaming sugar cube on top (either way above will work). Try not to burn eyebrows.

This cocktail blends in a very interesting way flavors you associate with tropical, but with a more savory base from the Mezcal. Very dry, slightly sweet with an added molasses depth that I’m finding hard to explain HOW AWESOME IT TASTES. Fruit flavors are subtle with a balance of smoke from the Mezcal.

In the first variation of this, I left out the Cruzan Black Strap rum and the drink definitely had a much stronger punch of smoke. However, when it was added to the cocktail, it balanced everything out in a way I wasn’t prepared for since I was expecting more sweet.

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In Other News…

I was interviewed! Listen to the webcast on Break Thru Radio here! (Click the blue play button at the top next to the DJ to listen)

Check out the Death to Sour Mix site for the post on MY SITE. It was badgers, not weasels. FYI.

And if you like music, you should follow my twitter feed, as I’m doing a song a day for the next year. Committed, that’s me.