Normally, most cocktails have a single base spirit that they’re built around, like the Bourbon Old Fashioned, Gimlet and Margarita. However, using more than one spirit can introduce complexities that a single spirit never could. The trick is finding a complementary pairing with a strong balance. In the Zapatero, a tweak on the Old Fashioned from California bartender Jeremy Lake, smokey mezcal is married with bourbon and sweetened by orgeat.
This earthy, smoke-tinged take on the Old Fashioned uses El Silencio, a mezcal made by a ninth generation mezcalero. A reasonably priced mezcal, El Silencio has a nice balance of minerality, smoke and earthiness, making it a reliable choice for use in cocktails. Other popular choices for similarly priced mezcals of reputable quality include Banhez, Del Maguey Vida and Union Uno Mezcal.
While mezcal is the main spirit in the drink, it gets some bourbon for additional depth and those familiar Old Fashioned notes of caramel, vanilla, oak and spices. Lake uses Booker’s Bourbon in his recipe. There’s only a half-ounce of the bourbon in the Zapatero, so buying a bottle wouldn’t raise the overall cost of the drink by much, but a small volume like that also means that substituting another bourbon won’t affect the quality of the finished product. A bottling like Knob Creek Bourbon, also crafted by Beam Suntory but retailing at half the price, would fill in nicely.
Rather than using simple syrup, Lake opts for orgeat in his Mexican take on the Old Fashioned. This rich and cloudy syrup is traditionally made with almonds and orange flower water. There are a number of bottled versions on the market: BG Reynolds, Fee Brothers and Orgeat Works each make a stand-up version of the famed Tiki syrup. But if you plan on making a big batch of Zapateros—or other orgeat drinks like the Mai Tai—it can be a worthwhile endeavor to try making your own. Beyond almonds, orgeat can also be made with nuts like hazelnuts or pistachios.
Finally, a mix of aromatic and chocolate bitters round the drink out and give it a balanced structure and add depth to the flavor profile.
Add the mezcal, bourbon, orgeat, Angostura bitters and Aztec chocolate bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with cinnamon, cranberry and an orange twist.