How Tequila and Mezcal Are Shaking Up the Golden Age of Agave Cocktails

The very best agave spirits are perfect for enjoying neat or over ice, or as the base for a beautiful cocktail. Image from Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails by Robert Simonson.

For much of the 20th century, tequila was known more for shots than mixing. You didn’t savor it; you threw it back. As for mezcal cocktails, well, there were none to speak of. Hell, in the United States market, there was almost no mezcal. 

And what mezcal there was—that forbidding bottle with the worm in it—wasn’t very good and was little understood by the bartenders who poured it and the few drinkers who ordered it. If tequila was a dare you took up in a bar, and regretted the morning after, mezcal was a double dog dare, a journey into the truly unknown. 

The Bar Studio at Casa Amate, at the incredibly beguiling Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Mexico, is a mecca for artisanal mixology focusing on agave spirits. 

Tequila’s and mezcal’s reputations today could not be more different. The spirits have enjoyed a complete turnaround in both status and popularity. In the 1920s, when Prohibition was in effect, Americans began traveling south of the border to drink agave spirits because they couldn’t lay their hands on anything alcoholic at home. 

Today, Americans drink them out of preference. Consumers’ eyes have been opened to the spirits’ historical and artisanal heritage, and that they are the products of centuries of tradition and craftsmanship. 

An image from Simonson’s book of a concoction calling for a flamed citrus peel. 

Their newly elevated status reflects the endless agricultural variety of the hearty agave plant, from which both tequila and mezcal are derived, and their terroir, not to mention the inimitable touch of the tequileros and mezcaleros who create the liquors, many of whom are following family practices that go back generations. 

The distillates have finally joined other spirits commonly labeled with adjectives such as “elegant,” “complex,” and—that favorite term of marketers—“premium.” 

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You can order a copy of the beautiful book here.

In short, agave spirits have gone from shots to sipping; from the kind of hooch that Hollywood actors drink in disreputable cantinas in B pictures to the kind that Hollywood actors invest in and get rich off, in some cases making more money than they do from acting. 

It’s a Cinderella story unlike any in the drinks world, in which an age-old spirit has finally been recognized for the liquor royalty it always was. 

The gorgeous Optic Effect cocktail from Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucas, made with mezcal and Ancho Reyes liqueur, is named for the beautiful varying shades of tropical guava fruit, grown locally in Baja Sur.

And, as with most spirits and cocktails that have gone from zero to 60 in popular favor these days, we can thank our ever-curious neighborhood mixologists for the change in public perception, as well as the journalists who cover their every move. 

Once the new breed of conscientious young bartenders was done blowing the dust off neglected …read more

Source:: MAXIM – News

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