Mezcal is often relegated to Margarita-style drinks, but the smoky agave spirit is as versatile as any liquor. Bartender Brian Means demonstrates this fact with the Cream of the Crop, a frothy, creamy concoction he developed at Dirty Habit in San Francisco. Despite its appearance and mouthfeel, this gingery, nutty drink has no actual cream or dairy in it, instead relying on a coconut and pistachio puree to give it its creamy texture and depth.
Creating the puree for the drink is where the bulk of the labor comes in. Since Means was making it for a restaurant setting, it meant he had the tools to prep batches of it ahead of time for large-scale drink production. But the fact that the recipe calls for an ice cream maker to finish the syrup means it may be prohibitive for many home bartenders. You could try substituting it for a pistachio orgeat—it will lead to a different drink, but one that still pairs smoky mezcal with pistachios and ginger.
As for the ginger, Means uses King’s ginger liqueur, but something like Domain de Canton could also work, instead. The end result is sweet, smoky and bright with a hint of gingery spice, making it an all-weather kind of drink. Finally, a whole espelette pepper as garnish creates a stunning visual, and an edible one too if the drinker is brave enough.
- 1 ounce Del Maguey Vida mezcal
- 1 ounce King’s ginger liqueur
- 3/4 ounce coconut-pistachio puree*
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: candied ginger
- Garnish: espelette pepper
Add the mezcal, ginger liqueur, coconut-pistachio puree and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with a piece of candied ginger and an espelette pepper.
*Coconut-pistachio puree: Toast 1 cup pistachios, shelled, in an oven preheated to 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, then add to a food processor with 3 cups granulated white sugar and pulse until pistachios are finely chopped and mixture is combined. Add pistachio-sugar mixture to a pot with 2 1/2 tablespoons coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tsp salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat, let cool, and place in a large container. Refrigerate overnight. Strain, keeping the solids. Spin the solids in an ice cream maker and strain the puree with a chinois. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.