For backyard barbecues and other summer parties, fruity mezcal drinks are a good way to go, as mezcal’s inherent earthiness and smokiness contrasts beautifully with fruit juices. In the Smoke on the Water, Chicago bartender Carlos Perez mixes Banhez Mezcal Artesanal with Cointreau, watermelon juice, hibiscus syrup and lime juice. He also highlights the mezcal’s natural smokiness with an unorthodox ingredient: a flaming rosemary sprig.
With an agave spirit base, Cointreau and lime juice, it’s safe to call the Smoke on the Water a Margarita variation. While there’s a whole ounce of watermelon juice in the drink, the fruit is mild enough that it doesn’t overwhelm any of the other flavors. But the hibiscus simple syrup adds a strong earthiness and sweet-tartness. If you make a large batch, you can try the infused syrup in other drinks. It would work nicely taking the place of simple syrup in drinks like a Pisco Sour or Tom Collins, giving them a deep red color and fruity botanicals.
Besides the vivid red coloring from the syrup and juices, the drink gets a visual boost from the garnish, a flaming sprig of rosemary that is first soaked in a high-proof alcohol to make it extra flammable. The smoke is mostly a visual treat, as little of it will make it into the drink. Still, elements of the aroma will linger, and extinguishing the sprig in the drink will infuse notes of rosemary, adding complexity to the Smoke on the Water.
- Rosemary sprig
- 100-proof alcohol, for soaking
- 1 1/2 ounces Banhez Mezcal Artesanal
- 3/4 ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce watermelon juice, freshly pressed
- 1/2 ounce hibiscus simple syrup*
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: flaming rosemary sprig
Soak a fresh rosemary sprig upside down with 100-proof alcohol for five minutes.
Add the mezcal, Cointreau, watermelon juice, hibiscus simple syrup and lime juice to a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Place the prepared sprig upright in the rocks glass, and light immediately before serving. Extinguish before drinking.
*Hibiscus simple syrup: Combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and add 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus flowers or four bags of hibiscus tea. Let steep for 10 minutes then strain into a glass jar with a lid. The syrup will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.