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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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5 Must-Have Mezcals

Mezcals

Written off as tequila’s smoky brother, mezcal is a lot more than just something for Scotch drinkers to enjoy when in a Mexican restaurant. “Every mezcal will influence your mood in a different way. They have these different energies,” says Lucas Ranzuglia, the bar manager at San Francisco’s forthcoming La Urbana. “It sounds like B.S., but it’s true.”

When the restaurant and mezcaleria opens August 28, it will feature 46 mezcals—Ranzuglia hopes to eventually carry 80 different bottles—and a tasting room for mezcal classes. “When it comes to mezcal, you have huge differences because it is being produced all over Mexico,” Ranzuglia says. “The character of the mezcal comes from three factors: terroir (the soil and weather conditions of the land where the agave is grown), the type of agave plant, and the local knowledge and traditions that were passed from generation to generation.”

Here, Ranzuglia’s top five mezcals to try >

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Secrets to Drinking Like You're in Havana

Havana Beach

I'm not saying I went to Cuba. But if I had gone, I probably would have spent most of the time eating lots of grilled lobster (the stripey Caribbean kind, not the red Maine kind) in paladares (restaurants run out of magnificent family homes) and over-consuming exceptional rum-based cocktails. As the birthplace of the mojito and the spot where Ernest Hemingway popularized the Papa Doble (a double frozen daiquiri), Havana would inspire any non-heretics to drink copious amounts of each. Again, I'm not saying that I went there, but if I had, these would probably have been my most memorable brushes with alcohol. MORE >

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Kümmel 101: How to Use the Sweet-Savory Dutch Spirit

Kummel Cocktails: Ouest Daisy

Lafayette's Ouest Daisy © Noah Fecks

Historically consumed in Europe as a shot before or after a round of golf, kümmel, a caraway- and cumin-infused spirit that originated in Holland, has found its place in America as a sweet-savory addition to cocktails. At chef Andrew Carmellini’s newest New York hot spot, Lafayette, beverage manager Megan Mina uses Combier kümmel in a refreshing tequila cocktail.»

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Shandy 2.0: Modern Takes on the Simplest Beer Cocktail

Son of a Gun's Shandy

House Fermented Shandy Courtesy of Son of a Gun

One of the simplest summer cocktails, the shandy is a refreshing blend of beer and lemonade—or citrus soda or ginger ale depending on where you're ordering one. But since "simple" isn't American bartenders' M.O., shandy upgrades are popping up around the country that use seasonal syrups, spices, hard liquor and, in the case of Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, re-fermentation. MORE »

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Spicy, Tangy, Fruity, Frothy: The Newest Strawberry Cocktails

Strawberry Sky

Donna's Strawberry Sky © Craig Cavallo / Serious Eats

Bartenders who love in-season strawberries for their bright, floral flavor and gorgeous color, are now debuting complex spring cocktails with contrasting ingredients like chilies, egg whites and vinegar. At Donna in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, bar manager Jeremy Oertel pairs the springy fruit with tequila and serrano peppers in the Strawberry Sky. MORE >

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Boozy Horchata

Horchata Milk Shake

Horchata Milk Shake © Con Poulos

Horchata, the delicious Mexican drink of cinnamon-flecked rice milk is getting an adult makeover from bartenders across the country, making it the ideal cocktail for this Cinco de Mayo. MORE >

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How to Flavor Cocktails with Indian Spices

Heart of Gold Cocktail

Heart of Gold © Robert Gunn

Indian spices like saffron and cardamom are now pantry staples for many cooks, but bartenders are also finding uses for the aromatic seasonings in deliciously complex cocktails. MORE >

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Sesame, Mustard and Olive Oils Now Enhancing Cocktails

The Torpedo

The Torpedo © Emily Hsu

We use oils in just about every aspect of our lives: cooking, cleaning, car maintenance. Now bartenders are using oils—sparingly—in cocktails, for their intense aromas and flavors. MORE >

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The Crème Revival

Dixie Cocktail Courtesy of Hard Water

Dixie Cocktail Courtesy of Hard Water

Mention crème de cacao or crème de menthe to anyone who drank through the 80s and they will cringe as if they had just been offered a pair of parachute pants. Though associated with saccharine, often artificially colored cordials, true crèmes can be elegant, velvety digestifs or superb cocktail modifiers. Today, artisan producers are restoring crèmes to their respectable form, much to the delight of bartenders who use the vibrantly flavored, sweet liqueurs in revivals of long-lost cocktails and terrific new drinks. MORE >

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Spring Herb Cocktails

Herbal Cocktails: Cilantro Martini

Cilantro Martini © Lauren Feighery

Across the country, bartenders are moving away from heavy, earthy cocktails and replacing them with bright and bracing drinks made with fresh herbs. At Austin’s Drink.Well, co-owner Jessica Sanders and her bar staff created three tinctures (rosemary, cilantro and basil) to star in off-the-menu herbal gin martinis. Each tincture—made with quality vodka infused in a jar packed with herbs—complements a specific gin and vermouth. MORE >

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