It’s that magical time of the year where you have a weekend full of reasons to make bad decisions. Place your bets! And let’s make some drinks!
ThisÂ post was made in partnership withÂ Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.
Last week I posted on our Monday Booze News that the Margarita still reigns supreme as the #1 cocktail in America. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Margarita cocktail has been a long-time favorite of mine with its balanced blend of sweet, sour, salt and vegetal qualities depending on the spirit base. But the cool thing about this drink is its never ending ability to morph into innumerable riffs.
You’ve probably had a spicy Marg, or a skinny one, or a Cadillac, or a frozen, fruity, whatever one. But have you ever had a chocolate one? Before you raise your eyebrows at me, take a moment and I’ll explain.
First, we’re using mezcal for the base today. Mezcal has a lot of similar flavors that I associate with good quality chocolate: vanilla, tobacco, earthy, nutty, burnt caramel, etc… And while they have these similar aspects, the sweetness you get from chocolate cuts back on the smokiness from the mezcal so they also work together in that respect. But what about the acid needed in a Margarita? How does that work here? And well, I’ll assure you that lime juice still works. The brightness of the lime juice helps keep this from becoming an overly heavy cocktail. To give this an extra chocolate kick and a creamier mouthfeel, I’m adding Kerrygold Irish Cream to the mix. I love how balanced and unexpected the flavor of this is. The mezcal is definitely the powerhouse here but it’s tamed by the richness of the Kerrygold Irish Cream and the sweetness of the chocolate liqueur.
I note below that the chocolate liqueur should be used to taste. If your bottle isÂ very sweet, as a few brands are, then I’d cut it back to 3/4 ounce. Also, salt is totally optional here. I’m one who likes a little salt to balance out the sweet so I kept my salt rim; you do you though.
And hey! This Friday also just happens to be National Margarita Day, so what better time to have one (although, let’s be real, I’m having one regardless of a holiday). If you happen to try this recipe out, remember to tag us so we can check out your creation!! We love seeing what you all make!
Chocolate Mezcal Margarita
1-1/2 ounces mezcal
1 ounce chocolate liqueur (more or less to taste)
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce Kerrygold Irish Cream
salt and chocolate for garnish
First, if you are salting your rim, do that now and put the glass aside. Next, in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add in the mezcal, chocolate liqueur, lime juice and Kerrygold Irish Cream. Shake 20 seconds and strain into prepared glass. Optionally, you can garnish your cocktail with some chocolate shavings or a tiny chocolate bar.
Beer. Popcorn. Mezcal. We’ve rounded up a few favorite game day recipes.
Whoa. Yeah, I know. It’s not Halloween anymore so what’s up with the “blood” in the title? Well, I’ll start the story at the beginning here by asking a simple question: Who Are You?
Years ago when I first started writing in the small space on the internet known as cocktail blogging, I feel like I had a pretty good grasp on who else was also writing in this space. And folks, this was pre-Instagram days, you had to sometimes do a little leg work to find the other folks. I also had a good grasp on who my readers were. Mainly because people talked aÂ wholeÂ lot more on blogs than they do now. But this wasn’t my full time gig, I was creative directing for a living for a company here in Los Angeles and this site was just a fun hobby that I popped in and out of. What that meant was that I also wasn’t super consistent and would disappear for months at a time. Readers came and went and then social media got super crazy and this little space expanded SO much and SO rapidly that it no longer felt so intimate and cozy.
Lately then, when I do speak on here, it’s kinda just like yelling down a deep, dark well. And that’s no fun. I’m writing this for anyone who reads this site, and I’d like us to get to know each other just a little bit. So if you ever wanted to know a few tidbits about me, here you go:
- I have zero formal training as a bartender
- I have a fine arts background including photography
- I have a degree in Art History that concentrated on Mesoamerican Art History (which is how I know about blood rituals and chocolate and how they all tie in together and that’s how this particular mezcal Old Fashioned got its name)
- I have two kids that did not exist when I started writing about cocktails
- I get motion sickness scrolling on my phone sometimes
- I’m terrified of moths (and Ray Liotta and that’s still on my about me page which I should probably update)
- I used to DJ all vinyl 45s of girl group and girl garage bands based from the late 50s to the early 70s here in Los Angeles for years before taking a break in 2014
- I’m a morning person
- Heat Wave by NARS is my favorite lipstick
- I have ~75 bottles of bitters I will never use
- I wanted to be a race car driver when I was 8
- I had a blog in the early 2000’s about live music shows in Los Angeles. It’s still out there on the internet!
