The influx of strange and uncommon ingredients in cocktails, primarily those forged by restaurants as a means to stand out and impress, have recently come under fire for missing the mark in terms of both flavor and expectation. Autumnal spiced sweet potatoes may be excellent in a soup, but often not in a coupe. The exception to this rule is when you have the palate of a truly talented and knowledgeable bartender, and at Wallflower in NYC’s West Village, barman Xavier Herit has spent years developing the right techniques to know when his experiments fit that proper balance of a great drink.
Ironically, the Cornelia cocktail did indeed get its start in the kitchen as a chilled corn soup with basil sorbet and black truffle coulis, which inspired Xavier to incorporate the ingredient into a tequila and mescal-based drink. Corn has a natural sweetness, and building this flavor properly means not letting the vegetal flavor overpower the expected freshness and bright profile that makes a cocktail refreshing. Lime, smoke from the mescal and a bit of jalapeño infusion contrast the potentially chalky nature of the corn purée, but what’s most perplexing is how this drink keeps its lightweight feel. Perhaps it’s Xavier’s tenure at Daniel and familiarity in collaborating with a great kitchen that help him bridge these flavors so well.
While it’s easy to consume several of the Cornelia cocktails in a row, it’s clear that Wallflower avoids the pitfalls that most restaurants face when curating an original cocktail menu and in fact, their drinks stand up against world-class cocktail establishments. Yes, cocktails are becoming more ubiquitous and that means that many will try and fail to innovate their own unique takes. Despite that, when one encounters the history, experience and most importantly, the palate, that goes into creating a hidden gem like the Cornelia, it will always be a delightful, welcome surprise.
- 1 1/2 ounces Pueblo Viejo Reposado Tequila
- 1/2 ounce jalapeño-infused Del Maguey Vida Mescal
- 1/2 ounce corn purée
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce agave syrup
- basil oil
- Shuck and clean the corn, then juice it through a juice extractor.
- Reduce the liquid by 50% on a stove at low heat for several hours. This technique helps to get the purée to the proper texture and intensifies the taste of the corn.
- Strain and refrigerate for day-of use.
For the jalapeño-infused Del Maguey Vida:
- Combine sliced peppers with mescal for 24-48 hours, depending on desired strength.
- Strain and store for future use.
For the cocktail:
- Combine ingredients into shaker tins and shake vigorously with ice for 10-15 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with 4 dots of basil oil.
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