Tequila’s Smoky Cousin

Mj 618_348_tequilas smoky cousin
Courtesy Sombra

Sombra Mezcal is the perfect meeting of mind and matter. The mind: Richard Betts, master sommelier, formerly of The Little Nell in Aspen. The matter: The purest organic Oaxacan agave, wild yeast, and a centuries-old technique for a taste that’s light on funk and long on rich, smoky flavor. Try it neat, as most Mexicans do, or better yet, as a part of this cocktail, which Betts discovered at a small taqueria on the road between Tequila and Amatitán. “They build and serve the drink in a cantarito, a traditional 12-ounce clay cup, right in front of you,” he says.

Whether you’re a glass snob or a red Solo Cup kind of guy, make no mistake about it – salt is this drink’s secret weapon. “Think of it as the umami of the cocktail,” Betts says. “It gives the drink a dimension that you can’t quite put your finger on.” And, for that matter, consider a little salt to add a twist to some of the other cocktails in your arsenal. “I’ve found it benefits other drinks, too, especially micheladas,” he suggests.

As for the perfect pairing to go with this smoky treat, fuhgeddaboutit. “I’m not a fan of food pairing,” Betts says. “It gets too geeky, too exclusive.” So what does he suggest instead? “Pair it with a smile.” We’ll drink to that.

• A 12-ounce glass (preferably a cantarito, but a highball will do)
• Ice cubes
• Kosher salt
• Three shots Sombra Mezcal
• Juice of one grapefruit
• Juice of one lemon
• Juice of one lime
Jarritos grapefruit soda

Fill glass with ice, then add, in order: a heavy pinch of Kosher salt; three shots of Sombra mescal; the juice of one grapefruit, one lemon, and one lime. Fill to the top with grapefruit soda, preferably Jarritos. Stir, serve, and enjoy.

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