Ok, now you!!! I’ve got a super short survey for you all. You don’t even have to answer all the questions if you want! And to make it worth your while, everyone who responds and leaves an email will get the chance to win a $50 e-gift card to Cocktail Kingdom. I like my readers. And I know some of you like pretty cocktail accessories too.
Also! Old Fashioned Week is almost over so I thought I’d squeeze this recipe in before it’s too late. It’s rich and smoky and the chocolate comes through nicely. Don’t forget to express a little grapefruit oil with that garnish. It works best with that touch of bitter citrus.
Blood Ritual (A Chocolate Mezcal Old Fashioned)
In a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, stir together the mezcal, agave and both bitters. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Express the oil from the grapefruit peel over the drink and drop in the peel.
EDIT: giveaway is not affiliated with Cocktail Kingdom. Survey will close on November 26 and winner will be announced via email that week.
This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!
If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth â€“ to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.
While you’ll see me out to help the cause next week at a few of my favorite bars (remember to follow us along on Instagram as we’ve planned a few surprises!!) there are other ways you can help a charity out. A portion of proceeds from the sales of nationally-available items such as a Campari-branded red bicycle from PUBLIC, a Negroni-red Baggu tote, and fire red-tinted sunglasses from Sunski, among other items, will be donated to charity. National partner Lyft will also offer coupon codes to new users to help riders safely get around during Negroni Week.
Campari, the star of the cocktail itself, is committed to supporting the trade communityâ€™s fundraising efforts as well. This year, Campari is teaming up with both the U.S. Bartendersâ€™ Guild (USBG), as well as SHARE â€“ a nationwide community that offers support to women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers â€“ via SHAREâ€™s partnership with Speed Rack, the all-female speed bartending competition benefitting breast cancer research, education and prevention. Multi-city events will be held with both the USBG and SHARE/Speed Rack to raise money for each charitable cause.
I am a staunch believer in volunteer and charity work and grew up in a community that placed a strongÂ emphasisÂ on these values. That’s why I’m participating once again to help spread the word. While going for a drink out may seem almost like a lay up to support a charity, the point is, itÂ supports a charity. Everyone, and every bit (or drink), counts.
Because NegroniÂ Week is also a celebration of the cocktail, I’ve teamed up with Campari to create 3 of my own variations on the cocktail to represent its Past, Present and Future (and have named them such).
Negroni:Past (double vanilla Negroni float)
Representing the past, the Negroni: Past Cocktail harkens back to old timey soda fountain shops where ice cream floats were an indulgent treat for everyone. Here we’ve made this an “adult’s only” cocktail with double the vanilla. Vanilla infused gin, Campari, vanilla ice cream and sweet vermouth “sauce” is a refreshing, and super indulgent, treat for the summer. Optionally, if you can get your hands on some acid phosphate you can give your float extraÂ tang just like the OG soda jerks did.
1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin, infused with vanilla (recipe follows)
1 ounce Campari
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
8 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
optional: 1/2 tsp acid phosphate
- Start by reducing the sweet vermouth. To do this, heat sweet vermouth in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 ounces. Set aside.
- In a pint glass, or soda fountain glass, add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add in vanilla infused gin and Campari (and acid phosphate if using). Stir to chill about 20 seconds. Strain mixture over the ice cream.
- Garnish your adult float with the sweet vermouth “sauce”.
Vanilla Infused Gin
8 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
3 to 4 vanilla beans
- Chop vanilla beans into 1″ pieces. Add vanilla pieces and gin into an airtight container and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 days.
