Friday, October 30, 2015

The Oaxacan Dead

It is the time of year when I watch horror movies. Not just a few, either. I gorge on them like a zombie gorges on human flesh. Speaking of zombies, I never tire of a good zombie flick.

As a kid, I inflicted myself with a sick sense of existential dread watching George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead. I used to imagine what it would feel like to come home from school and find my home abandoned... Front door swinging on its hinges, the aftermath of a struggle, blood caked on the floor... And then to discover that my family had become bloodthirsty zombies. Where would I run to? Who could help me? As a child, it genuinely terrified me. So, after that, I watched every zombie movie I could get my hands on. I still do. Right now, the Walking Dead continues to fascinate (and frustrate) me. Maybe it is something about the struggle to retain some human dignity within a world increasingly driven by dumb bloodlust.

Night of the Living Dead
In homage to zombies, I am sharing a recipe for a drink called the Oaxacan Dead. From what I can tell, this cocktail was concocted right here in Boston at Deep Ellum, down in Allston. Their recipe is a bit different from the one presented here. Subtitled the "Mezcal Zombie," their version includes mezcal, rum from Jamaica and Trinidad, falernum, grenadine, grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, Herbsaint, bitters, and citrus. The ingredients, especially the falernum, place this drink firmly into the tiki category (it is, in fact, derived from Don the Beachcomber's original 1934 Zombie, and is similar to the Mai Tai). In the same family as orgeat syrup, falernum is a sugar syrup with hints of lime, ginger, vanilla, clove, allspice, and almond—Caribbean flavors that impart a fragrant, tart, sweet, and spicy element.

The Walking Dead
A brief note about falernum. I use John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum, a sugarcane-derived product of Barbados that contains a bit of alcohol and is far superior to the competition, if that competition is Fee Brothers. While it might do in a pinch, the Fee Brothers falernum syrup is full of sweeteners and artificial flavors and mercilessly free of alcohol. It is worth the effort to find John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum if you plan on making any sort of tiki drink from the era of Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic's. However, if you can't find it in the store, many folks suggest that homemade falernum is not only quite easy, but also better than anything you can buy in the store. Read more about that in Imbibe magazine.

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Despite its tropical origins in the Zombie, I am sharing this recipe for the Oaxacan Dead now, in the last days of a New England October, because I think it is thematically appropriate for my favorite day: Halloween. Honestly, I am unaware of how the original recipe for this drink (with rum) evolved into the one highlighted below, but I can attest that the smokey flavor of the mezcal and the tangy notes of the falernum and lime blend perfectly with the earthy apricot liqueur. It's a delightful, satisfying drink—as good on a chilly October night is it would be on a beach-balmy summer afternoon—and I encourage you to celebrate All Hallows' Eve with one.

The Oaxacan Dead
  • 1 1/2 oz mezcal (I used Vida)
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur (I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot)
  • 1/2 oz falernum (if you can find it, John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
  • 2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
  • Fresh mint for garnish
Shake the ingredients vigorously—look alive!—with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with the mint (if you want—it is not critical). Bottoms up!

And, Happy Halloween!

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