It's coming on summer, which is the time of year—at least for me—when tequila becomes ubiquitous. Phil Ward, bartender at New York's renowned Death & Co. and now the agave-focused Mayahuel, was tapped by Food & Wine to curate the tequila chapter in Food & Wine Cocktails 2011.
The focus of the program at Mayahuel, which opened in 2009, is entirely on tequila and mezcal, tequila's smoky cousin. The cocktails Ward selected for the book range from refreshing, citrusy classics like the Paloma and Margarita to contemporary originals that pair bitter Italian amari, vermouths, or sherries with fresh fruit and the spicy, smoky notes of tequila and mezcal.
The Dahlgren is a long, tall number with strong spicy notes underscored by the subtle richness of tawny port. A Ward original, he took his inspiration from the classic Diablo, a combination of tequila, lime, créme de cassis and ginger ale; Ward substitutes tawny port for the black currant liqueur and uses a spicy homemade ginger syrup instead of ginger ale. If you really love ginger, you can make this drink extra spicy by using the ginger syrup and your favorite ginger ale or a more robust ginger beer instead of club soda.
Shopping tips: I like the blanco tequilas made by Milagro or Corralejo for mixing; if you're looking for a blanco with a bit more oomph for stand-alone sipping as well, try Partida or the vintage, single-estate Tequila Ocho. For the port, Yalumba Antique Tawny and Graham's 10-Year are excellent products that are relatively easy to find. (Once open, keep port in the fridge; like vermouth, port is a fortified wine and can spoil if left out.)
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:10 minutes
- For the Simple Ginger Syrup:
- 3 3-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled
- 6 tablespoons superfine sugar
- For the cocktail:
- 2 ounces blanco tequila
- 1 ounce tawny port
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce Simple Ginger Syrup (recipe below)
- dash Angostura bitters
- 1 ounce chilled club soda
- 4 small pieces candied ginger and 1 lime wheel, for garnish
To make the Simple Ginger Syrup, coarsely chop the fresh ginger and puree in a food processor. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve; you should have about one ounce of ginger juice. Return the juice to the processor and add superfine sugar and process until well mixed. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate. Will keep about a week.
To make the cocktail, add the tequila, port, lime juice, 1/2 ounce ginger syrup and bitters to a shaker filled with ice.
Shake well and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Add club soda to the glass and stir. Skewer the candied ginger pieces on a pick. Garnish the drink with the ginger and lime wheel and serve.