- Strain the mixture into a new container when desired taste has been reached.
- Vanilla infused gin will keep at optimal taste up to 6Â months.
Just because the original Negroni cocktail uses gin, does not mean that today’s has to. One of the biggest trends of the current cocktail era is to take a classic drink and swap out the main spirit. Mezcal has exploded onto the bar scene and you can find it popping up in most bar’s menus. And with good reason, it’s delicious. For this cocktail, we swap out the gin with mezcal, keep our friends Campari and sweet vermouth, and add a touch of green bell pepper syrup to highlight the vegetal nuances of the mezcal.
1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce green bell pepper syrup (recipe follows)
large strip of orange zest for garnish
In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add in mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and bell pepper syrup. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and then strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange zest.
Green Bell Pepper Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, chopped
- In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add to the pan the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and add in green bell pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
- Let sit one hour, remove bell peppers, and let syrup finish cooling to room temperature.
- Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
When you think of the future of cocktails, do you picture some mad scientists conducting experiments in a lab? I do. With the future in mind, I’m highlighting the sharp bitterness of the Negroni with gentian smoke for a take on the smoked cocktail. This cocktail requires a blow torch, so you know it’s fun.
- Start by moving to a well ventilated room. Place gentian root in a shallow, heat proof dish (I also like mini disposable pie plates!). Get a kitchenÂ torch or long fireplace lighter ready.
- Next, fillÂ a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Pour in gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Stir to chill 20 seconds.
- Immediately begin smoking the gentian root by holding a flame to it until starts to smoke. As soon as it begins to smoke, place a glass upside down over the smoke to “catch” the smoke. When the glass is filled, slide a postcard or piece of cardstock over the hole to keep the smoke in.
- Turn the glass right side up, keeping the hole covered. When ready to serve, remove the card and strain the mixed cocktail into the smoke. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel.
For more information on Negroni Week, and for a list of bars participating, visit negroniweek.com and follow @CampariUS and @Imbibe on Facebook, @CampariUSA and @Imbibe on Instagram, @Campari and @Imbibe on Twitter, and engaging with the #NegroniWeek hashtag.
There is this very clear memory I have of accompanying my mother to this one liquor store when I was a child. We were probably there to buy wine coolers for her (as was the hip thing for moms to drink in the late 80’s). In my memory the store was gigantic, like a well-lit supermarket, but instead of produce or cereal boxes, it was just aisle after aisle of colorful and exotic liquors that I felt the need to stop and read all the labels of.
I’m sure that it wasn’t that big, but I do remember that this was the first place I ever saw tequila at. You know, the kind with the scorpions at the bottom.Â I don’t remember how or when I learned that not all tequila requires there to be a scorpion, but there’s a good chance it is much later in life than I am willing to admit to.
I wish I could remember the first time I tried mezcal, or even heard of it. Although I’ve tried to rack my brain for that one time, it exists as if I somehow always knew about it. I wish I was that cool. ProbablyÂ it was sometime over the past 5, maybe 7, years when we collectively started giving other liquors a chance to star in our drinks.
Now I like to put mezcal in everything. And today’s drink is one from my ongoing “to make” list. Here my notes were: meaty, but refreshing. I’m guessing this was a late night scribbling where I had something particular in mind but what exactly is no longer clear. But I like these challenges. To make things even more interesting, bitters will play a unique supportingÂ role in transforming the drink into two different sips. For a slightly savory cocktail, Angostura will be dashed in. And for a sweeter alternative, chocolate bitters will be used. All versions have Aperol there, an assertive liquor that stands up next to the flavors of mezcal without getting lost.
Now that I’m remembering that liquor store, I’m realizing that the other reason I liked going over there was that next door there was a Christian store that sold Bible action figures like Samson and Delilah. What a way to get kids thrilled about the Old Testament. When I was Catholic I was all in, until I wasn’t anymore.
Ok, enough about Bible Liquor stores. Let’s get to cocktail making!
