Text and Photography by
For hot summer days
Ahh, summer in Maine. There’s really nothing like it. Whether you enjoy time on a sandy beach, the granite coast, or along the edge of a pristine lake, a Maine summer is the reward for getting beyond Mud Season. And what better way to kick off summer than with some fun tequila cocktails.
Tequila is actually a variety of mezcal, which can be made from many varieties of the agave plant. Tequila, by law, is made only from the blue weber agave. It takes eight years for a piña (agave heart) to mature for harvesting; and agave is a one-time-only use plant. The various aging of tequilas ranges from Blanco (aged zero to two months) to Reposado (aged two months to one year) to Añejo (aged one to three years) and Extra Añejo (aged more than three years).
With mezcal, the piña hearts are charred and roasted in pits to impart a rich, smoky flavor. With tequila they are not, thus no smokiness. While mezcal and tequila aren't distilled in Maine, our Maine bartenders are doing some creative things with these spirits. Sweet, spicy, bitter, smoky. These cocktails offer something for everyone.
The Honey Paw in Portland has been hot since it opened in 2015. It has a short but uber-creative list of cocktails. The tequila cocktail on the menu is Strong Paw. This is smoky, mildly spicy, full of citrus, and not too sweet; a nice departure from many of the more classic margarita varieties. At first sip, the lime is prevalent but the touch of honey balances the tartness beautifully without adding much sweetness. Next you taste the tequila, followed by the mezcal, a smooth transition that doesn’t overpower the tequila. Then there’s a hint of spice that hits the back of the throat but doesn’t linger. The verdict is a nicely balanced cocktail.
1½ ounces Reposado tequila *
½ ounce mezcal
¾ ounce Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
1 ounce lime
¼ ounce honey syrup [2:1 Honey:Water (done by weight)]
5 drops of Thai bird chili tincture (Thai bird chilis soaked in high-proof vodka)
Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously with ice. Pour into a glass and garnish with a lime. Enjoy.
Fog Bar in Rockland won 2016 readers’ choice Best Cocktail Bar in Downeast Magazine. Bar manager Josh Cardoso said they regularly have nine specialty cocktails on the menu with names such as Stiggy Stardust, Red Leather Pants, and Above the Clouds (it would be fun to be a fly on the wall during those brainstorming sessions!). They are expanding to 12 for summer. One of the new cocktails is the Mezcalito. This cocktail has a light smokiness that doesn’t hit you in the face, with just a hint of sweetness. You really need to make a visit to experience Fog Bar's creativity firsthand.
Hickory-smoked coarse sea salt
1 ounce Mijes Reposado mezcal (from Oaxaca)
½ ounce Herradura Añejo tequila
¾ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wheel for garnish
Rim a coupe glass with coarse smoked salt (they use Doctor Dave's Smokehouse hickory-smoked kosher salt from Readfield, Maine). Combine the mezcal, tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice and shake vigorously with ice. Strain it into your salt-rimmed glass and garnish with a floating lime wheel. Sip and smile.
Make your way down the Boothbay peninsula to The Thistle Inn in Boothbay Harbor. Owners Anya and Dick Reid are having a lot of fun with a great bar staff and a new cocktail repertoire. One of the creations has that fantastic sweet-spicy thing happening that’s become super popular. It’s the Habanero Watermelon Margarita. Before your first sip, the aroma fresh-cut watermelon entices you, followed by the mint and lime. The mint is a lovely unexpected treat. And the homemade hot sauce is killer. It’s a blend of hot peppers that offers just enough spice on the tip of your tongue, but doesn’t linger. For those spice junkies, ask the bartender to muddle some hot peppers.
