Mezcal Props Up the Old-Fashioned With a Whisper of Smoke
For a panoramic view of the Newport waterfront in all its summertime glory, take the elevator to The Rooftop at The Vanderbilt Grace hotel. Mixologist Adrienne Nicole, the “liquid chef ” of Newport, helms The Rooftop bar with zeal, and an appreciation for what’s fresh.
Her cocktail, the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned, conjures wafts of smoke spilling from the barbecue, exotic citrus and sweet, juicy strawberry. Adrienne uses El Buho Mezcal as the rich, smoky canvas of the cocktail, spiced with King Ramsey’s Tangerine Bitters (developed by Newport bartender Kodi Keith), an infused blend of clementine, black peppercorn, caraway, coriander and sarsaparilla, generating a live current of citrusy electricity when muddled with a touch of brown sugar.
Succulent muddled strawberry adds a luscious floral timbre to the mineral pungence of the mezcal. Mezcal is distilled from the heart, or the piña, of the maguey plant, an agave that’s roasted in a stone or brick-lined pit dug in the earth and covered to smolder and cook for up to a week. The batch is then crushed under a tahona (a stone wheel), fermented and distilled. Though mezcal is traditionally sipped and savored, Adrienne hints that the distinctive woody, smoked character of the spirit works seamlessly in place of whiskey or tequila in classic cocktail recipes. In fact, the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned was borne when she swapped out the usual rye whiskey.