Cinco de Mayo is not the day to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day. Not to be irritatingly pedantic, but that's September 16th. May 5th is actually a much less significant date on which Mexicans from the state of Puebla commemorate an 1862 victory over French forces. But the U.S. has appropriated Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and that's fine by me. On Monday, I'll be raising a glass in honor of this holiday, my own Mexican genes and a beautiful bottle of aged mezcal I was gifted by Zignum. This grand producer is about as far away as you can get from the tiny artisanal distillers I met on my recent trip to Oaxaca (read about that here) and their mezcal is not exactly comparable. In fact, true mezcal purists might scoff at the notion of Zignum's mezcal añejo, which is aged in oak barrels for a smooth, rich taste. This ages-old spirit with roots in indigenous Mexico is traditionally sipped in its blanco (white) state, which has a decidedly sharper, more fiery quality. While Zignum's almost bourbon-like añejo does not retain the same flavors of smoke and agave, it is nevertheless quite delicious in its own right.
Zignum also makes an unaged blanco or joven (young) mezcal and a resposado (rested) which is aged for less time. The añejo is matured in new barrels of French white oak for more than a year, which results in a complex flavor with much of the smokiness aged right out of it. This is replaced by sweet tropical notes reminiscent of pineapple, coconut and vanilla, with a toasty, roasted finish.
- — maple sugar-ancho chile blend
- — 1 slice jalapeño, seeded
- — 3 sprigs cilantro, divided
- — 1/2 lime, divided in half
- — 2 slices peeled cucumber
- — 2 ounces mezcal, preferably reposado or añejo
- — 1 ounce grenadine
- — 1 ounce club soda
Swipe a piece of lime around the rim of a rocks glass. Dip the rim into a blend of maple sugar and ground ancho chile. Set glass aside.
Place the jalapeño slice, 2 sprigs of cilantro, 1/4 lime, and 2 slices of cucumber in a cocktail shaker and muddle until well broken down.
Add the juice from the remaining 1/4 lime, the mezcal, the grenadine and a small handful of ice cubes and shake vigorously.
Strain into the rimmed rocks glass over fresh ice, stir in the club soda and garnish with the remaining sprig of cilantro. Serve immediately.