Maximillian Affair

During the Fall brown spirits dominate. Bar menus, blogs and magazine don't lie. Those bright citrus-laden drinks are relegated to warmer climates and distant seasons. The barren trees mean heartier fare and that usually means whiskey. I am no stranger to this trend. When it gets cold, you can usually find me curled up in a whiskey barrel (with a blanket, of course) and asking not to be woken until Spring. But something about this year seems different. Maybe its me, maybe my tastes are changing, and I', turning over a new boozy leaf. Maybe it's just that there are so many more barrel-aged options. And perhaps, just maybe I was wrong when cold weather had to mean whiskey or brown spirits (and maybe this sounds familiar, dear reader). And yet another option might be that I have been listening to the call of the smooth herbal complexity of sweet vermouth and those assorted amari. So, recently when I wanted mezcal, I knew I was having a nervous breakdown. The mezcal I have is not brown, because it is not aged in a barrel. Hesitantly, I checked outsidestill ohmigod cold and damp, hell it was winter of all things. Thank goodness I can blame sweet vermouth and amari to bail me out of this.

Agave spirits play particularly well with sweet vermouth. Both the earthy, floral notes of tequila and the similarly earthy, yet uniquely smoky flavors of mezcal perfectly complement sweet vermouth's assorted botanics. In general, I was drawn to this cocktail because of that pairing. But more specifically, my interest was sparked by the idea of mezcal with Punt e Mes, a variety of sweet vermouth that is somewhere between sweet vermouth and Campari. It is more bitter and flavorful than most sweet vermouths I have tasted, and because of this, it is my go-to sweet vermouth. I just love how it dries out a bourbon in a Manhattan, or how it riffs off gin in a Fin de Siecle or Hoskins. Any recipe that calls for it by name will rank high with me. This cocktail has been on my to-drink list for a while. Misty Kalkofen of Boston's notorious Drink is the creator of this lovely libation and every Kalkofen original that I have been lucky enough to taste has been an absolute stunner.

Maximilian Affair

1 1/4 ounces mezcal
3/4 ounce St. Germain
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce lemon juice

Shake all of the ingredients and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Note on Ingredients: I used the del Maguey Minero mezcal for this drink.

This is one seriously awesome cocktail. The mezcal dominated the aroma with its smokiness and the first sip was heavy with its vegetal, grassy flavors. The St. Germain contributed its mellow fruitiness to the mix, and later even seemed to provide herbal notes as the drink warmed up.  This, in turn, allowed the herbal notes of the Punt E Mes to shine. You might think that this cocktail would be sweet, with the St. Germain at three-quarters of an ounce, but the lemon juice and vermouth balanced it out perfectly. The mezcal was the star of this drink though, and it was unmistakable in every taste. Its lingering smokiness even followed each sip. What a tasty way to end the night.