This month’s new subscribers kit is the “Mezcal & Chartreuse Kit” – a French and Mexican fusion of flavours! Check out the kit at our new lower subscription price of £24, or read more about the two main ingredients and why I chose them.
Most bartender learn the basics of cocktail making using gin, vodka, tequila or whisky. Once they’ve mastered these, they expand their repertoire with ingredients that have a more diverse range of flavour and complexity, so today I want to introduce you to a couple of recognisable but less frequently used ingredients, and suggest a few recipes that rely on the distinctive flavours of Mezcal and Chartreuse.
Tequila is synonymous with Mexico, and often overshadows its parent spirit, Mezcal. Mention Mezcal, and people’s first response will probably be “Ew! that’s the Tequila with a worm at the bottom?”
(Actually, it’s not a worm but a larvae from either a night butterfly or an agave snout weevil. Either way its appearance is not a Mezcal requirement, and it was primarily added as a marketing gimmick to help boost sales in the US and Asia.)
So what’s the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?
Well technically Tequila is a sub-variety of Mezcal, but it’s produced differently and with different types of agave plant.
Tequila is made from the blue agave (Agave Tequilana, hence the name of the spirit). Whereas Mezcal can be produced from up to 28 varieties of agave, including the blue agave plant. Tequila is also, like Cognac and Champagne, only allowed to be so named if it was produced in a specific region. In this case, the highland region of the Mexican state of Jalisco. An identical spirit produced elsewhere must be a Mezcal.
Mezcal most often has a distinctive smoky flavour that sets it apart from Tequila, and it also tends to be sweeter and have more depth to the flavour (when compared to a Blanco Tequila, at least).
The Mezcal featured in the TASTE cocktails May subscriber kit is Del Maguey Vida. Look out for more info on the Del Maguey distillery and this Mezcal in particular in a future blog post.
Green Chartreuse is the only naturally green liqueur available, and is made from distilling and infusing 130 herbs and plants. There’s also a Yellow Chartreuse that is milder and sweeter, and includes saffron and honey to boost the yellow colour and bring down the proof from 110 (Green Chartreuse) to 80 (Yellow Chartreuse).
Yellow Chartreuse is best used with whisky, scotch or bourbon, whereas Green Chartreuse pairs better with gins, tequila and mezcal.
The history of Chartreuse is long and interesting and the ingredients and combination of them is shrouded in secrecy, so much so that Chartreuse deserves its own post dedicated to it’s intriguing past. Follow this blog for more on that in a future post.
Both Green and Yellow Chartreuse feature in our latest subscriber kit.
Mezcal and Green Chartreuse together
You may be wondering how the smokiness of Mezcal and the deep, herby flavours of Chartreuse will work together. Mezcal provides a clean and clear base that lets the headier botanicals of the Chartreuse shine through.
They share a commonality that they both work well with citrus. The addition of lemon or lime in the cocktail recipe can balance out and lighten their flavours. Lime in particular is common in Mexican cooking and drinks, so combining it with Mezcal and allowing it to cut through the sweetness of the liqueurs makes for a few excellent drinks in this month’s kit.
How about a few extra recipes?
Mezcal Last Word Cocktail
The Original version of the Last Word cocktail is made with equal part Gin and Green Chartreuse, but if you substitute the Gin for Mezcal, you can add a smokey overtone to your cocktail, while the rest of the Mezcal’s flavours blend into the background, and let the Green Chartreuse and lemon take centre stage.
Ingredients for the Mezcal Last Word Cocktail:
- 1 part Mezcal
- 1 part Green Chartreuse
- 1 part Maraschino
- 1 part Lemon (or Lime) Juice
A variation on this recipe features in our May cocktail kit, The “Last of the Oaxacans” recipe includes some chilli pepper spice for an extra kick!
Naked and Famous Cocktail
This cocktail is also based on the Last Call, but goes a few steps further. As well as incorporating Mezcal in the recipe, it switches the Green Chartreuse for the Yellow, and replaces the Maraschino with Aperol.
Ingredients for the Naked and Famous Cocktail:
- 1 part Mezcal
- 1 part Yellow Chartreuse
- 1 part Aperol
- 1 part Lime Juice
This cocktail merges heat with the smokey flavour of the Mezcal, and is partnered with a acidic combination of pineapple and lime, to create a balanced and refreshing long cocktail.
- 2 Parts Mezcal
- 1 Part Green Chartreuse
- 1 Part Jalapeño Syrup
- 1 Part Fresh Pineapple Juice
- 1 Part Lime Juice
- 2 Sprigs of Coriander
Next time you’re at the shop and you’re reaching for the Tequila, how about experimenting with Mezcal instead. Whether you opt for a recipe with Yellow or Green Chartreuse – both will add a depth of flavour to your cocktails.
Want to try these ingredients at home without shelling out for the full bottles? Check out the TASTE cocktails “Mezcal & Chartreuse” subscriber kit.