Category: Spirits

Mezcal Makes for Hot Food Pairings

Mezcal is ready for its moment.

As customers expand their palates and drink through whiskey and tequila, they will inevitably seek new categories to explore. Makers of premium rum are betting on, as are producers of mezcal.

Mezcal is made from a blend of many agaves. This is unlike tequila, which is produced only from blue agave. Mezcal also tends to be smokier and sweeter that the other white Mexican spirit, and comes from a different area of Mexico (Oaxaca) than tequila (mostly in Jalisco).

Customers today have a taste for products that are unusual, authentic and of high quality. This is likely how many will first try mezcal. And for these adventurous drinkers, the smoky, spicy spirit also makes for some interesting food pairings.

Tequila shot with lime and salt on vintage background.
Tequila shot with lime and salt on vintage background.

Most people think of mezcal as spicy — justifiable so. In the Purple Corn, this spice was subdued by the sweeter elements. That is, until the finish, when the spice emerged as a nice closing note.

The overall lightness of this cocktail matched perfectly with the lightweight salad. If one followed a bite of the salad with a sip of the cocktail, then the Purple Corn’s pleasantly hot finish provided just the right exclamation mark to the drink/dish combo.

For the second course I selected the duck enmoladas with red mole sauce. The drink pairing for this was named Small Dose, made with Creyente, Paul Beau VS., Yellow Chartreuse and Demarara.

The cocktail looked and tasted like a Sazerac, only significantly spicier. After being light up front it quickly brought the heat. Here, the bartender let loose the natural spice of the mezcal. In matching this cocktail with the red mole sauce, heat met heat in a balance of power. Spicier dishes are natural pairings for this spirit.

[Read more on Beverage Dynamics]

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Piquing Interest In Pisco

 

Pisco is among foreign spirits gaining from America’s craft-cocktail movement. A white Peruvian spirit distilled from wine, it’s similar in some aspects to grappa or brandy. To learn more, I recently sat down with pisco guru Johnny Schuler.

Schuler is master distiller for Portón, the top-selling premium pisco in Peru. Before taking that role in 2011, he spent decades working with the spirit. He has traveled the world as a pisco ambassador, judged numerous competitions, fought for industry regulations, and hosts a pisco TV show: Por Las Rutas del Pisco. He also owns two restaurants in Peru.

I met Schuler over drinks last week at Urbo in Manhattan. When Portón began business four years ago, he said, there were 4-5 other pisco brands in America. Now there are 16-18. But he doesn’t mind the competition.

“We need to create the category in America,” Schuler said. “I don’t want people to be afraid of this spirit just because they don’t know what it is.”

Pisco dates back to 1641. Peruvians started distilling their grape crops to avoid high taxes imposed on their wine by the King of Spain.

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour

Today, the spirit is governed by strict regulations that uphold tradition. Only eight varietals are allowed in production, which is further limited to five regions, mostly along Peru’s coastline. (Chile also contains a large pisco industry, which is a point of contention between the two countries.)

Unlike grappa or brandy, pisco is not produced from pomace but raw wine. The magic occurs in copper pot stills similar to those used for cognac. Regulations mandate that pisco be distilled to proof. Water is not used to reduce ABV. The purpose of this is to maintain purity.

Deviating from brandy, pisco is unaged and unwooded. Rather, it ferments in water-jacketed holding tanks via natural yeast. “We like to say that cognac is made by oak, and pisco is made by nature,” Schuler explained.

Three types of pisco are permitted. “Puro” is made from a single varietal, “Acholado” is a blend, and “Mosto Verde” involves distilling mid-fermentation rather than at the end.

The result of all this is a clear spirit high in flavor and low on harshness. Pisco does not burn on the nose or going down. It’s round, pure and pleasant.

[Read the original article at Beverage Dynamics]

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