1 ounce mezcal, Del Maguey Vida Organic used here
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
3 ounces club soda
2-3 dashes of either Angostura or Chocolate bitters, like Scrappy’s Chocolate Cocktail Bitters
lemon peel for garnish
- In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice and bitters of your choice. Shake to combine and then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.
I’m using the Vida mezcal here because it’s both a wonderful sipping liquor and it mixes well with others. It’s assertive without being aggressive. Aperol is not too bitter and not too sweet. (But itâ€™s just the right amount of both that you donâ€™t need to add another sweetener.) Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds in a touch of tartness, and the whole thing is topped off with a glug of club soda to mellow it out and give some effervescent pep. Angostura adds spice that compliments some of the cinnamon and earthy flavors found in the mezcal. Or you can change that up with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The sweet, roasted chocolate flavors in the bitters play up the sweet and bitter orange in the Aperol and also some of the vanilla found in the mezcal. This makes the drink excellent for a slightly sweet digestif or a surprisingly refreshing nightcap.
What I mean is something straightforward. SomethingÂ you don’t need a timer to make, or cheesecloth, or 48 hours to wait until you can drink it. And for this month’s Mixology Monday theme of “The Unknown”, I have just the recipe. Chris from A Bar Above has dared us all to work with an ingredient (or technique) that we have never worked with before and I spent over a week thinking about just what I would do.Â
And then I had an answer: I chose balsamic vinegar. Yes! That liquid you pour on your salad! Actually, this has been on my ideas list for some time now, but the opportunity never really came up to make something with it. I’m distinguishing this from shrubs, which I have used, because in those cases I made the shrub and also because I haven’t used grape musts before, which is the base for the balsamic I am using. The one caveat here is that I am using a reduced balsamic, which is more of a syrupy consistency. I was initially going to reduce a balsamic vinegar for the recipe but I’m trying to be simple, and I love the flavor of the one I have on hand. So, there you go…one less step.
Balsamic vinegar by itself is a pretty powerful ingredient.Â Even in this condensed, sweeter form, Crema di Balsamico still sings back to its vinegary beginnings. So I had to find another powerful star for this drink, and for that I turned to mezcal. In fact, all of the components to this drink are stand outs, but together in the cocktail they somehow work to balance each other out. They all become team players here instead of divas.
So let’s crack into the Unknown and make a drink.
1-1/2 ounces mezcal, Montelobos used here
1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Crema di Balsamico
grapefruit peel for garnish
- In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine mezcal, grapefruit juice, Aperol and balsamic. Shake hard to mix well (that balsamic might need some help getting out of the jigger too) for about 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a grapefruit peel.
While the mezcal does provide a hefty backbone to this drink it doesn’t overpower the whole. Grapefruit gives a bit of sweetness and also a touch of bitterness while the crema di balsamico adds the essence of “tang” instead of “vinegar”. Aperol was a later addition to the drink and ended up connecting the dots of the cocktail, roundimg out the flavors and making them work well together.
While I also will be out and about that week seeing what Los Angeles bars have concocted, I’m also offering up a favorite variation here on the site that you can try all year round.
I’ve swapped out the gin with mezcal (because I can’t help myself), and the sweet vermouth with Amaro Nonino (I don’t need a reason other than to tell you I love this stuff). The Campari stays the same.
1 ounce Vida Organic Mezcal
1 ounce Amaro Nonino
3/4 ounce Campari
orange peel for garnish
In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, stir together the mezcal, amaro and Campari. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Express orange oils over the ice and plop the peel in the glass.
Bright, juicy citrus battles it out with the mezcal and licorice on the nose. The first sip is rich, smooth with a not subtle bitter hit from the Campari immediately with the earthiness of the mezcal right behind. Campari can really stand up to the aggressive nature of the smoke in a mezcal and I love pairing them here. The Amaro Nonino adds some spice and complexity, as well as a nice mouthfeel to the whole drink.
