Named for the year explorer Jacques Cartier embarked on his first voyage, SoHo's 1534 is a French-colonial themed bar. It's all over the map, and that's a good thing. Especially when it takes drinkers south of the border.
Agave is the driving force behind the cocktail they call Napoleon's Loss. The drink is an alumnus of the bar's Americas section, but always available upon request. It's a reference to the French's eventual withdrawal from Mexico and consequent loss of Mexico's bounty (e.g. agave).
"We wanted to introduce people to mezcal who haven't had it before," says 1534 bartender James Lombardino. "It's like bourbon and scotch. A lot of people like bourbon, but they're not accustomed to a smoky scotch; going from tequila to mezcal is kind of the same thing."
Lombardino shakes two ounces of añejo tequila with fresh lemon juice and some spicy ginger-agave syrup. Then he eases the mezcal-wary in with just a quarter ounce floated on top. "You get that smokiness on the nose, but it's not overwhelming."
He pours it over a cylindrical block of ice he's frozen in a Dixie cup. For Lombardino, a one-note drink is no drink at all: "I like it when a drink has a beginning, middle and an end."
After a wisp of smoke, the sweet spice of ginger-agave sets in, trailing off back to a lingering smokiness. Napoleon's loss indeed.