El Cóctel de los Muertos
1.5 oz Espolón Reposado 100 % Agave Tequila
0.75 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
0.5 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
0.75 oz copal-smoked raw agave nectar simple syrup (recipe below)
1 drop Calendula extract (I used Herb Pharm Whole Flower Calendula flower extract)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with a lemon peel.
By now, I’ve experienced the full life cycle of Halloween: Sugar-addled Kid > Liquored-up Wonder Woman > Sugar-addled-kid-addled Parent. It’s still a blast, but, when looking for inspiration for this week’s cocktail, I’ve turned my gaze southward.
Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, a national holiday since the 1960s running from October 31st to November 2nd, literally sugar-coats our creepy skeletons, reminding us that memories of our loved ones who’ve passed are the sweetness that tempers the bitterness of loss. Although the dates originally fell in summer in the Aztec calendar and were celebrated only in southern Mexico, after Spanish conquest they were moved to November to coincide with Roman Catholicism’s All Saint’s Eve (aka Halloween), All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Mexicans at home and abroad who celebrate the holiday create altars to their deceased loved ones decorated with marigolds or chrysanthemums and gifts to and photos of the deceased.
Copal incense is traditionally burned at the altars, a tradition that goes back to the Aztecs and Mayas who believed it helped the spirits of the dead find their way home.
This week’s cocktail celebrates this beautiful tradition by combining Espolón Reposado, a barrel-aged 100% agave tequila, with Dry Curacao, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, copal incense-smoked agave simple syrup and a drop of Calendula extract, which is made from marigold flowers and stands in for bitters.
To make the copal incense-smoked agave simple syrup, I mix 1/4 cup raw agave nectar with 1/3 cup water and bring it to a boil, then let it cool and cover it with plastic wrap. I use The Smoking Gun™ to smoke my syrup. I break off two 1/2-inch long pieces of quality copal incense such as Fred Soll’s Copal Resin Incense and load the chamber with it, then I tuck the flexible rubber tube under the plastic wrap, light the incense and turn on the smoking machine. I seal the plastic wrap and leave it for ten minutes, occasionally agitating the syrup. Any extra syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To build my cocktail, I mix 3/4 ounce of the copal-smoked agave simple syrup with 1 1/2 ounce tequila reposado, 3/4 ounce dry curacao, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and one drop of calendula extract in a 12-ounce shaker filled with ice and shake it until frost begins to form on the outside, then strain it into a chilled coupe. I garnish with a lemon twist, then kick back and think, If anyone ever builds an altar to me after I die and makes me one of these, I’m definitely coming back for a visit.
Copal-smoked raw agave nectar simple syrup
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/3 cup water
Mix ingredients and bring them to a boil. Let it cool, then cover the pan with plastic wrap. Use The Smoking Gun™ , or your own smoking device, to smoke the syrup. Break off two 1/2-inch long pieces of quality copal incense such as Fred Soll’s Copal Resin Incense and load the chamber with it, then tuck the flexible rubber tube under the plastic wrap, light the incense and turn on the smoking machine. Seal the plastic wrap and leave it for ten minutes, occasionally agitating the syrup. Any extra syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.