Friday, December 19, 2008

Los Afrodisíacos...

...I've sampled in my time, or at least those what claim to be, have been...numerous. Needless to say, when the marketing pitch for a particular spirit cites its' primary flavor component as one such substance, I'm at once intensely skeptical & mildly interested...

The aphrodisiac in question here is Damiana, a small shrub indigenous to Mexico, Central & South America, with tiny yellow flowers and dark green, somewhat bitter, leaves which slightly resemble Holly in appearance. This herb has been noted since Mayan times as a mild stimulant - particularly in the bedroom, as it were - as well as a cure-all for all manner of mild health issues. Modern science has suggested that certain concentrations of the substance are useful in the pursuit of pleasure, as well as some other uses of nominally-less interest; herbalists are fairly quick to tout its' benefits. I have sampled teas made from the dried leaves of this peculiar plant in the past and, quite frankly, remain skeptical of its purported effects. It is however, possessed of an interesting, if bitter, herbal flavor - not entirely dissimilar to a vegetal Chamomile - which is greatly enhanced & improved by the addition of a little sugar or honey.

The spirit in question here is called Agavero, a licor (i.e. liqueur) which hails from the Los Camichines Distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. It is produced by combining limousin oak-aged Reposado and Añejo Tequilas; into which an extract of the flowers (not the leaves) from the aforementioned botanical Damiana is then blended. The resulting infusion (which is sweetened) is a variation on one which has been traditionally-made for a long time in Mexico and which remains popular there - particularly in the states which make up the Baja California peninsula.

Agavero is a slightly thick, extremely-sweet liqueur that weighs in at 32% ABV; similar in proof to a triple-sec or curaçao, but is not a Tequila. In tasting I found it far too sweet to be enjoyed neat, as many have recommended. While it does taste of (unusually-sweet) Tequila, the bitter botanical taste of Damiana I had expected just weren't there; instead something else - a light flavor vaguely suggestive of Chamomile - presented itself.

Agavero has seen some success in cookery though, with a number of recipes for meals developed by cookbook author Diane Brown. The bulk of these recipes appear to involve caramelizing the sugars in said spirit, which may very well add a measure of complexity to it's flavor profile - likely letting it blend well with certain foods. That said, the spirit is interesting, but I feel that its' use in cocktails should be relegated to that of a modifier; particularly one which adds sweetness to a given drink. Replacing the triple-sec in a Margarita, for example, sounds like an interesting start...

To modify the liqueur's overall flavor I came up with the following variation on the classic Calvados Cocktail; made with Agavero, fresh Tangerine & Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy. The strength of the Laird's, combined with a heavy jolt of citrus bitters, rounds off the intense sweetness of the Agavero, allowing its slight herbal quality to interact in a far more-balanced way with the other ingredients. The resulting cocktail was pleasantly approachable - bittersweet with some interesting spicey notes - and overall, quite a nice way to enjoy this liqueur (©):

Florecer de Desierto
1½ oz. Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1½ oz. fresh Tangerine juice
1 oz. Agavero Licor de Tequila
2¾ Teaspoons: Honey Tangerine or Regan's Orange bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice & shake well. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass & garnish with a (knotted) twist of Lemon.

Cheers & Enjoy!

In the interest of full disclosure, samples of Agavero were provided for use in writing this article.

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