So far this week I have thought Tuesday was Wednesday, Wednesday was Thursday, Thursday was Wednesday and thank god I am fairly certain today is Friday. To be honest at this point I don’t even care what day it is, but I do know that it’s time for a drink.
This week’s drink is smoky, spicy, and full of kick. You know, everything you want in a long weekend! Hopefully this weekend’s send off to summer finds you at a barbecue with friends, or maybe lounging by a pool. I have pretty big plans to clean out my closet and finally (I swear, it’s gonna happen) paint my bedroom. Of course it wouldn’t be a long weekend without sharing some food and drink with friends, so that’s in there too! This week’s drink has been brewing in my brain for a little while now. I love a grilled lemon, and let me tell you– I originally wasn’t going to put Mezcal in this. I am on #teammezcal so I know it’s kind of polarizing…. but how do you not put smoky booze into a drink in which you BURN THE INGREDIENTS?? It’s impossible, so I just went for it. Burnt fruit! Burnt peppers! Smoky booze! Smoked salt! Deal with it.
Obviously charring the fruit does a couple of things. It goes full maillard reaction and beyond– not only caramelizing any present sugars into a delicious brown (and then black) flavor bombs, but also lessening the harshness of the raw juice. Have you ever had a grilled lemon alongside a piece of roasted chicken or vegetables? It’s sweeter and less intense when you squeeze it over the food. After charring the fruit, I only had to add a tsp of sugar to the drink to balance the flavors a bit.
I decided to go spicy with this and roasted a serrano pepper on the grill pan along with the lime, lemon and oranges. It definitely added a kick of heat, and as the ice melted and the drink relaxed a bit, it gets less hot. If you aren’t feeling super spicy, I would maybe add 1/2 of the pepper instead of the whole thing, and be sure to stem and scrape out the seeds and ribs. You’ll still feel the heat but it won’t be quite as bracing.
Of course as you are fully aware, I opted for smoky mezcal instead of tequila for this drink and I think it’s just the only way to go. Sure, you could just pour some regular ol tequila in the shaker, but ya know what? Go big or go home. Save the “plain” margaritas for another day.
My final add was a rim of smoked sea salt to the rim. I used Maldon, which I had to crush a little bit in a morter and pestle in order to make it fine enough to stick to the rim of the glass. I also found a HUGE (biggest one ever!) salt crystal that I immediately showed Chris (who full disclosure spent a summer in Utah working for Cargill Salt, so he has a vested nerdy interest in unique salt crystals) and then took a picture of it. And then told you about it. And posted it on the blog. For all internet eternity.
Anyway so to make the actual drink is pretty simple once you char/squeeze the fruit. Combine all ingredients plus ice in a shaker, give it a good shake, and then strain into a glass! If you use a giant ice ball or cube like mine, the drink will stay spicier for longer, if you use pieces of ice (which melt faster) the drink will not be quite so hot. Up to you! What I do know is that this will cause you to kick your feet up on whatever furniture might be in front of you, and let that long weekend start when you take that first sip. Cheers!
Charred Citrus Mezcal Margarita
1 serrano pepper
2.5 oz Mezcal
1 tsp superfine sugar (to taste)
smoked sea salt
For the juice: Heat grill pan to high, allow to heat until searing hot, about 6-7 min on high. Cut each piece of fruit in half (cutting two additional 1/4 inch slices for garnish if desired). Grill cut side down on grill pan until blackened and smelling really good. Repeat with serrano pepper, leaving seeds/ribs in for more heat, or removing prior to grilling.
Using a citrus juicer, juice all fruits (leaving garnish slices to the side) into a measuring cup (I got about 3/4 cup from the 4 fruits).
If using a salted rim, crush the smoked salt until about the size of kosher salt. Pour out onto a plate. Rim your glasses with juice or water and turn upside down to salt the rim. Add (clear) ice to each glass.
In a cocktail shaker, add the pepper, sugar, and muddle to release all the spicy goodness from the pepper. Add juice, mezcal, sugar (if needed- give your juice a little test first to see if you want it!) and ice. Close the lid and shake it like you mean it for about 15 or so seconds.
Strain into ice filled and rimmed glass, garnish with slice of charred citrus! Cheers!!
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