The Vices team recently made a happy hour outing to Añejo in Tribeca. There, we had the absolute pleasure of being hosted by Angel Mejia, Añejo’s head bartender. Of course we did enough research beforehand to know that we were about to be in for a treat, but what we didn’t know was that we were about to embark on a masterclass in mezcal and Mexican spirits. Angel made us a round of favorites on his menu amidst tastings of mindblowing mezcals. Did you know there’s a mezcal distilled with the essence of Jamon Iberico? Neither did we, but we loved it. We found out about the incredible range of flavors mezcal holds based on its aging and agave cultivation. The entire spectrum can be accounted for from light and citrusy, to briney olive notes, and with the body and palate of a fine whiskey. Each of us sitting at the bar met the best cocktail they ever tasted, in various forms, be they tropical or bitter or spiced. Just when it couldn't get any better, they do classic mexican dishes with pristine technicality too. We can’t call this gem hidden, since it sits in a gorgeous neighborhood lined with cobblestones, culinary titans, and celebrity apartments but positively do seek it out first if you’re even remotely close by.
RV: We loved sitting down to the bar with you at Añejo. We are so excited to share the mezcal masterclass we just took. How did your mixology career begin?
Growing up I had never experienced the taste of wine. When I did, I fell in love with it by discovering all the complexity that a young versus old vine could give to the grapes. It relates to mezcal, the only difference could be as the agave reaching its peak of life, peacefully dies.
RV: What’s the one unexpected ingredient you have been trying to incorporate into cocktails right now?
One of my favorite herbs to use in cocktails is sacred leaf - yerba santa. A sticky - leafed heart shaped green native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, it has a pleasant taste that can be used as food flavoring and herbal syrups. I think it got the name by Spanish sacerdotes (priests) but it has to be used fresh not dried to get the best flavors out of it.
RV: What is the most unique way you have used mezcal?
Back in the days it was a challenge to use mezcal in cocktails due to the heavy smokiness of the cooking process it goes trough. It reminds me so much of a beautiful peaty whisky - as the number of mezcal imbibers increases these days I’ll encourage
you to try any mezcal neat. I think mezcal is designed to be sipped slowly so you can enjoy the distilled spirit’s unadulterated taste
RV: Is there a wrong way to mix mezcal?
Mezcal is a bit tricky to mix. Always keep in mind the level of smoke and the type of agave you’re about to use - any espadin mezcal will do a great cocktail.
RV: Why is mezcal more interesting than a lot of the spirits out there?
Any spirit is amazing and interesting - any spirit has a history I could only add to. In mezcal, some agaves would reach maturity ( 7 to 12 years ) sooner than others (25 - 28+) so mezcal will share stories.
RV: How has your upbringing in Oaxaca been meaningful in your career and expertise?
Meeting new people makes my day special , I think for a moment I’m part of their lives. Sharing stories with them about my personal experiences while sipping mezcal: priceless.
RV: Can you share any tried-and-true recipes just about anyone can make?
My two favorite cocktails with mezcal :
2 oz mezcal
1oz of fresh pink grapefruit juice
Topped with Jarritos Grapefruit (cane syrup) or Squirt (corn syrup)
Pinch of salt or Mexican tajin spiced salt
Garnish: pink grapefruit 1/2 wheel
.75oz lemon juice
.75oz simple syrup or light agave nectar
1 drop of angostura bitters
1 drop of orange bitters
Garnish: Large lemon twist
RV: One of the most unique cocktails we've tried was the Red Beet Margarita - could you share that recipe with our readers?
La Casa Roja
1.5oz Reposado tequila
1oz red wine ( malbec - rioja)
1oz fresh beet juice
.5oz Pomegranate syrup
4 drops of aquafaba
Garnish: Mezcal mist, celery bitters (mix mezcal and celery bitters, 2 parts mezcal 1 part bitters)
Add all ingredients to a tin shaker, dry shake slowly 10 count, then add ice and shake hard again. Pour slowly in a coupe glass
RV: At Añejo, you made us an incredible and sharable smokey pineapple cocktail, La Manzana para Dos. Since our Vices OG members have the Breville smoker at home, can you share the recipe with us?
Manzana para Dos
4 oz mezcal (Espadin)
2 oz pineapple (fresh better)
2 oz Green apple purée (or 6 slices of green apple muddled)
2 oz lime juice
2 oz Cinnamon agave syrup (or light agave nectar and pinch of cinnamon powder)
Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake hard, count to 12. In a large mason jar add ice. Using the Breville Smoker slightly close the lid to fully trap the smoke. With the lid half-open, double strain the cocktail, add green apple slices, add some more smoke, cover and serve.
RV: Sitting at the bar with you was truly an enlightening experience. Any more words of wisdom your can leave us with
STIGIBEU is a Zapotec toast meaning “To your health, the health of your friends, family and Mother Earth.” The person serving the mezcal will spill some to the ground as thankfulness to Mother Earth and our ancestors. In response we say “Bakeen,” salud - serve yourself - to the four corners of Mother Earth.
See Angel at work and get a taste of what we’re talking about at Añejo at 668 10th Ave, New York, NY. Find Angel on Instagram @brokencorcho and Añejo @anejonyc