If you’re not familiar with bacanora – who am I kidding, you probably aren’t – I’ll give the short description. Bacanora is mezcal’s obscure northern cousin, or one of the many little known liquors of Mexico, one only now receiving attention as tequila has ceded some room in the spotlight.
Hailing from the state of Sonora, and the town of Bacanora, this mezcal variety is heavy on the smoke, big on character, and still largely produced at the small batch level.
It is that very smoke-heavy flavor of bacanora which makes it an ideal pairing with sweet fruit flavors. Nothing of the smoke is lost in the combination, only enhanced. While the egg white in this cocktail is not strictly necessary, it does add a pleasant body to the drink, as well as a beautiful foam.
Waking up with a cold nose makes me wish I had planned ahead in one of several ways. I could have closed the windows the night before. I could have made soup; there are few things better than soup for breakfast. I could have placed a glass of scotch on my bedside table for a quick warming drink first thing. I don’t think that far ahead.
Fortunately an atole is quick to make and quick to warm up cold noses. This very old Mexican beverage is thickened with corn masa, or more conveniently instant corn masa flour. The drink isn’t exclusively corn, however, with wheat, rice and mesquite flour varieties also consumed.
Use chocolate in tablet form for this recipe, as it is rich enough to balance out the strong corn flavor. While the old favorite Abuelita and Ibarra tablet chocolate are perfectly satisfying, they are far sweeter than the product used to be before becoming popular in the American market. Try instead Rancho Gordo’s Stoneground Chocolate tablets. Barely sweetened and spiced, their flavor is pure chocolate, subtle hints of smoke and berries included.
In a small pot, whisk corn flour into two cups cold water. Add remaining ingredients except for vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer, and cook while stirring until the tablet has dissolved completely and the atole de moka has thickened. The liquid should have a dark sheen to it and just coat the back of a spoon.
Add vanilla extract. Pass through a fine mesh strainer. Any leftover atole can be gently reheated in a microwave or on the stovetop.
Hot hibiscus beverages are one of those things I can’t accept. Hibiscus has a sharp tart flavor which is wonderful cold, but warm, it feels like a molten acid wash exposing a fresh layer to my insides. I exaggerate, as usual, but this weightless flower contains a strong tart flavor. Only a small amount is needed to properly flavor a large batch of agua de jamaica, fortunate as this is an expensive ingredient, usually selling for $8 a pound or more.
Look for hibiscus which is bright in color and dry but still pliable. Even with its considerable tartness, my preference for agua de jamaica is for it to be just barely sweet. There’s no reason to throw away the hibiscus after steeping, not when the flowers could easily be used to flavor simple syrup, the kind hipster mixologists have been putting into pricey cocktails.
Rinse the flowers under running cold water. Squeeze out any remaining water.
Bring one quart water and hibiscus flowers to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to infuse at room temperature for at least an hour.
Strain, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract any liquid from the flowers. Add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the remaining quart of water and refrigerate. Consume within three days.
Despite the continuing love for all things coffee and Mexican food in current food trends, café de olla, or clay pot coffee, has failed to take hold in the American food consciousness, even with Epicurious, and Bon Appétit (and myself) publishing recipes for this lightly sweetened and spiced coffee, it seems Starbucks won’t be shilling overpriced café de olla anytime soon.
Just as well.
Frequently brewed in a clay pot, which imparts not only imparts its own particular flavor but also absorbs the scent of the coffee and spices over time, cafe de olla is lightly sweetened with piloncillo, or panela, hard unrefined sugar cones or bars, and spiced with cinnamon. My own version also includes orange peel, and allspice, which can easily be substituted with star anise or cloves as desired.
This cold brew café de olla recipe splits the water quantity before brewing, using only half to sweeten and infuse the water, then adding the remaining water either as cold water or ice to quickly cool the liquid before adding to the coffee grounds. If there is one beautiful thing about the metric system is that 1 milliliter of water is equal to one gram of water. No one said you couldn’t weigh your water, or ice in this case.
It is incredibly useful when making cold brew coffee to place the coffee grounds in a jelly bag, rather than mixing them directly in the water, making it easier to strain and squeeze out any liquid saturating the grounds.
950 ml (1 quart) ice cold water OR 950 g (33.5 ounces) ice
150 g (scant 2 cups) coarsely ground coffee
Place 950 ml of water, sugar, orange peel and spices in a pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow liquid to infuse for half an hour, then mix with an additional 950 ml of cold water or 950 grams of ice to cool quickly. If using ice, stir well to dissolve completely.
Place coffee grounds, in a jelly bag or directly, in a 1/2 gallon, or larger, container. Pour cooled infused water over grounds, stirring a few times. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Remove the jelly bag containing the grounds, or strain by lining a fine mesh strainer with a coffee filter or muslin kitchen towel, being sure to dampen either slightly to ensure better stick to the strainer and prevent absorption of the coffee to be filtered.
Best if consumed within five days, and served over plenty of ice.