El Mescalito. “The tamarind and fresh lime juice have a citric kick right up front."
  • El Mescalito. “The tamarind and fresh lime juice have a citric kick right up front."
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There are as many flavors to mescal as there are Ramirezes or Smiths in the San Diego County phone book — but only Del Maguey Vida Mescal is best suited for Puesto’s mescal cocktail, El Mezcalito.

Puesto at The Headquarters

789 W. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego

So says Puesto’s director of operations, Lucien Conner.

Lucien Conner, Puesto's director of operations

“It is a cocktail-friendly mescal and 100 percent espadín, the most readily cultivatable agaves we use for mescal,” Conner says. “It has a good balance of the fruit-to-smoke ratio. It has enough character to come through and stand up to other flavors while at the same time it’s not just an over-the-top smoke bomb.”

While acknowledging that, as tequila’s smoky exotic sister, mescal might conjure up horror stories about its calamitous effects on palate and pate the morning after, Conner created El Mezcalito as a friendly entrée for those who, in his words, “are a little shy” around mescal. (Even the name, which means “a little mescal,” seeks to encourage the otherwise reluctant to indulge.)

Noting that El Mezcalito is an attempt to bring mescal into the fold as an accepted agave-based avatar of San Diego’s cocktail world, Conner says that mescal’s flavor gamut is too broad for simple categories — and that El Mezcalito proves the point that mescal can work and play well with other ingredients.

“The tamarind and fresh lime juice have a citric kick right up front,” he says. “Then there’s a juicy sweetness from the sugar in the tamarind syrup and from the Huana’s rum base. Then, in the background you get spice notes that come in from the star anise and the natural spices of the espadín, while the mescal’s smoke serves a nice undertone for everything.”

El Mescalito

  • 1.5 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mescal
  • 2 oz. tamarind, lime leaf, and star Aanise syrup*
  • 1 oz. Huana Guanabana liqueur
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice

In cocktail tin with ice, pour and shake “the hell out of” ingredients, strain into Collins glass with ice, and garnish with sliver of lime leaf and skin-charred orange wheel.

*Tamarind, lime leaf, and star anise syrup:

  • 1 cup tamarind pulp
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lime leaf
  • 3–4 whole star anise
  • 1 cup sugar

Pour first four ingredients into saucepan, simmer 20 minutes (until tamarind dissolves), add sugar as mixture cools, and fine-strain into a jar.

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