Food and Drink

This Mezcal and Vermouth Cocktail is Reason Enough to Travel to Madrid

Bartender Raúl Navarro of Dani at the Four Seasons Madrid shares his recipe.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Madrid
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Madrid
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Madrid

Dani is among the most alluring new bars and eateries in all of Spain. Perched atop the five-star Four Seasons Madrid, it possesses all the ingredients of a buzz-worthy dining destination: a celebrity chef in the form of Michelin starred Dani García, sensational views overlooking the centre of Puerta del Sol, sleek and stylish interior (think urban garden with Art Deco accents), and an innovative and evolving drinks menu.

Locking down that last bit is head bartender Raúl Navarro. If you haven’t had a taste of what he’s preparing on the property…well, that’s entirely understandable. It is in Madrid, after all.

One of the main things you’re missing out on-in addition to Navarro’s infectious personality and stick-side manner-is the bespoke Spanish vermouth program featured at the Four Seasons. Downstairs in the lobby bar you can savour some of the native liquid, specially conceived by Bodegas Barbadillo, pouring directly from the sherry barrel in which it matures.

But if your plans aren’t taking you to the capital of Spain this summer, you can take a taste of the city back to your home bar instead. Below Navarro shares his recipe for The Leyenda, a refreshing yet complex cocktail built around mezcal, Chartreuse, and a Spanish vermouth that’s happily accessible here in the U.S. Salud!

Leyenda Recipe

Ingredients:
• 20ml Maguey Vida Mezcal
• 15ml González Byass Red Copa Vermouth
• 15ml Noilly Prat Dry
• 10ml Licor Chartreuse green
• 22ml Campari
• 1 dash Bittermens Hellfire Habanero

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, serve in a rocks glass, with a giant cube of ice. Garnish with grapefruit and orange.

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Brad Japhe is a freelance journalist with a wicked case of the get-up-and-gos. He’s usually found at the junction of food, booze, and travel. Follow him @Journeys_with_Japhe.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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