Habanero Watermelon Margarita
2 ounces fresh watermelon
1 ounce watermelon simple syrup (made from sugar and strained watermelon purée)
Splash of fresh lemon juice
1 lime wedge
1 teaspoon habanero hot sauce (they use a house-made sauce with roasted habaneros, jalapeños, Thai chilis, red peppers, garlic, and scallions blended with a touch of raw apple cider vinegar)
3 ounces of silver tequila (we like Espolòn Blanco)
½–1 ounce oz Cointreau
The Thistle Inn House Sour Mix
Sprig of mint
Muddle the watermelon, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime wedge, and hot sauce then add ice, tequila, Cointreau and sour mix. Garnish with mint and serve.
The Thistle Inn House Sour Mix
1½ cups lime juice
½ cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Combine in a gallon container and fill to the gallon line with water.
Next up is Northern Union, a wine-focused restaurant and bar in the seaside village of Ogunquit that definitely feels like it is also focused on mixing up an amazing array of cocktails behind the bar. Alongside the hand-crafted and locally sourced creations of Executive Chef Romann Dumorne, you can sip on the luscious libations of Tim Yee, known as “The Guy Behind the Bar.” We recently visited with Yee to sample his Corn Salsa Margarita and it was both unique and delicious.
Corn Salsa Margarita
2 ounces roasted corn-infused tequila
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce habanero shrub
Cucumber, Maldon sea salt and Espelette pepper flakes for garnish
Combine ingredients and shake over ice. Pour into glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber and a pinch of Maldon sea salt (or a large-flake salt) and a pinch of Espelette pepper flakes (or paprika).
Roasted Corn-Infused Tequila
3 ears of corn
1 liter any 100% Agave Blanco/Silver Tequila
Place whole corn with husk on a heated grill. Cook for approximately 20–30 minutes, rotating corn periodically. Corn husk will be black and charred when finished. Some kernels make take on some grill marks as well. Let cool for 10 minutes. Discard silt and husk from corn.
Using a knife, shave kernels off the cob and place into a large airtight jar. Cut the cob in half and place in jar as well. Pour in tequila and seal. Let it sit for 3 days then strain out the solids.
1½ cups cider vinegar
2 cups demerara sugar
2 habanero peppers cut in half
In a saucepan, heat vinegar until it is just about to boil, then remove from heat. Add sugar and habaneros; stir until granules are dissolved. Let cool for 15 minutes and remove peppers.
Edible Maine’s Dana Moos has added to this summer issue with a Smokin’ Bloody Maria. This is a twist on the classic with smoky mezcal and roasted jalapeño-infused tequila. It will make a great addition to your brunch cocktail repertoire.
Smokin’ Bloody Maria
½ teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon smoked sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 cup homemade Bloody Mary mix, chilled
2 ounces mezcal
1 ounce roasted jalapeño-infused Herradura Silver tequila
1 ounce Herradura Silver tequila
½ ounce lime juice
Lime wedge, 2 cherry tomatoes, 4 spicy dilly beans and 2 fresh jalapeño slices for garnish
Mix together ½ teaspoon each of smoked paprika and smoked sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
Run a cut lime around the rim of two glasses and dip the rims into the spice mixture. Add ice to the glasses.
Mix all other ingredients (including the ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika) and pour into the glasses. Garnish with a lime wedge, cherry tomatoes, spicy dilly beans and a fresh jalapeño slice.
Homemade Bloody Mary Mix
2 cups tomato juice
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1½ tablespoons sriracha
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Roasted Brown Sugar Jalapeño-Infused Tequila
2 fresh jalapeños
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 cup Herradura Silver tequila
On a sheet pan, broil the jalapeños until they are nicely charred and blistered. Then turn the oven to 425°. Add the brown sugar to the jalapeños and roast for 15–18 minutes. Let peppers cool and add them (and the caramelized brown sugar in the pan) to the tequila in a jar and let meld until ready to use (at least a couple days). The longer you infuse the tequila, the spicier it will be.
Dana Moos is the author of The Art of Breakfast: How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home, as well as a former innkeeper and has spent many years dazzling her guests with food and drink.