As the colder months set in, warming up with a sturdy, stirred drink seems spot-on. However, tequila is not the first spirit that comes to mind for most, even after barmen like Phil Ward of Mayahuel — the first tequila/mezcal cocktail bar in NYC — helped introduce more of the American public to the incredible flavors and proper ways to enjoy these spirits. Offering a twist for those who might otherwise order a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, NYC’s Sweetwater Social owner and bartender Justin Noel created the Salty Air, which gently sweetens, but does not overpower his spirit of choice: the distinct Espolón Añejo.
Noel, who also happens to be the brand ambassador for Espolón, worked with Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza. This spirit was forged through an unconventional approach of aging in virgin American oak for 11 months, and then moving to Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for two months, as opposed to other añejos that go straight to bourbon barrels for color and sweetness. The result is elegant, but this is not a whiskey or cognac-driven spirit, and it retains the sharpness of a quality reposado along with hints of cherry and butterscotch.
Though sherry can pair well with most other spirits, it often finds a great marriage with tequila. As a modifier in the Salty Air, both the Fino and Pedro Ximenex help to provide roundness and a slight richness without adding the herbal qualities that a vermouth would carry. Playing off the citrusy sweetness with a strong hand of savory, bitter and bright flavors, the Salty Air may not be for everyone. For those traditionalists who typically drink their tequila neat with orange and cinnamon, however, this is the next best thing.
- 1 1/2 ounces Espolón Añejo
- 1 ounce Fino sherry
- 1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez Sherry
- 1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- 2 dashes Regan's orange bitters
- 1 dash salt tincture (see below)
- Orange peel
- Combine/build all ingredients in a chilled rocks glass.
- Stir with a large cube of ice for 15 seconds. Garnish with an orange peel and cherries.
For the salt tincture:
- Heat 15 ounces of hot water and add 15 ounces of Kosher salt, then stir to dissolve.
- Once cool, add one ounce high-proof vodka and store for future use.
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