A really cool trend in my opinion is switching mezcal for bourbon or rye in fairly traditional cocktails. I am a big bourbon fan and I know that this sounds anathema to fellow bourbon lovers, but hear me out. I’ve been faced with the usual assortment of cocktails, dressed up slightly differently and with different names for years. You have your gin drinks, your vodka drinks, maybe a shrub or juice based drink, and then twists on the old standards: Manhattan and Old Fashioned. Those last two are what I usually fall back on, knowing full well that I run a real risk that they will either taste just like they should or suffer some grave defect, such as too much vermouth, not enough sugar, too much sugar, and a fairly predictable bourbon or rye. At least two Des Moines area restaurants are game to add some Mezcal: Table 128 in the Des Moines suburb of Clive and Harbinger on Ingersoll in Des Moines. Both restaurants are well known as top tier restaurants and both feature excellent bars.
Harbinger’s cocktail is named “Bourbon Acting Like Pho” ($10). It is made with Vida Mezcal and Averna Amaro plus ginger, black pepper, garlic and Pernod. The ginger and garlic are unique ingredients and Averna Amaro is something I’ve never seen in a local bar, but the end result is a very smooth and flavorful drink. Somehow the cocktail manages to achieve this smoothness with neither citrus nor sugar overpowering the drink.
Table 128’s contribution is called the Tool Shed ($9). It is made with Monte Alban Mescal, Capel Piscol, Aperol, Cynar, Benedictine, and singed grapefruit peel. The Monte Alban Mezcal is more powerful than the Vida Mezcal used by Harbinger but it likely needs more backbone given the other ingredients.
While Table 128 is sort of a single stand-alone restaurant, Harbinger is part of the Alba and Eatery A group and shares some DNA with both restaurants. I will make a separate post about Harbinger. Both Table 128 and Harbinger are fantastic restaurants, but if you have already tried Table 128 be sure to get to the Harbinger.
If you want to know where to get Mezcal, then you can stop by Central City Liquors on Second Avenue. They have a descent variety of Mezcals of different price ranges.