The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
A couple of months ago, an odd product started appearing in liquor stores and on the shelves of the more adventurous bars: Ancho Reyes. It's a Mexican liqueur made with real ancho chile peppers. Its rich and surprisingly good flavor makes it a natural ingredient to add to cocktails served at better Mexican restaurants, the kind of places that already go well beyond the margarita slushie.
"This is too good to pass up," Kyle Harlan, bar manager at Mission Taco Joint (908 Lafayette Avenue; 314-932-5430) remembers thinking after first tasting Ancho Reyes. "We like products that use real ingredients. You can taste it. It's like biting into an ancho chili, but toned down a little."
Ancho Reyes is smoky and earthy on the nose, a deep chile flavor with some warm spice and a nice bite on the finish. "I think it's incredible," says Harlan, who recently brought Ancho Reyes to Mission for the bartenders to play around with. "I'm the unofficial creative director, but the staff as a whole has a lot to say about what products we use." And at Mission, Ancho Reyes was a big hit with everyone. At the Delmar location of Mission, Timothy Leon, known as Leo, came up with a stellar cocktail using Ancho Reyes, called the "Loop Rum Trolley."
It's served tall over ice and garnished with a dried chile pepper. The flavor is very daiquiri-esque, but with an earthy undertone. The deep spice of the Ancho Reyes is nicely balanced by a house-made vanilla agave syrup. The rich sweetness of the rum and the bright tartness of the lime juice shine in equal measure. It's a great way to use this intense and interesting liqueur without it being too overpowering, and now on the cocktail menu at both Mission locations.
Ancho Reyes debuted at Mission in November with the fall/winter cocktail list, but it's not going away any time soon. Look for it this spring in a new concoction, possibly a take on an "Old Cuban," which is like a mojito using Champagne instead of club soda. The gang at Gut Check will be downing a few of these as soon as spring arrives. ¡Salud!