Neither smoke nor sweet

The Maguey Agrio’s floral quality is nothing to run away from

“Orange plays well with mescal,” says Colin Berger. “I wanted to figure out how to use it as a sweetener.
  • “Orange plays well with mescal,” says Colin Berger. “I wanted to figure out how to use it as a sweetener.

The Maguey Agrio served at Banker’s Hill is the Mexican answer to the whiskey sour, says its creator, Banker’s Hill bar manager Colin Berger. Referencing mescal’s plant of origin and the Spanish word for “sour,” its name says it all.

Colin Berger

Colin Berger

“Sometimes the names for our cocktails are more playful,” Berge admits, “but this one is direct and to the point. It’s certainly in the direction of a traditional sour build, but with different components.”

Those different components have helped Berger add his own pour to mescal’s growing popularity. In fact, Berger didn’t run away from the liquor’s smoke-damaged reputation—he threw a wreath of flowers around it.

“Most mescal cocktails are either riffs on a margarita, or people tend to lean toward the smoky aspect of it to use it as a scotch substitute,” he says. “My thought was to take it in a completely different direction. So this cocktail is neither smoke nor sweet – there’s a floral quality that comes out in it.”

Berger says he unlocked mescal’s deeper, more florid mysteries with the help of oleo-sacchrum—the oils from the orange peel, teased out with sugar.

“Orange plays well with mescal,” he says. “I wanted to figure out how to use it as a sweetener. The orange oleo-sacchrum provides a bright floral flavor while still adding sugar components to balance the cocktail.”

With such a bright personality, the Maguey Agrio never has to worry about worming its way into the palate’s good graces.

“It has a nice mouth feel,” Berger says, “with a hint of mescal smoke up front and a nutty backbone with a burnt orange flavor from the Benedictine and nutmeg, and the lime provides balance too—mescal really wants lime’s sharper acid rather than the softer acid of the lemon, to fight through the smokiness and the big floral notes.”

Banker’s Hill’s Maguey Agrio

Maguey Agrio

Maguey Agrio

  • 2 oz. Agrio (1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal + 1/2 oz. Benedictine Liqueur)
  • 3/4 oz. Orange Oleo-Saccharum*
  • 3/4 oz. Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Egg White
  • 1 pinch Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Orange twist for garnis

Shake all ingredients but egg whites with ice in cocktail shaker, strain back into shaker, add egg whites, shake until frothy, pour into chilled rocks glass; garnish with grated nutmeg and orange twist.

*Cover orange peels in sugar overnight; strain oil through cheesecloth.

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