Hey readers! Happy Tuesday. I had something super fun ready to share with you today, but instead, my brother Jonathan, an equal food and travel enthusiast, asked if he could blog for me today. Oh, why, yes! I’ve mentioned him before and even formally introduced him in this post (coincendentally on Mexican spirits), as at the time we were both excited about bringing him on as my Wine and Spirits contributor. But life got in both our ways, so we decided to hold off until he could really commit. And that time is here!
My brother is Cuban. Like me. 100%. But this guy swears he’s Mexican. He lives, breathes, and dies for the TRI. It’s almost as if he were an incarnate of some Mexican god. He is fully invested in their culture, especially their plant life. Having recently been to Playa del Carmen on a family vacation just last month, I was able to see how enamored he is with that country. We traveled there together this past April, but I was really able to see his very natural engagement from a personal level. We were working last time.
So when he asked me to share a recipe in anticipation of Dia de los Muertos. I was excited. But then not really. As in love with Mexico and their roots as I am, I don’t celebrate the famed, colorful, and historic holiday. Though, ironically, it’s on my birthday. But I figured since this blog covers all Latin American cultures and traditions, interwoven with notable global haps, I thought it’d be appropriate to share this. Plus, no one better than my brother to talk about tequila, mezcal and all things Mexico. This guy here just needs to go on and move there. He’d fit right in.
I’m happy to reintroduce you to my young bro, my food and travel buddy; the one who appreciates my philosophy on exploring life through experiencing the world! B-
By Jonathan David.
The idea of national holiday celebrating every imaginable food and ingredient must perplex the average person; I’m thinking us foodies love it. We get to cook, bake, and justify eating massive amounts of whatever is of “du jour!” So are you surprised today is National Mezcal Day?! With its initiation onto the calendar, its yet another excuse of a day to enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature. Country music singer Toby Keith started national Mezcal Day in October 2011. Although not a fan of country music, I am a huge fan of the agave plant and all the wonderfulness it blesses us with…and on this day we celebrate MEZCAL!
“Huh? What’s mezcal”? I’m asked that about 95% of the time when introducing my friends to this close relative of Tequila. My sister spent 3 short day sin Mexico City last November where she had a chance to visit a few mezcalerias. She also visited a new tequila and mescal musem which wasn’t yet completed in the DF. But her recounts intrigued me enough to push her to finally prepare a well-rounded post detailing in the intricacies of this super trendy spirit. She does’t even drink like that so I was feeling slightly shorted. I should have been on that trip, truly relishing in all that goodness. But, it’s her job. I understand.
In short, mezcal, unlike tequila, can be made from just about any variety of agave. Tequila only uses the Blue Weber varietal. The other distinct difference between the two is that the agave used in making mezcal is roasted underground, whereas it is steam cooked in brick ovens for tequila. The underground roasting provides mezcal with its unmistakable smoky flavor.
Now that we got that basic of basic introduction out of the way, I can tell you about this gem I was introduced to this summer. It was one of those long summer nights when I decided I was in the mood for some good Mexican food and spirits. No doubt I made the trek into the city to one of my favorite spots, Oyamel, by Chef Jose Andres. Having been here many times, I know there is a plethora of tequilas and mezcals behind the bar; and if you know me that means trouble. I like to think I’m fairly sophisticated when it comes to spirits of the Mexican culture. My sister can attest to that. That also makes me a unleashed curious drinker. I’ll always order something I haven’t tried, usually a suggestion from the very knowledgeable mixologists at the bar. After scanning the bar, I found a bottle that caught my eye. It was a medium in size, clear with a funky looking “Mayan-ish” rabbit logo near the top. The thing that got me was the cork topper — simple yet elegant. We all have our nuances. One of mine is being a collector of nice bottle tops. I’m a sucker for them. Odd, I know. I pointed to it, nodded, and there it, gloriously making its way to my space.
The mixologist poured my share into a nice sherry glass and I was instantly struck with that signature mezcal smokiness. There was also a nice hint of that raw cowboy leather that takes you straight to a ranch in Mexico, specifically San Baltazar, Oaxaca. After soaking in the aroma and giving it a few swirls, I was ready add another mezcal to my extensive list of spirits tasted. WOW, what a kick! Like a raging bull, my throat lit up instantly with this super smooth yet fiery heat that followed all the way down the gullet. A mix of peppers and jasmine on that initial bite with a finish of an even spicier chile and tobacco. I was an instant fan. This particular label has made a quick jump to the top of my list in the mezcal category for sure. If you’re a fan of that smoky flavor in your food, than this is the spirit for you. Substitute this for tequila in your next margarita and you will thank me forever.
Being on the east coast, specifically in Washington DC, makes it difficult to find good bottles of any mezcal. Fortunately, the crew at mezcal Silencio found a way for me to enjoy from the comforts of my home. I was eager to play around with it and conjure up some unique sips. After a few experiments, I ended up with this blue-hued concoction. It’s strong and sears in the right place. Part sweet with the hint of Grand Marnier and razzmatazz, but perfectly smooth with the generous amount of smoky mezcal. So if you happen to be in my neighborhood and want a sip, come on by! I’ve become a bona fide mixologist in all things Mexican spirits.
I enjoyed neat in a sniffer glass – my personal preference and the way it should be enjoyed; but every now and then, a mezcal margarita gets it done. Dia de los Muertos is around the corner. This is the perfect craft margarita to make for yourself or any fiesta you’re hosting. It’s sure to leave your guests in love with Mexico’s offerings. If not you!
Happy National Mezcal Day!