South of the Border, West of the Sun
1.5 oz Monte Alban mescal
1 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz bell pepper syrup (see below)
0.5 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Aztec chocolate bitters
Shake well with ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit.
NOTES: This one was a bit of a shot in the dark. Inspired by Cantina’s Tequila Club meeting, I wanted to play with mescal, and I wanted to try working more savory flavors into drinks. While the pepper is sweet in comparison to other vegetables, in the context of a cocktail it added a pretty interesting complexity. The drink was overall surprisingly drinkable. Lightly smoky and herbaceous, a little tangy, spicy and just a touch bitter. It was a nice change from the norm for me, and while I wouldn’t want every drink to taste like this, it was a welcome difference. Might be well suited for a breakfast drink with some alterations, as well. It’s nice to screw around with something unusual and have it end up better than you might expect.
Orange Bell Pepper Syrup
1 large orange bell pepper
1 cup light brown sugar
0.25 tsp red pepper flakes
Slice up the pepper, discarding the stem and seeds. Put the pepper slices into a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and add the sugar. Stir, cover, and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and strain into a bottle. Will keep for a couple of weeks refrigerated. If you like your drinks spicy, feel free to play with the pepper flake ratios.
NOTES: While this isn’t the most versatile syrup, and certainly one I wouldn’t want to drink with a little seltzer, I’m happy with how this turned out. It’s definitely a good tequila/mescal pair, and I’m having trouble imagining it with anything else. Maybe Scotch or Gin. I’d also consider using it in a Bloody Mary variation I think.