If you’ve never heard of mezcal, it’s time to get to know it.
Made from the agave plant and meaning, quite literally, ‘roasted agave’, mezcal is a distilled spirit that’s also known as tequila’s smoky cousin.
KOL Restaurant’s Chef Patron, Santiago Lastra, gives Metro.co.uk the lowdown on the popular drink that’s even earnt its own trendy bar, The Mezcaleria, that campions the diversity of Mexican spirits.
Kol has its own mezcaleria, or mezcal bar. What can we expect?
SL: We have over 80 types of mezcal. Many are small-batch and artisanal so when they’re gone, they’re gone! Our bar manager, Maxim Schulte — from the American Bar at the Savoy — has devised a great cocktail list, though you can drink mezcal neat too. The signature cocktail will feature local seasonal ingredients, like our food. Mezcal is still a bit of an undiscovered spirit in the UK but we want to give it prominence here.
How is mezcal made?
SL: It’s distilled from the agave plant. Before opening Kol I visited a palenque [where mezcal is made] in Oaxaca and discovered the process is sloooow. Whisky, for example, takes a short time to distil, then years to age, but the opposite goes for mezcal: the plants can take between eight and 30 years to mature for processing.
What’s the difference between mezcal and tequila?
SL: Tequila can only be called tequila if it’s made from the blue agave plant from a specific region, while mezcal can be made from any type of agave. However, the flavour comes from the production process. The agave plant produces a flower called a pina. For tequila, it’s steamed before being distilled. For mezcal, it’s first cooked in earthen pits filled with smouldering wood and charcoal.
What types of mezcal would you recommend people try at home?
SL: I loved those from the palenque I visited, called Lalocura. Their techniques are biodynamic and make for high quality. There’s a great one called El Distilado, which is bottled in the UK. And there’s Sin Gusano, where you get sent a monthly selection. The owner, Jon, travels around Mexico finding unusual ways of producing mezcal.
Three London openings
Cinder, Belsize Park
As the name suggests, the food here is largely cooked over flames, a passion of chef Jake Finn. Everything from poblano peppers and hispi cabbage to salmon and beef sirloin gets a good grilling. Leave room for indulgent chocolate mousse with salted praline (also possibly grilled — you can’t rule it out).
This taqueria is opening its third main site. Promising a ‘fiesta spirit’, with atmospheric decor evoking 19th-century Mexico City, its new dishes include the vegetarian poblano chile relleno, Baja California scallop tostada, and spiced crispy duck tacos. There’s also a mezcal bar in the basement.
A new Caribbean restaurant helmed by chef Michael Hanbury is due to open next month. Expect Jamaican cuisine with a global twist, plus the promise of an ‘extensive rum library’, with one cocktail named Whispering Death in honour of West Indies cricket legend Michael Holding.
As Father’s Day looms, treat your dad to Drams to Door, a new ‘craft and rare’ whisky subscription service from London experts Milroys of Soho.
The hard seltzer trend continues with two new flavours from 58 Gin. Pink grapefruit and raspberry are 67 calories each and blend London Dry gin, fruit flavours and pure sparkling water.
Local brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield have opened a new bar in Sunlight House, a beautiful listed art deco building in Manchester. Expect quality cocktails and a 1930s vibe.
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