Bloody Nöel

Two Bloody Nöel drinks accompany a burger and a bottle of mezcal on a kitchen counter.

I love a Bloody Mary, but it is a rare treat for me. I’ll occasionally indulge out at a brunch, but almost never at home because I don’t have vodka. (This is actually codified in the Pandemic Pub Rules lol).

Elizabeth had the brilliant idea to make a Bloody Mary – but using a different type of liquor. Why have I never thought of this?

We happen to have some mezcal, and some Bloody Mary mix in the fridge.

Mezcal vs. Tequila

First, what is mezcal, and why is it brought up in relation to tequila?

Both liquors are from Mexico, and they’re both made from a plant called agave. But, in order to be called tequila, tequila can only be made from one type of agave plant. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from about 50 types of agave plants – including the one that is made into tequila.

Tequila – to be called tequila – must be made in one of four specific states of Mexico. Mezcal must be made in one of nine (in order to be called mezcal), and some of those regions overlap with tequila’s.

What about the agave?

The part of the agave plant that’s used to make the liquor is called the piña. That’s the stem, and it looks like a pineapple.

Agave needs at least four years to ripen in order to be made into alcohol, and some take longer. Imagine all the things that can happen in four years to affect the flavor! This time frame is mainly why mezcal may be a little more expensive than tequila.

Just like for any alcohol, sugar and fermentation are necessary, so the piñas need to be cooked in order to release their sugars.

Here, in the cooking and distilling process, the size of the industries influences the techniques: tequila, the much larger industry, has a more industrial bent than mezcal’s more artisanal approach.

Agave for tequila is cooked in large stainless steel ovens; agave for mezcal is cooked in underground pits which are lined with rock, wood, and charcoal, and covered in dirt. You can see how their general flavor profiles start to diverge, since the natural elements and variables in the pits will lend a flavor to the mezcal that stainless steel ovens can’t possibly have. The pits will encourage what is commonly called a “smoky” flavor in mezcal.

After cooking in their respective way, the cooked agave is broken into small pieces, fermented and distilled. Tequila agave is distilled in copper pots; mezcal agave is distilled in clay pots, which is responsible for another big flavor difference.  

After distillation, both tequila and mezcal can be aged. Blanco, reposado, and añejo may sound familiar to tequila drinkers; these are the designations, from young to old, for how long tequila has been aged. For mezcal, the designations are joven, reposado, and añejo. Both tequila and mezcal are aged in oak barrels (if they’re aged at all – joven and blanco may not be). That process will add flavor complexities from the barrel. It will also smooth out some flavors from the cooking and fermenting process, while deepening others.

Labels

The label on a mezcal bottle emphasizes the pride that the makers – the mescaleros – take in their work. A mezcal label commonly designates where the mezcal is from, even down to the village, and also provides the name of the mescalero. This not only gives a local feel, but reminds us of differences in land, weather, soil – the way we think of wine varietals, and where and how they’re grown, and how that leaves its mark on the ultimate flavor.

Besides the differences in the cooking pits and distillation pots, most mescaleros also pride themselves on non-industrial means of harvesting the agave. They are invested in continuing the handmade, artisanal nature of their trade.

Good mezcal is also fermented with wild yeast, which deepens the flavors that are already present, and of course adds its own input.

There is a good article here and an even more detailed one here to learn more.

This is all very impressive! I like the artisanal nature of this…from one artisan to another.

Elizabeth quite brilliantly brought mezcal into this mix, and also used some pantry and fridge items – not specifically part of our original intent, but hey, we are cleaning out the kitchen, aren’t we?!

2 olives – garlic and jalapeno stuffed – yum!

Ingredients

  • Mezcal

  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes

  • Bloody Mary mix (glass bottle; I don’t know the brand)

  • Lime juice – to taste (we used a wedge)

  • Celery stick

  • Olives

Directions

  • Combine everything but the garnishes in a blender; blend until smooth.
  • Pour over ice, go crazy with whatever garnishes you want.
  • Cheers!
Enjoyed on December 13

2 comments

  1. Elizabeth A DENOMA12/17/2020 | Reply

    It paired deliciously with the impossible burgers Maura made!

    • admin12/18/2020 | Reply

      Thank you! Everything was really good, but especially your holiday creation!

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