Monday, May 6, 2013

Last Train to Brownsville

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I can picture in my mind's eye the first time I tasted Mezcal. I was down in Mexico - specifically in the Yucatan Peninsula, visiting the Mayan ruins with my family. Overflowing pitchers of green-tinged, icy cold drinks were set upon broad tables shaded from the tropical sunshine by the lush vegetation. Down in this part of the world an icy drink is a welcome diversion against the burning rays and the inferno-like heat of the sun.

I was perhaps sixteen and already well acquainted with Tequila from childhood forays into the seedy underbelly of overindulgences. But these pitchers held something more than just mysteries. The vessels contained fever-dripped dreams of another world, linked together with a thin veneer of char and smoke. It was a heady brew for anyone, much less a teenager with a serious thirst from the heat. After several cocktails in the hot sun, the world took on a deeper dimension - the Mayan temples seemed a part of my experience and the Mezcal spoke to me. But please don't ask me what it said, because I don't remember a thing!

Roasting agave at San Luis Del Rio
Mezcal is made with similar ingredients as Tequila but it takes a twisted path up the side of the mountains through a method that involves the use of smoke. Mezcal is to Tequila as Scotch Whisky is to Bourbon. They both use similar ingredients but one is sweet in the nose and mouth while the other can be vividly smoky to the palate and especially the nose. I love Mezcal for precisely that reason. There is an obviously sophisticated method of making Mezcal. Although it mimics Tequila in the flavor profile, Mezcal takes on a characteristic all its own through the potent application of fire and earth.

As a rule, I'm very fond of Mezcal, in this case one named Mezcal Vida from Del Maguey. What Del Maguey has done is get high quality Mezcal into the hands of more consumers at a much lower price point.

During this mostly cool spring, citrus is at the forefront of my palate. I cannot seem to get enough of it. Oranges are at their peak right now and I love to lightly sear them in a dry sauté pan, let them cool, then juice them, releasing a perfume and spark that makes me salivate.

Perrier, you know - the pink grapefruit sparkling natural mineral water happens to work very well with grilled orange. Brightly aromatic, the citrus weaves around each bubble. The spark of the bubbles rises through the smokier elements of Mezcal and the grilled orange juice.

To make a Last Train to Brownsville Cocktail you must first get all the ingredients. Each comes together in a bold, multi-layered event in your glass and soon your mouth. My ice is the most important part of the Last Train to Brownsville (Texas) Cocktail. I ALWAYS filter the water through a Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher and you should too - water just tastes better, soft, creamy almost. There is sensuality about the water that I cannot explain… You must drip it into your mouth or suck on an ice cube made with Mavea filtered water.

So, without further adieu…

The Last Train to Brownsville (Texas) Cocktail

Ingredients for two VERY STRONG DRINKS:
• 4 oz. Del Maguey "Vida" San Luis Del Rio Mezcal
• 3 oz. Grilled Orange Juice (reserve a few slices for garnish)
• 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
• 4 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (Pink Grapefruit essence)
• 3 oz. Valley Girls Grapefruit Soda Syrup*
• One very large hand cut cube of ice made from Mavea "Inspired Water" for each cocktail

Preparation:
1. To a Boston shaker add the liquors and the bitters.
2. Add the grilled orange juice and the Grapefruit Soda Syrup, then fill ¾ with plain ice.
3. Shake Boston Shaker for 20 seconds, it's going to be quite frosty.
4. Pour into short rocks glasses with one really large hand-cut ice cube made of the Mavea filtered water ice. (There might be enough for a couple of shots as well, unless you use a tall glass then no shots for you.)
5. Top with a couple splashes of the Perrier Pink Grapefruit Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.
6. Garnish with a slice of grilled orange and a couple of shakes of Angostura bitters over the top.
7. Sip very carefully and have another immediately afterwards.
8. Marvel at the visual elements of this strikingly beguiling cocktail.

*Valley Girls from Sonoma are dedicated to handcrafted, small-batch cooking that preserves old-school methods of making food that tastes, tasty! The sales benefit Sonoma Valley Teens Services "Skills For Life" programs which benefit at-risk teens. http://www.valleygirlsfoodstuffs.com

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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