Something “Ilegal” for Cinco de Mayo
Okay, like many, when you hear the word “mezcal” you stomach tightens, your shoulders tense and your back shudders as you think of those college days when you were dared to eat the worm after you and your friends had polished off a bottle of some less than appetizing liquor. And trust me I have been there!
But, let’s take a closer look at this spirit, forgetting and forgiving our unholy past, and move into a more civilized state of mind. And while we are at it, learn a little about this rather fantastic spirit in comparison to tequila.
First off, Tequila is an offspring of mezcal much like bourbon is the offspring of whiskey. Mezcal is any spirit made from the distillation of agave. So all tequila is mezcal; all mezcal is not tequila.
There are over 120 varieties of agave, but tequila is made from only one species: the blue agave. Other mezcals can be made from the other 119 varieties.
Tequila is roasted typically in ovens to draw the flavors from the agave pina, then is distilled via column stills whereas mezcal is cooked in pit dug in the ground and roasted sometimes for days. The fire is stoked by the spines of the agave plant, and this process leads to a richer and smokier flavor. It is then distilled in Pot stills.
Forget the worm! Most mezcals do go with this silly novelty. All I’m gonna say.
So like comparing scotch from Islay and the Highlands, we can distinguish a little more competently the flavor of mezcal.
Ilegal Mezcal (yes only one “L”) is hand crafted, hand bottled, and individually numbered artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca. Made in three distinct varieties (Joven, Reposado, and Anejo), I am drawn to the reposado. It is straw-like in color and has a mellow earthly and light smoke nose with balanced tones on the palate including flavors of citrus peel, herb, smoke, and light caramel. The finish is smooth and there is little alcohol burn/heat. So very pleasant.
Yes, it is perfect straight, or used in place of tequila in your favorite margarita, sour or sunrise. But I venture a little more to you. When I began tasting Ilegal, and thinking about its flavors then its name. I came up with this little gem of a drink.
- 1 1/2 oz Ilegal Reposado
- 1/2 oz limoncello
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1/4 oz agave syrup (1:1)
- 2 oz club soda
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Combine all ingredients except club soda and rosemary in a shaker with ice, and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into an ice filled Mason Jar (get it??). Singe the rosemary with a lighter and extinguish in your drink. Add a lemon wheel, slide out to the patio, and watch the sun go down.
(Photos courtesy of Stephen Myers at Ilegal Mezcal)