Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Right Chaser for that Creme de Mezcal

If our last feature sent you scurrying out for Crème de Mezcal, chances are you’ll be sipping it straight rather than sacrificing any of its essence to a mixed drink. You may or may not desire a chaser, since allowing Crème de Mezcal’s wonderful aftertaste to linger is certainly an option. However, if you wish to cleanse your palate between sips as with tequila or regular mescal, a decent sangrita is essential.

Having so recently boasted of being a mescal drinker for more than 40 years, our experience of enjoying sangrita with it is embarrassingly short. In fact, it was not until well into the current millennium that we had our first encounter with sangrita in a restaurant. It was served in a vodka shot glass and accompanied a "sampler boat" of Del Maguey Mescals ordered from the drink menu at Baltimore’s Joy America Café. Not that sangrita hasn’t been around for a long time. Here in Baltimore, where you couldn’t get a taco until 1970, many treats have been late to make the scene.

Several brands of sangrita have been commercially bottled. They’re not easy to find hereabouts. Reportedly most of are laden with preservatives that some would choose to avoid. Recipes for fresh sangrita, however, are numerous and varied. Since sangrita is rising in popularity, it makes sense to check out the latest recipes.

We did, going to several cookbooks and the Internet before determining which recipe we liked the best. Turns out the winner has been in our files nearly as long as we’ve been aficionados of mescal. We’d been caught off guard because the name given for the recipe was Spicy Tomato Drink. It is from a long out of print cookbook that was originally compiled in 1954 by Pan American Airways. Edited by Myra Waldo, it includes recipes from 81 of the countries that were served by Pan American at the time. And sure enough, the word Sangrita, appears in italics beneath Spicy Tomato Drink. It is simpler than most sangrita recipes, but in our opinion is hard to beat. Depending upon your taste, you may wish to experiment by seasoning with very small quantities of Worcestershire sauce, onion salt, Lawry’s seasoning salt, or celery salt. Some recipes call for chili powder, which we recommend avoiding.


½ cup orange juice
½ cup tomato juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
7 drops tabasco
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and chill. Serve alone or as a chaser for tequila.


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