In our newest feature, Cocktail Lab, Bevvy’s very own mad mixologist Aubrey Schuster does some delicious experimentation.
As we ease into spring after this long, cold winter, cocktail drinkers across the globe are gradually venturing back outdoors, ready to experience the freshness of seasonal fruits and juices once again. As an only recently-thawed Chicagoan, that rings doubly true for me. Combining that with my recent obsession with Scotch, I was inspired to explore the smoky spirit mezcal and craft a refreshing cocktail for the warm summer nights that are (hopefully) just around the corner.
When I began tasting the numerous brands and varieties of this intense cousin of tequila, I was pleasantly surprised by its wide breadth of flavor—the deep smokiness many of the best mezcal offerings put forth is a joy to behold. The bottle I landed on for this experiment is a four-year-old called Real Matlatl. Its flavor profile works nicely as a stand-in for the scotch in one of my favorite spring cocktails, the Benjamin Menéndez Special. Eventually, I planned to work the spirit into a muddled fruit drink featuring blackberries, basil, lime juice and a sweet liqueur.
After setting my sights on these two designs I went to the market and gathered my ingredients. Fresh blackberries and basil for the muddled cocktail, and mint for the the other. I picked up some fresh raspberries as well because they had just come into season, and keeping extra fruit on hand is always a good idea when messing around with flavors. After topping the basket off with lemons and limes, I was ready to get into my bar and start mixing.
The Benjamin Menéndez Special with Mezcal
2 oz (60 ml) Mezcal
¾ oz (22 ml) lemon juice
1 barspoon (5 ml) superfine sugar
1 barspoon (5 ml) orange curaçao or Grand Marnier
1 sprig of mint
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This one worked beautifully. The mint was a great match for my mezcal, and the cocktail was satisfying and strong. The Grand Marnier I used also turned out to be a good choice—I had originally planned on using Cointreau for my fruit-based drink, but found after some tasting that Grand Marnier was a better fit for what I was hoping to achieve.
Now it was time for some real experimentation. Here’s the intermediate recipe I made before any tweaks or adjustments:
4 oz Mezcal
1 ½ oz Grand Marnier
Juice of 1 Lime
½ oz Simple Syrup
Muddle the blackberries in a cocktail shaker. Combine the rest of the ingredients with ice and shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This produced a decent cocktail, but overall I found it a little too sweet for my taste. Plus, it occurred to me that it might be a bit overwhelming for most drinkers with the full four ounces of mezcal. While sipping this with mild disappointment, though, I was struck with the inspiration to create what would become The Aventura.
Aventura means “adventure” or “affair” in Spanish, and I found it a fitting name for this little excursion into uncharted territory. The cocktail is unassuming and looks sweet, but can bring even the strongest suitor to their knees.
1 ½ oz Mezcal Anejo
¾ oz Grand Marnier
¼ oz St Germain
Juice of 1 Lime
Juice of ¼ Lemon
Handful Fresh Raspberries
Sprig of Mint for Garnish
I chose to muddle fresh raspberries rather than blackberries, along with a combination of lemon juice, lime juice, and raw sugar instead of simple syrup. This pungently sweet concoction made for a fertile ground on which to start building the cocktail. I added my mezcal, the Grand Marnier, and finally St. Germain, and shook with ice to my heart’s content. With a chilled cocktail glass ready, I strained the mixture through a steel mesh strainer containing a small amount of lightly-bruised mint, giving it a clean but pronounced character.
Garnished with a carefully-selected sprig of mint, this sinfully luxurious combination made for a truly elegant cocktail. At first sight, let alone first sip, I knew I had fallen for it.