For years tequila has been the main agave distillate at pretty much every bar, but its smokey sibling mezcal is making moves, appearing on cocktail menus from coast to coast. As of three months ago, San Antonio, Texas scored its own agave-focused bar, Mezcaleria Mixtli, which stocks over 40 mezcals, in addition to sotol, bacanora and, of course, tequila.
Co-owner Jesse Torres is behind drinks and he explains that "El Torito" translates to "Little Bull" in English, and the name references a popular libation from the Gulf Coastal and central states of Mexico. While the cocktail appears in many iterations, the recipe below is a nod to a drink that was frequently consumed at old bull fighting rings. He notes, "Serrano (or jalapeño) peppers are commonly added, but may be omitted or reduced for a milder drink. More than just a Tequila Sunrise version, this is the father to that style of drink dating back to the turn of the 20th century."
1-2 slices of serrano pepper
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 ounces Joven or Espadin mezcal
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Muddle the serrano pepper and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a Collins glass over ice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with an orange slice a sprinkle of Tajín or other chili salt.