The liqueur’s birth took nearly 100 days. It felt more like 300.
Before those steps, let’s cover the other item from our March piece starting this project.
In that story, we took early stock of the pandemic with the aim of returning in some 100 days, when the liqueur would be ready. Then, the virus had started to close or limit restaurants, leave hospitality professionals jobless, and threaten the local food supply chain. Though restaurants have started to reopen, many hospitality workers have reclaimed jobs, and local supply chains have proven resilient, the pandemic remains.
Actually, based on sheer data, the pandemic has deepened.
The number of daily new COVID-19 cases has soared. Despite what the governor has said, there’s still a strong upward trend, to the point that we’re still eating takeout. So for now, while the big picture of how things will look post-pandemic remains blurry, we’ll kick our big-picture analysis down the road, until the numbers drop and the end of this crisis comes into focus.
For now, that leaves us with our unfinished, multi-month kitchen project: mezcalcello. Luckily, making the liqueur is just a few long steps. Once the marathon steeping is done, the end is near.
I have to admit, I’m happy with how this experiment turned out. The key, I think, was to use freshly plucked lemons, an inexpensive-but-decent mezcal, and a scale for weighing your infused spirit base — cutting it with simple syrup to your liking, and pinning down the final ABV with some math.
Limoncello, frosty and zipping with citrus, can briefly obliterate summer heat. Traditionally, you sip a short pour after meals, the bracing liquid rolling coldly down your throat and soothing your system. But what can we do beyond tradition, and is that where such a riff must exist?
For perspective and ideas, I linked with a few pros.
First, I reached out to Guido Saccone of Cibo Urban Pizzeria, who infuses a classic limoncello. He uses grain alcohol and simple syrup to keep his liqueur close to but “slightly different from the original Sorrento recipe.” A mezcalcello? Not a limoncello, he believes, as you build the Italian original from grain alcohol.
Finally, I messaged Miguel Morra, who gets imaginative with mezcal at Vecina, notably in the form of an Old Fashioned riff served in a smoky treasure chest. In the past, he has experimented with mezcals infused with ingredients like forms of chocolate and vanilla.
“Mezcal is fun to infuse because it gives a lot of earth tones to whatever flavor you’re trying to achieve,” he says.
So I shook up a batch this week. And I sat with one winding down, reading, taking in the up-sloping graphs, and thinking about things beyond me — like the rush to shut down the state in the wake of predominantly peaceful protests yet the failure to properly close for a pandemic. Some people think the other side of this is here. Others know it remains distant.
This infinite spring, when every day we can feel the rumble and glide of history’s wheels moving, everything is changing, from criminal justice to public health, right on down to food and beverage.
What new food culture will emerge after the coronavirus? We still hope and wonder, just as we did in March. When will we be beyond, what new traditions will we carry, and how differently will we eat and drink?