Monday 16 September marked Mexican Independence Day, the perfect occasion to find the UK’s best mezcal cocktail. Six finalists gathered at Dalston agaveria Hacha, each making use of a different mezcal brand to create their drinks.
This agave-filled day of cocktails followed on from Britain’s Best Tequila Cocktail Competition at Hacha in July, in which Mark McClintock of Every Cloud emerged triumphant with his cocktail Tequila Calling, a mixture of sugar snap pea infused-Arette Tequila, homemade Granny Smith apple cordial and fino sherry.
The ethos behind the comp, and the decision to work with various brands, is all about community. As Hacha’s Deano Moncrieffe put it: ‘Hacha is about bringing the community together, and I hope it continues to do so long after this competition.’
As with the tequila iteration, the winner of the mezcal comp will be headed to Mexico with Hacha’s Emma Murphy and Deano Moncrieffe, and will see their cocktail listed at Hacha for a full year.
Entries for Monday's comp had been whittled down to six finalists, who presented their drinks to a panel of judges looking for balance, suitability of the cocktail to Hacha’s menu and brand knowledge, not to mention how well the cocktail was shaped by the mezcal’s flavour profile. These top three cocktails were then available for consumers at Hacha to taste throughout the evening, with their votes contributing towards the final decision.
Those top three finalists were Andrey Schmalbach of The Langham, representing Casamigos, Alexander Taylor of Pennyroyal, representing Gem & Bolt, and Gemma Terry of Ojo Rojo, representing Dangerous Don. Also in the top six yesterday was Fam’s Bruce Govia for Pensador, The Westbury Mayfair’s Andrea Paleari for Corte Vetusto, and Jack Solomons’ Brenda Santos for Mezcal Union.
Schmalbach set out to create ‘a cocktail for everyone’, that was not only accessible, but easy to reproduce. His Jimadores Sip, built over ice in a wine glass, was elegant in its simplicity. It included a Sangria-inspired agua fresca, with wine replacing the water, as well as salted lemon verbena, alongside Casamigos Mezcal.
Taylor, meanwhile, linked Gem & Bolt mezcal to the ethos of his bar, with both highlighting the healing power of plants. He aimed to pull out its green flavours by using lemon verbena, and entice gin drinkers into trying his mezcal cocktail by including Hendrick’s Orbium as a modifier. To emphasise the mezcal’s Espadin flavours, he included manzanilla sherry too.
But it was Terry’s drink with Dangerous Don, Smoking Mirror, that was ultimately named the UK’s best mezcal cocktail. This was a complex twist on the Manhattan, designed to showcase the flavours of the mezcal, which is distilled with coffee beans. A combination of complementary flavours from ingredients such as sweet vermouth and ruby port, as well as chocolate and umami notes from porcini mushrooms, were smoked in the glass and served alongside dark chocolate and salt.
An excellent late-night mezcal drink, a worthy winner of the title of the UK’s best mezcal cocktail, and a fine addition to the drinks list at Hacha.