In the hierarchy of agave-based spirits, Tequila remains #1 and the fast-rising mezcal holds the number two spot, but another agave spirit—sotol—is poised to become a contender.
While well-known in Mexico, sotol, made from the wild “desert spoon” agave from Mexico’s Chihuahua region, is only just beginning to trickle into the U.S. consciousness.
Brands such as Hacienda de Chihuahua and Don Cuco have been spotted at forward-thinking bars such as Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles and Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston.
To make sotol, the agave is steam-cooked as Tequila is prepared, not roasted like mezcal, yielding a grassy or herbal flavor rather than a smoky effect.
“It’s a very different flavor,” says Anvil bartender and co-owner Bobby Huegel, who likens the different types of agave to wine varieties. “It’s underutilized.”
One way he has persuaded newbies to try sotol: in cocktails. His “The Brave” drink is made with Hacienda de Chihuahua Plata Sotol, mezcal, Averna, orange Curaçao and Angostura bitters. The bold-flavored drink has become so popular that Huegel says it has become the house drink, and he will never take it off the cocktail menu.
Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston TX
Ask Heugel what the most innovative cocktail on his menu and he’ll say The Brave—a mix of mezcal, sotol, amaro, Curaçao and bitters. “You won’t find anything like this in any bar, and it’s really for the bravest of cocktails,” says Heugel. “I like it because it features Mexican spirits I’ve been mixing in cocktails for years, which have a strong tradition in Southern Texas.” The drink is intensely aromatic because it’s served in a wine glass in order to capture the nose of the spirits as well as the aromatics from the flamed orange zest and the bitters.
1 ounce Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal
1 ounce Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Plata
½ ounce Averna Amaro
1 bar spoon Orange Curaçao
3 mists Angostura Bitters
Flamed Orange Zest, garnish
In a large Bordeaux-style wine glass without ice, combine the mezcal, sotol, averna and curaçao. Swirl until mixed. Mist the Angostura bitters on top of the drink. Flame an orange zest and add to the glass.