"The plateau of Mexico is 8,000 feet high, and that of Puebla 9,000 feet." -Edward Burnett Tyler
When a region’s most famous agricultural output is the basis of its most famous spirit, I have high hopes the quality and taste of a liquor. In Mexico, Puebla is known for its pepper and chiles. Poblano peppers thrive in the volcanic soil in the shadow of Popocatépetl, North America’s largest active volcano. When dried, these peppers are called ancho chiles and they are the basis of Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur.
Peppers and chiles dominate the food landscape of Puebla with famous dishes such as mole poblano and chiles en nogada. Now, Ancho Reyes has begun carving out a space in the world of spirits. The company bases their liqueur on a recipe from 1927 that was nearly lost to time. To make the spirit the traditional way, they must sun-dry the poblanos for two to three weeks. After this period the peppers become ancho chiles, which simply means “wide” or “broad” chiles. They earn this moniker from the shape they take as they desiccate in the scorching Puebla sun. Once the chiles complete the drying process, they must be steeped in a sugarcane spirit for six months. This allows for a full extraction before the “Maestra Maceradora” or “Master Blender” finishes the spirit with the addition of final seasonings and sweeteners to give each bottle its je ne sais quoi.
Ancho Reyes gets its distinctive essence from the ancho chiles. The chiles make themselves known in the scent and taste. With an initial pass under the nose the hints of peppers’ former fire dance in the nostrils. With the first taste, there is a surprise, as the initial flavor has a hint of cinnamon sugar. While hints of the initial sweetness remain throughout a sip, new elements emerge. As the flavor progresses the heat takes center stage and creeps across the palate. By end the ancho lingers in the back of the throat producing an inviting warmth to take another dram.
Ancho Reyes brings something different to cocktails than most liquors: heat. The spirit works in a number of classic Mexican drinks. I’d also recommend incorporating it into your tiki cocktails. The heat plays well with tropical fruits and can cut through many drinks that you may worry are too sweet.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: An Aztec Flip
This pre-Colombian drink blends the heat and the sweet well. The whole egg adds a velvety texture that carries the flavor through. This cocktail alone makes me want to incorporate more spice into a greater variety of drinks.
For the drink:
-1 oz Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
-1/2 oz crème de cacao (Tempus Fugit)
-1/2 oz honey simple syrup
-1 whole egg
Combine the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake for a minute without ice. Add ice until three-quarters full and shake for 10 seconds. Pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer. Garnish.
Something Original: Bite Punch
Normally, punches feature rum as the prominent alcohol and have other spirits serve as accompaniments. However, I wanted to flip the script and make the spiciness of the Ancho Reyes the key ingredient. The brown butter tincture added to the chile flavor and built on the nuttiness of the orgeat syrup.
For the drink
-1 1/2 oz Ancho Reyes
-1/2 oz dark rum (George Bowman Caribbean Dark Rum)
-1 oz pineapple juice
-1/2 oz fresh lime juice
-1/2 oz orgeat syrup
-2 dashes brown butter tincture
Combine all the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake for 10 seconds and pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer. Garnish.
Eat Your Spirit: Mexican Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate and chiles are a tried and true combination. This flourless chocolate cake had a thick almost custard like texture.
For the Flourless Chocolate Cake:
-4 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao)
-2 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels
-8 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
-3 large eggs
-1/4 cup water
-1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-2 1/2 tablespoons Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
-Set your oven to 275 degrees F.
-Combine the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir to combine as both melt.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch, then whisk in the remaining ingredients.
-Grease 5 ramekins (the number may differ depending on how big they are)
-Whisk chocolate mixture into the other ingredients slowly. Transfer to a large measuring cup for ease of pour.
-Fill your ramekins about three-quarters full and place them on a baking sheet.
-Cook for about 20-30 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer 170 degrees is an ideal temperature. If not, a slight jiggle in the center is ideal.
This post, like others about regions I have not been to, means this section of the post is a little different. I have only been to Puerto Vallarta and the Jalisco state of Mexico. Ancho Reyes comes from the Puebla state in south-central Mexico, a UNESCO world heritage site.
-See the cities astounding array of architectural designs.
-Visit the art galleries of the region.
-You can visit the oldest library in the Americas.
-The world's largest pyramid is in Puebla and a Spanish church now sits on top.
Food and Drink:
-A 100 year old bar.
-Mole is the most popular dish from Puebla
-There are many places to try chiles en nogada.