Do you have a favorite Negroni variation? Or do you prefer the old tried and true recipe? Also, don’t forget that Stir & Strain is running a GIVEAWAY (check it out and enter).
Am I really going to introduce a brand new and innovative Margarita recipe today? Nope. Right now you can search any number of food sites and see 60 different ways you can customize your Cinco de Mayo drink. Sometimes it’s hard to feel innovative. However, what I can do for you is make it easy to find all the drinks on THIS site that you might like to have this weekend, since you’re already here.
Let’s just start with last week’s Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler. It’s in a pitcher and no one can tell how many you’ve had until that pitcher is empty.
And then, really, who’s going to say anything?
Â Mangoes and mezcal and chile peppers. Come on. You need this today.
If you want to be lazy, just throw a bunch of stuff into a blender. This will work for you.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, get creative with this hibiscus, vanilla-salt, inside-out take on a Margarita.
And if you just have to have a regular Margarita, here’s my favorite take on one with smoked salt and mezcal.
This recipe was originally going to have grilled pineapple, but that’s DONE (I’ll probably be eating those words in two months). So, instead, grilled mango was tested out to see if that would pair nicely with some mezcal in a cocktail. Results all pointed to yes. It may only be April, but that’s no reason not to think about grilling. Indoor grilling is doable as long as you have the right equipment, i.e. a Grill Pan. It’s a lot more efficient to oil up a pan and get it hot than turn on the propane (or light some charcoal). The sad fact is that we have a nice grill outside that ran out of propane I’d say… 2…3 years ago? I’ve lost track of how long at this point. And we’ve lazily resorted to just using a grill pan for the two of us. Now that I type this out I’m realizing that the amount of entertaining we’ve done at home has drastically decreased since the demise of the propane. Hrm.
Ah, but the cocktail. A grill pan in this case is best if you are just going to grill up a single mango. Seem like a lot of work for one cocktail? Grill up two and save the rest for later; you’ll want a second one of these.
The savory component here gets some earthy smokiness from ancho chile peppers. Ancho chile peppers are the dried form of a poblano pepper if you weren’t aware (it’s ok, I was schooled on this point too). I put ancho chiles and mangoes in my salsas so I thought I’d try them out as a cocktail.
Pro tip: use a Hawthorne strainer for this. Oh what a mess this made the first time around with first the shaker strainer, then the julep strainer; the holes were not big enough and there was a mango backup that resulted in half a drink lost. I took one for you guys so you won’t have this problem. The Hawthorne excels at separating the mango pulp from the juice. You will still get pieces of pulp, but you will also get all your booze out of the mixing glass too.
For the ancho chile pepper syrup:
2 ancho chile peppers (or 1 tsp ancho chile powder)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
- Combine chile peppers (or powder), sugar and water in a medium sized sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the temperature to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Strain into an airtight container.
For the cocktail:
1 ounce Ancho Chile Pepper Syrup (see recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 lime
1-1/2 ounce of mezcal, Del Maguey Vida used here
- Take your mango half, with skin still on, and score the flesh lengthwise and widthwise, careful not to cut through the skin. Next, using a grill pan, or outdoor grill, oil the grates with a neutral oil (like vegetable oil). Over medium-high heat, place mangoes flesh side down for 5 minutes. If you would like criss-cross grill marks, use a spatula to turn the mangoes 45 degrees halfway through cook time. Remove from grill and let cool. Once cool, turn flesh inside out and using a paring knife, cut cubes away from the skin.
- Next, in the bottom of a shaker, combine mangoes and syrup. Muddle until puree-like consistency. Add ice, lime, and mezcal. Shake for 20 seconds and using a Hawthorne strainer, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
Mezcal is a very assertive liquor that can sometimes overpower the other ingredients in a drink. But, here, mangoes, chile peppers and lime all work well in combination because they also have strong flavors. The mangoâ€™s rich sweetness, enhanced by the smoky undertone of the ancho syrup, makes for a great partner to the Mezcal, accentuating its vegetal aspects and softening its domineering palate.
I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site.Â