Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur-rinsed glass.
After a seemingly endless summer, a chill has settled into the air and the pumpkin-spiced displays are stuffed with snacks ranging from appealing to appalling. Although my daughter staked out her stuffed unicorn Halloween costume at the beginning of September, it’s just dawned on me that the holiday is around the corner. As fun as it is to rove the streets with friends, S’well bottle of wine in hand, as our kids shake down neighbors for candy, the secularization of America’s All Hallows’ Eve feels a little thin in comparison to that of our neighbor to the south.
Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, Día de Muertos*, has been a national holiday since the 1960s and runs from October 31st to November 2nd. The dates originally fell during summer in the Aztec calendar and were celebrated only in southern Mexico, but after Spanish conquest, they were moved to November to coincide with Roman Catholicism’s All Saints’ Eve (aka Halloween), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ 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.
According to SFGATE, La Calavera Catrina became associated with the holiday in 1910, when artist Jose Guadalupe Posada printed broadsides of a head-and-shoulders portrait of a skeleton wearing a hat then fashionable with European women. In pointing out the fact that, regardless of wealth or privilege, we all end up as bones, the work was a send-up of the corrupt and European-tilting regime of thirty-year “president” [read “dictator”] Porfirio Díaz, whose regime would collapse a year later as a result of the Mexican Revolution. It also looked back to the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl. Also known as Lady of the Dead, she was keeper of the bones in the underworld and master of ceremonies at the month-long Aztec festivals honoring the dead. When Christians folded these ancient rituals into their dogma, the result was today’s Dia de Muertos.
Aptly enough, the launching point for my cocktail, La Catrina uses the formula for the Corpse Reviver No. 2. Instead of gin, I use Espolón’s Añejo Tequila finished in Bourbon Barrels, received as an excellent birthday gift (thank you, Mary). For the lemon juice, I substitute lime, and, rather than Lillet Blanc, I employ Araceli Marigold Liqueur, a Mexican-made treat that I brought home from my last trip to LA. I hold steady with the original recipe’s Cointreau, but I add a half teaspoon of Mezcal and two drops of saline solution because they seem to be the epoxy of tequila-based cocktails. Finally, instead of Absinthe, I rinse the glass with Puebla, Mexico’s Ancho Chile Reyes Liqueur. The fresh, vegetal, spicy and sweet nature of this liqueur offer a complementary complexity to the cocktail.
So, please, join me in a toast to Mexico, its artists, the dictators they tear down, and the stories they honor. ¡Salud!
8 oz boiling water
2 oz Maldon salt
Combine boiling water and Maldon in a heatproof container. Stir until salt dissolves. Allow to cool then transfer to an eye dropper.
*The holiday is sometimes called Día de los Muertos in English-speaking countries, a back-translation of its original name, Día de Muertos. Thank you, Wikipedia. I don’t know why I never thought of that.