Nixta Licor de Elote distills heirloom corn, piloncillo, and whiskey for an intriguingly complex sip.
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I'm crazy about corn. Corn on the cob? Can't get enough of it. Arepas? Amazing. Tortillas? Transcendent. Fritos? Don't get me started, they're my kryptonite. I didn't think I could be any more smitten with corn, but then I tried Nixta Licor de Elote, the world's first corn liqueur, which launched in March 2021 out of Jilotepec de Abasolo, Mexico.

Nixta is made by Destilería y Bodega Abasolo high up in the mountains of Jilotepec, roughly two hours north of Mexico City. When I first saw the bottle, which is shaped like an oversized ear of corn, I knew at once I had to try it. (I also have a soft spot for food and drink packaged in containers shaped like what's inside. No mysteries here!) While Nixta's memorable bottle is straightforward, the liqueur inside is intriguingly complex.  

Nixta Licor De Elote Liqueur bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Nixta

When I took my first sip of Nixta, my brain didn't know how to categorize it. It tasted unlike anything I've had from a glass, with a rich, lingering essence of toasted corn that conjures the best tortilla you've ever eaten. Its sweetness, balanced by a clean, alcohol bite, comes from the corn itself coupled with piloncillo, an unrefined cane sugar that mimics the earthy, caramel taste of the corn. The liqueur's smooth texture coats your palate without being too heavy, providing the perfect structure for the flowering flavor that unfolds. 

Nixta also has an underlying savory quality that offers a reminder that corn is in fact a grain. It is made from a blend of both raw and roasted ancestral Cacahuazintle maíz, a bold and concentrated heirloom variety of corn that is grown and harvested by farming families local to the distillery. Its intense flavor comes in part from the ancient Mesoamerican process of nixtamalization, in which the corn kernels are soaked in an alkaline solution that transforms them into a nutritionally dense ingredient that can also be easily ground. To make Nixta, raw and roasted corn is soaked in unaged Abasolo Whisky (made by the same distillery), mixed with the nixtamalized corn, diluted with water, and sweetened with piloncillo. The process creates a lingering, savory roasted corn finish that makes you crave another sip. 

I like Nixta best on its own, slightly chilled, but warm enough that the savory flavors are still expressive. It's also a delicious and versatile ingredient in cocktails, where its silky texture brings body and structure, while also adding sweetness without being cloying. (I love it as a substitute for orange liqueur in a margarita; and as the replacement for the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned). For me, Nixta has begun a new chapter in my lifelong love affair with corn, bringing it to my home bar, where it extends an irresistible invitation to experiment with coming up with my own cocktails. I've been playing around with a corn and coffee cocktail, subbing in Nixta for simple syrup in an espresso martini, going full savory by pairing Nixta with smoky mezcal, and riffing on an herby-citrus cocktail with gin and Nixta. Who knows where it might take me, next?   

Get Nixta ($31.99) at astorwines.com.