Smoked mezcal and Scottish cocktails without a single embers

Smoking in crowded bars may be mostly (and thankfully) a relic of the past, but the cocktail glass itself hasn’t lost all the elements o...


Smoking in crowded bars may be mostly (and thankfully) a relic of the past, but the cocktail glass itself hasn’t lost all the elements of smoke – often passed on by the ingredient alone. Many fall into one of two camps: like – insert scotch or mezcal here – or you don’t.

But the characteristics of the smoke in drinks don’t have to be smacked over the head to be effective, rather they can be subtle and nuanced. Filling your bar with a few basic bottles of smoked spirits gives you access to drinks ranging from refreshing and bright to earthy, herbal and plant-based.

Start with mezcal, an alcohol distilled from the agave plant. As with wine, a small-scale flow of mezcal offers a direct link with its terroir. “It’s almost like you’re outside; you can taste the soil, ”said Yola Jimenez, founder of Yola Mezcal. “This is my favorite part: it really tastes like the earth.”

The layered flavors, including smoke, in each bottle of mezcal vary by region, variety, and producer, and their complexity is the result of techniques used for hundreds of years. The intrinsic smoke flavor is formed during the process of roasting agave hearts, or piñas, before they are crushed and fermented. The sweet, fiery smell that permeates the air during cooking also infuses the final distillate, capturing the herbaceous essence of the plant.

Each variety of agave used to make mezcal also has its own distinct flavor. For Yola Mezcal, Ms. Jimenez follows one of her grandfather’s recipes, a blend of organic swordfish (a cultivated variety of agave that takes about seven years to mature) and a lower percentage of madrecuixe, a wild agave, typically tall and cylindrical – “because we felt it had the right balance of sweetness, smoke and complexity,” she said.

Before preparing a drink, pour mezcal on its own. “For me, the smoke goes away pretty quickly after the first sip,” Ms. Jimenez said.

Continue drinking as is or mix your next ounces into a cocktail. Combine alcohol with sweet hibiscus syrup and allspice for a Mezcal Fresca, a tangy, smoky and spicy drink.

Or soften the smoky edges of the scotch with white vermouth and amaro in a Bitterscotch. Choose a lighter, sweeter amaro or, if your smoke tolerance is higher, double up with Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro, a smoked alpine amaro made in northern Italy. And, if you have a tight schedule, combine equal parts Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro and sweet vermouth on ice, and start drinking.

Whichever bottle you choose, smoky-trending cocktails reach that ideal spot between the tuxedo jacket and the cigar, and suit a wide variety of palates – no lingering mist is needed.

Recipe: Mezcal Fresca | Bitterscotch

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Newsrust - US Top News: Smoked mezcal and Scottish cocktails without a single embers
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