When I travel, I am drawn to souvenirs that help me recapture a special moment. A shell and seed necklace reminds me of the beauty of the landscape, while a package of dried spices takes me to a meal shared with friends. One of my favorite souvenirs from my recent travels in Mexico is mezcal de pechuga. We first tasted it during a cocktail class on our culinary vacation. Our group had returned from a day filled with yoga, sun and sand. We sat watching the sun set over the Bahia de Mujeres, the lights of Cancun just beginning to blink across the expanse of turquoise water. The smokiness of the mezcal hit hard, followed by an improbable sweetness that lingered in my mouth. The mezcal was brought from the countryside in gallon containers, thrice distilled with with turkey breast (yes, turkey breast!), pineapple and other fruits and nuts. Before I headed home, I bought some from a local bar, poured from the gallon jar into an old tequila bottle, wrapped securely with duct tape and plastic wrap.
Now, back in Wisconsin, summer seems to have arrived. Between the rains, the mint is growing, and the sun is shining, heat palpable. This light, refreshing beverage is perfect for entertaining a crowd, and has a beautiful magenta color and bright flavor that takes on mezcal de pechuga with flirtatious confidence. No pechuga? I’m sure any mezcal will do!
Hibiscus Agua Fresca
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (jamaica)
1/4 cups honey (to taste)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 quarts of water
juice of 1/2 lime
Heat 1 qt of water to boil in saucepan, add flowers, ginger and honey remove from heat. Let sit 2 hours or so. Strain and chill. Add remaining 2 qts water and lime to hibiscus-ginger concentrate.
Make a drink:
In a glass mix 2 tsp honey, 1 to 2 oz mezcal (or to taste. I like a lighter flavor), 6 raspberries, a squeeze of lime.
Macerate and add ice. Pour in hibiscus agua fresca and top with a sprig of mint.