Playa's "A Oaxacan The Clouds"
As I've gotten older, I realized that I enjoy two drinks more than any other: champagne and mezcal (separately). Readers of the blog who came along on my taco + mezcal tour of Zihuatanejo, Mexico in October won't be surprised at the latter choice. But here's the deal; in my opinion, champagne isn't the best drink of choice on chilly, rainy days like today. On the contrary, days like today require a drink with spice, smoke and savory undertones. Three tastes that A Oaxacan The Clouds delivers on in spades. Upon your first sip -- scratch that, before your first sip -- you're hit with the subtle smokey aroma from the Mezcal. For Mezcal newbies, the drink is a cousin to tequila. However, rather than being made from agave, it's made from the maguey plant, a form of agave which is oven-cooked to give it a distinct smoky flavor.
Where There's Smoke... There's Mezcal
That first sip then brings the smoky aroma to life, then gives way to a taste of savory sweetness (yes, there is such a thing) of the oven-roasted tomatoes. The sweetness is compounded by a touch of agave nectar, but plays a second, even third fiddle to warming effect of the mezcal and tomatoes. Each sip burns ever-so-slightly as it makes its way through your mouth and down your throat. The warmth is magnified by the spice in the piment d'espelette, a chili pepper grown in France that lends a bite of heat to the Mezcal's smoke. Don't worry; physically it's a good hurt, but emotionally it's complicated. Each sip leaves you wanting more but leads you closer to an empty glass. Finally, take a few bites from the juicy cherry tomato and crispy sage skewer and you've just added another level of earthiness, not to mention a mini palate cleanser. Then lucky for you, you get to pick it up and sip again (and again).
Make no mistake, A Oaxacan The Clouds is meant to sipped. Savored, even. If only I had one at my desk right now...