If these drinks are any indication, visitors to Logan Square in Chicago are about to have a new favorite spot to go for mezcal-based drinks. Mezcaleria Las Flores, which will be connected to Johnny’s Grill, is set to open later this month and in preparation for that—and in celebration of National Margarita Day—Jay Schroeder, one of Chicago’s preeminent spiritual leaders when it comes to Mexican spirits, shared with us two ways to celebrate the holiday.
Traditional Mezcal Margarita
(Sin humo mezcal, lime, agave syrup)
With Schroeder’s traditional mezcal margarita, he uses fresh lime, agave syrup, and a sin humo mezcal. “Sin humo means without smoke,” Schroeder said. “The smokey flavor can sometimes be off-putting to Mezcal neophytes.” Jay’s keys to successfully executing this drink at home include mixing the agave syrup with a tiny amount of warm water. “It’s way easier to measure and find the balance of the drink when you mix the agave syrup with the warm water.” He’s also fond of straining the lime juice to remove the pulp before mixing, which, in addition to imparting the libation with a smooth texture, also keeps the glassware from clouding with bits of lime. “Straining the lime juice just makes the drink a lot more attractive,” Schroeder said.
Magnetic Pole Reversal*
(Sotol, cucumber pureé, coriander, gentian liqueur, fresh basil)
An option for more adventurous palates, Schroeder’s second drink selection is a throwback to his days as Rick Bayless’s Chief Mixologist, called Magnetic Pole Reversal, which earned its pedigree as a selection in Food & Wine’s 2015 cocktail guide “This one features Sotol,” Schroeder said, “It’s a different agave spirit from the north of Mexico.” Sotol, while similar to mezcal, is made from a plant called desert spoon and has an herbaceous, almost grassy flavor. Schroeder expertly pairs Sotol’s unmistakably green flavor with cucumber puree, coriander, a gentian liqueur, and fresh basil. “The result is bright and delicious, just in time for our (hopeful) early spring,” Schroeder said.
*Cocktail pictured above