I had long wanted to go to Mexico City, but it never seem to be the right time until a few weeks ago.
Like everyone, I’ve heard what a great food and cocktail city it is, and it did not disappoint! I ate and drank at a higher level here than I have in any city that I’ve visited in the past five years.
And, the most exciting thing about the food and drinks scene in Mexico City are the cocktails. Every restaurant that we went to had creative and well-made cocktails. And, they weren’t cocktails made for show or for the bartender’s ego, they were cocktails made for drinking and enjoying every sip.
In a week of excellent drinks, perhaps the most interesting cocktail was from one of the fine dining institutions of Mexico City. In fact, it was the most memorable part of the evening.
I was traveling with friends who are all big fans of Tequila and Mezcal—as well as Bourbon and Rye–and so one of the cocktails on the menu really caught my eye.
The cocktail was a combination of spirits. In fact, it had so many spirits in it that it was either going to be fabulous or not.
When our waiter came to the table, three of us [all women] decided to take a chance on this straight-up cocktail. The men at the table had opted for a Tequila Old Fashion. The waiter took one look at us and cautioned us women from ordering the cocktail because it was ”too strong.”
Being three strong women, that advice did not detour us but made us even more determined to order the cocktail. I’m not sure if there is a term for cocktail “mansplaining” or not, but the waiter begrudgingly brought us the drinks.
The obvious question is, was the cocktail strong? Yes and no. For women who drink their whiskey and tequila neat, it wasn’t too strong. And, it was delightfully balanced, and well crafted.
As I was enjoying my cocktail, served in a beautiful cut-crystal coupe, I thought this is a drink that I need to reverse engineer and make once I get home. And my friends echoed that thought, challenging me to make the drink so they could enjoy it stateside as well.
Before I even stirred my first attempt at recreating the cocktail, I had the name. We visited Casa Azul, a.k.a. The Frida Kahlo Museum; Kahlo’s former home that is dedicated to her the life and work. With that visit top of mind, and the fact that everything she did defined a strong unconventional woman, I knew that my version of the cocktail would be named in her honor.
With that settled, I started tinkering with the known ingredients of Anjeo Tequila, Mezcal, Reyes Ancho, orange, absinthe, and chocolate bitters.
Because this drink is stirred and served straight up, the quality of the spirits really matter. I started with El Tesoro Anjeo Tequila and you could use the Extra Anjeo as well. El Tesoro is an agave-forward Tequila which means that even once it is aged, the agave flavor is still front and center. El Tesoro is aged in ex-bourbon barrels but it is not over-oaked, and each expression still has that agave character. It is delicious in this drink. [If you drink a lot of Tequila, you know that some aged and extra-aged Tequilas can “lose” the agave flavor in place of deep wood, caramel, vanilla and toffee more like a bourbon.]
It took a couple of tries to hit upon the right proportions, none of the “experiments” were bad, but the first one had too much absinthe, and that distinctive flavor needed to be the back note, not the first thing you taste. I made it again with less absinthe and more tequila and that brought the orange note forward.
I used the refined Illegal Reposado Mezcal with only a hint of smoke and a rich agave flavor so that it supported the Tequila and it melded into the drink seamlessly. The Ancho Reyes Mexican Chile Liqueur is what sets the cocktail apart, and even though I only used ¼ of an ounce, the flavor is present and elevates the drink.
To balance the drink, I added a few dashes of Mole bitters from Dashfire. The Mole bitters are chocolatey and spicy, and were made to complement Tequila and Mezcal drinks so they were tailor-made for this cocktail. I added some ice to my mixing glass; stirred it for about 20 seconds, strained it and poured it into my glass.
I took a sip, and it was just as I remembered the drink to be. It was strong but smooth and a little unconventional but a terrific cocktail for anyone—women or men!
Make The Frida anytime you feel like a strong drink or anytime you feel like honoring strong women everywhere!
The Frida Cocktail
Don’t chose between Tequila and Mezcal. Have them both in the same strong cocktail that was inspired by the strong woman that Frida Kahlo was. It is served straight-up and chilled in a coupe or martini glass, and is best enjoyed by sipping slowly and letting all the flavors present themselves
2 ounces Anejo Tequila, such as El Tesoro
1 ounce favorite Reposado Mezcal
.25 ounces Ancho Reyes Mexican Chile liqueur (licor de chile ancho)
.25 ounces Dry Curanco or Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon Absinthe or Pastis
3 dashes Mole bitters or Chocolate bitters
- Measure all spirits and place in a cocktail mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir 10-20 times, depending on how strong you want the drink.
- When it is chilled and slightly diluted, strain into a coupe or martini glass.