Cocktails with Oaxacan Ingredients

Hey Bartender Atlas devotees, here’s something you might not know: before I started dedicating all my online time to this glorious website, I ran my own blog (don’t bother looking for it, it’s long gone). It was mostly cocktails but a lot of music and TV stuff too. But mostly cocktails so I am super pumped to write this post today.

In case you haven’t been following our social media stuff, Jess and I have been in sunny Puerto Escondido in Southern Oaxaca of Mexico for the last few weeks. We came here specifically to devote time to Bartender Atlas and some other projects. One of those projects for me was to make drinks using ingredients I had never had access to before.

There is a huge market here, right in town named after Benito Juarez and there are hundreds of vendors here. Meat and cheese and chapulines and traditional Mexican clothing and for my purposes: fruit. So much fruit. So many variations of familiar fruits and then some stuff I have never seen before. It took a lot of tasting a lot of different fruit and Googling traditional uses for these fruits to get here. Heads up, not all fruits in southern Oaxaca in January are necessarily cocktail friendly.

The following are two drinks that I feel really proud of, having never really used a lot of these ingredients before and one delicious hot chocolate. If you are planning on recreating any of these don’t hesitate to switch out spirits or alter the make up of the ingredients as these are all in a particular growing season. Basically, have fun with them.

60ml Mezcal Espadin (I know there are hundreds of Espadins out there, this one was very light, dry and almost floral)
15ml Strong Jamaica “Tea” *
10ml Stevia Sweet Tea **
5ml Honey

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass and stir vigourously. Add ice and stir for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe…or white wine glass based on what you have available. Garnish with an orange twist. BTW: the oranges here are so fragrant, so you gotta be careful with how twisty you get here.

* Jamaica “Tea”: Jamaica is the flowers of Hibiscus. You see it around Mexico everywhere. Kids drink it instead of Kool-aid and adults drink it like it’s cucumber water or whatever. I made this batch really strong to try to get more bitterness out of the flowers.

1/3 cup (volume) Jamaica flowers
1 cup water

Boil water. Kill heat. Add Jamaica and let stand 15 minutes. Strain with fine strainer. Let cool, should keep for 3-4 days.

** Stevia Sweet Tea: This is something I had never seen before. I had dealt with stevia in powder form before but never really thought about the fact that it comes from plants (duh). So when I found this bag of Stevia leaves I thought this might be a cool way to get some kind of tannin into an unaged spirit forward cocktail. When finished, this tasted exactly how the package described, like a green tea that had been sweetened.

¼ cup (volume) Stevia Sweet Tea Leaves
1 cup water

Boil water. Kill heat. Add Stevia Tea Leaves and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain, let cool. Use sooner than later.

60ml Mezcal Espadin ( I used the same Mezcal here)
22ml Grapefruit Juice
22ml Lime Juice
15ml Nanches Syrup ***

Combine all ingredients and shake for about ten seconds on ice. Strain over ice into Collins glass. Garnish with Starfruit slice.

*** Nanches Syrup: Nanches are tiny little berry sized fruits. They taste like a funky French cheese mixed with a bright lemony citrus style fruit and have the consistency of a stone fruit. It sounds weird and it is. I got the idea to use this weird little fruit because it’s not rare to find nanches-infused mezcal alongside coffee-infused mezcal at any bottle shop. In this drink that cheesy undertone is sort of buried, but works with the earthy parts of the mezcal. I made this syrup using stevia as a sweetener. I don’t have access to a refractometer down here and stevia is way sweeter than refined or cane or brown sugar. You want to watch that.

1.25 cup (volume) Lightly muddled Nanche Fruit
1 cup water
1 cup Stevia granulated sweetener

Wash fruit. Boil water. Once water is at a rolling boil, add nanches. Let boil for 3 minutes. Kill heat. Add stevia and stir to dissolve. Strain fruit out using cheesecloth (or a coffee filter if you didn’t pack any cheesecloth). I only made it 2 days ago but I am guessing it will be good for a week or ten days.

Full disclosure, we read this article and it inspired us to make this drink. There are many packaged or puck forms of Oaxacan Hot Chocolate powder, but the truth is, there are many many recipes for it and the ingredients involved can vary. They mostly all include cacao, sugar, almonds and cinnamon. We bought some pucks in the market and heated them on the stove with some almond milk. We then added some mezcal to it. Add as much or as little booze as you wish. Also, pick your time to do this, as the drinking of hot chocolate in Mexico is sometimes part of important rituals.

Josh Lindley
Co-Creator at Bartender Atlas
Josh Lindley has been bartending in Toronto since 2007. Before working for Hendrick's Gin as a Brand Ambassador he was bar manager at Campagnolo and a hired gun at Bar Isabel before working at Chantecler, Le Phenix and Eataly. He has contributed to many magazines, tv shows and newspapers with his recipes and opinions. He recently put his diploma in Radio Broadcasting from Humber College to good use through The Blackbird audio documentary. Currently pouring at Civl Liberties and teaching cocktail classes for Evelyn Chick's Love of Cocktails, he enjoys being an ambassador to Toronto and talking about horror movies, punk rock and basketball.
Josh Lindley on FacebookJosh Lindley on Instagram