It seems like just a year ago that the cocktail world exploded with its newfound element of hot spice, as it hasn’t really faded from craft cocktail menus since. From fresh muddled jalapeno in the bottom of a margarita to a drop of two of habanero bitters into a light summer Gin concoction. The spicy factor has made its way through all spirit fronts. One particularly strong new player in the spicy spirits world that has quickly solidified itself as a bar-shelf staple in just a few short years is Ancho Reyes.
Ancho Reyes is an ancho-chile-flavored liqueur, which only started selling very recently, in 2014. The recipe is based on an old Pueblan recipe from the 1920s. From a time and place where most of the spirits were imported from the incoming European empires. Meaning lots of spirits like Cognacs floated around the region. Thus, it was also a time when homemade liqueurs (menjurjes) were created in great volumes. Due to both the high cost and distaste for these imported spirits.
It is said that the menjurjes were sipped while the artists and thinkers discussed to their hearts’ content in the bars of the Barrio del Artista. Puebla, Mexico, was known for its ancho chiles, which are dried and smoked poblano peppers; and so, due to a small range of available ingredients that were locally accessible, one of the most popular of the menjurjes was distilled with the ancho chile by the Reyes family.
The recipe is based on an old Pueblan recipe from the 1920s, a time when homemade liqueurs (menjurjes) were sipped while the artists and thinkers discussed to their hearts’ content in the bars fo the Barrio del Artista
Formulating the Flavors
While the original ancho chile menjurjes are not precisely what Ancho Reyes is today. The co-founders of Ancho Reyes made their way through any and all documented history that they could find on it. Both of the founders are also behind Montelobos Mezcal and one, Moises Guindi, is the creator of Milagro Tequila as well—that is, they are certainly no strangers to the spirits world, and it’s no surprise, then, that they created a perfect complement to the Mezcal and Tequila spirits.
To make Ancho Reyes, the peppers are first specially hand-selected per batch. As their master distiller, Lupita Garcia sources these from local farmers and the region’s volcanic soils. Once a plot of peppers has been harvested, the soil is not used to grow peppers for another three years. To ensure its health and optimal conditions for another future batch.
The peppers are then macerated in a sugarcane distillate from Veracruz when the peppers are either dried or undried, depending on the bottling. This stepped maceration technique gives the finished liqueur a little less of a sharp bite than the use of fresh peppers. It holds more of a warm, gentle heat on the finish. (For relative scale, the jalapeno is about five times hotter than the poblano.)
Ancho Reyes Original is known to be smoky—from the drying of the poblano pepper—as well as spicy, and holds just a touch of sweetness
The finished Ancho Reyes batches are then mixed with others, by the Ancho Reyes team’s Master Blender, to achieve consistency across bottles. The bottles are then rested, and hand-labeled.
There are currently two kinds of Ancho Reyes available: the Ancho Reyes Original, and the Ancho Reyes Verde.
Ancho Reyes Original
The classic concoction, Ancho Reyes Original is made from chiles that have been sun-dried for 15 to 20 days. Then cut individually by hand, and then soaked for eight months in a neutral cane spirit. It attains a sort of dry spice, and is known to be smoky, spicy, and hinting at just a touch of sweetness.
Notes: cinnamon, apple, oak, coffee, mixed herbs, and plums
Ancho Reyes isn’t a particularly syrupy-sweet liqueur, but serves as a good substitute for sweeter components in classic cocktails. It plays really nicely with most of the classics built upon Tequila, Rum, and Whiskey
Ancho Reyes Verde
Ancho Reyes Verde is the special edition, a limited-edition bottling, which is distilled under the same formula. But uses mashed green poblano chiles harvested early in August instead of the late-harvested and sun-dried poblanos of the Ancho Reyes Original. While some of the poblanos are fire-roasted, they are not dried. Thus the Verde rounds out to more of a herbaceous and peppery profile, much brighter and a bit less sweet than its Original counterpart.
While Ancho Reyes isn’t a particularly syrupy-sweet liqueur, it does serve as a good substitute for sweeter components in classic cocktails. It plays really nicely with most of the classics built upon the succulent-based spirits. Like Tequila, Mezcal, and Sotol, along with Rum and Whiskey. Another good rule of thumb is to pair the sweeter, heavier-profiled Ancho Reyes Original with darker, brown spirits, and the fresher Ancho Reyes Verde with lighter, white spirits.
One of the co-founders, Ivan Saldana, from Guadalajara, is also behind Montelobos Mezcal—it’s no surprise, of course, that he created a perfect complement to the Mezcal spirit
Of course, if you’re a particularly big, hot spice fan, try a pour in a glass on its own or with a bit of ice. And like a true aperitif, it can help stimulate the appetite before a meal.
Spicy Mexican Mule
From Ancho Reyes
1 part Ancho Reyes Original
1/4 part fresh lime juice
3 parts ginger beer
- Fill a copper mule mug with ice.
- Add the Ancho Reyes Original and fresh lime juice to the mug.
- Pour the ginger beer on top and stir lightly.
- Garnish with a fresh lime wedge or wheel and crystallized ginger.
The ancho chiles are individually hand-selected, individually hand-cut, and, yes, individually hand-labeled, keeping the traditions of the 1920s alive
From Ancho Reyes
1 part Ancho Reyes Verde
1 part Hendrick’s Gin
1 part fresh lime juice
1/2 part rich simple syrup
1 cucumber slice
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake hard to chill and dilute.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass, and garnish with a thinly sliced cucumber wheel.