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On the Bar: A mezcal take on a couple of classics

mezcal old-fashioned

The Mezcal Old-Fashioned.

Regular On the Bar readers will laugh at this, but it’s true: I try to write about drinks you can make with ingredients available here in Yakima.

Yes, I sometimes (OK, frequently) make exceptions. But I want readers to be able to actually make these drinks, so local availability, while not a hard-and-fast rule, is at least always a consideration.

That’s why I didn’t write up a mezcal drink until November. Despite its ascendance in craft cocktail circles over the past decade — see last week’s New York Times piece on mezcal tasting — it has only appeared on Yakima grocery shelves within the past few years.

In fact, when I wrote up that November piece (on The Division Bell, a fruit-forward drink that acts as a great entry point to mezcal), I mentioned that Del Maguey Vida, the standard bearer in the mezcal renaissance, still couldn’t be found around here. Then, like a week later, I found it. The Nob Hill Boulevard Safeway had a few bottles. Obviously, I bought one.

All of which is a long prelude to this conclusion: Mezcal, an agave spirit that because of different agave varieties and production methods generally tastes like a smokier, earthier tequila, has thoroughly and definitively arrived in Yakima. If you haven’t yet become a fan, this is your opportunity. Maybe start with that Division Bell cocktail (On the Bar, Nov. 21). Then, if you’re a Campari fan, move on to the mezcal Negroni.

And, finally, if you really want a cocktail that showcases the spirit, go with a mezcal Old-Fashioned. It’s roughly 92 percent mezcal by volume, and it’s just about the only thing I’ve been drinking lately. And, of the half-dozen or so bottles of mezcal I’ve had on my home bar in the past year, the Del Maguey Vida makes my favorite Old-Fashioned. You can get that here these days.

Mezcal Negroni

1 to 2 ounces mezcal (up to you; I usually go with about 1 1/2)

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce sweet vermouth

Orange peel garnish

Stir mezcal, Campari and vermouth in ice-filled mixing glass for 15-20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a lowball glass. Twist strip of orange peel over surface of drink and drop in.

Mezcal Old-Fashioned

2 ounces mezcal

1 sugar cube (or one teaspoon sugar)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Splash of water

Orange peel garnish

Put the sugar cube in a glass and soak it with the dashes of bitters. Add a splash of water to help dissolve it. No more than a teaspoon. Muddle or stir or swirl it until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mezcal and a large ice cube (or a few small ones, but larger is better for slower dilution). Twist strip of orange peel over surface of drink and drop in.

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