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Celebrate Día de los Muertos with these cocktail and snack pairings from KOL Mezcaleria

Take part in the storied Mexican celebration with these recipe pairings from Michelin-starred KOL restaurant and their downstairs mezcal bar

Where halloween tends to celebrate horror: ghosts and ghouls and all things spooky, Día de los Muertos is decidedly different in tone, seen as a way to pay homage to lost loved ones. Usually taking place over the first two days of November, but sometimes running for as long as a week depending on where you are, the festival is characterised by an explosion of colour; distinctive makeup, vibrant costumes, singing and dancing and a general celebration of life, even after it’s gone.

There are many theories on where Día de los Muertos originated. Some believe it to be a continuation of European traditions like All Souls’ Day, while others are certain it stems from Aztec traditions of several thousand years ago when the dead weren’t mourned, but rather still seen as members of the community. However it started, it has solidified itself as a key and significant part of Mexican culture in the present day, and a prime export from the country, with celebrations being recreated around the world.

It’s one worth celebrating too – raising a toast to loved ones who are no longer with us. And what better way to do so than by honouring the Mexican tradition through food and drink? Santiago Lastra, head chef and co-owner of KOL restaurant, and Matthias Ingelmann, head bartender at KOL and KOL Mezcaleria, have come up with some incredible cocktail and snack pairings (also known as antojitos, roughly translated as 'little cravings', these dishes are also on the menu at KOL Mezcaleria) that highlight the complexity of mezcal, and the power of Mexican cuisine.

The pairings

1. Pistachio guacamole x Fig Leaf & Pine French 75

The central thread to Santiago Lastra’s culinary intentions at KOL is to interpret traditional Mexican dishes through a British ingredient-focused lens. This means reimagining many classic recipes, including guacamole. How do you make the infamous dip without avocado? With some serious culinary innovation and a fair amount of pistachio, that’s how – at least according to Lastra. On this pairing, Ingelmann says: “The guacamole is very fresh with the pine oil on top. We use a similar pine oil for the cocktail as well. It’s very easy to drink and is well balanced between richness and freshness which goes well with the guacamole. This will be one of the first snacks you eat, so it’s good to kick things off with an aperitif-style cocktail.”

2. Langoustine ceviche with rhubarb aguachile x La Cigala

Continuing with the British ingredients theme, Langoustine sits front and centre in this ceviche. It makes sense, the crustacean being the jewel in the British seafood crown, and a wonderful alternative to over-fished, often problematically-obtained prawns. “This is a very bright and fruity dish,” says Ingelmann. “The La Cigala has a nice acidity from the hibiscus and verjus, while rhubarb and The Glenmorangie add some fruitiness. The mezcal, meanwhile, adds some minerality and body. The light acidity of the cocktail really compliments the flavours of the dish.”

3. Truffle quesadilla x Sorrel & Hop Sour

Partnering with a farm in Canterbury, KOL have managed to produce their own British-made Oaxacan-style cheese to ensure they don’t lose the specific tang that makes quesadillas so wonderful. It’s a specific flavour profile to pair with, and Ingelmann says this drink helps balance sour with sour. “This dish is a lot about the crispy, gooey texture of the quesadilla,” he says. “The cocktail has a soft, velvety feel with a sour flavour profile. The quesadilla, with the truffle and matcha salsa, is quite rich and nutty, so the cocktail cuts through with some acidity and adds a bright herbaceousness, with the sorrel notes. It really helps balance the dish.”

The recipes

Pistachio guacamole

Serves 4

Preparation time 45 minutes

Cooking time 45 minutes

Ingredients

For the cucumber water

  • 2 cucumbers

For the scotch bonnet sauce

  • 100g scotch bonnet
  • 35ml lime juice
  • 25ml water
  • 5g Maldon salt

For the pistachio mole

  • 240g peeled pistachios
  • 240g cucumber water
  • 30ml kombucha
  • 10g scotch bonnet sauce
  • 50g finely chopped onion
  • 50g finely chopped cucumber
  • 20g chervil stems finely chopped

For the totopos

  • 1 pack corn tortillas (10 units)
  • 2 litres vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Maldon salt

Method

For cucumber water

  1. Peel and blend the cucumbers until smooth.
  2. Pass through some muslin cloth and a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate.

For the scotch bonnet sauce

  1. Char the scotch bonnets in a pan with no stem.
  2. Blend all the ingredients until smooth.
  3. Refrigerate.

For the pistachio cream

  1. Toast half of the pistachio for 3 minutes at 180C.
  2. Blend all to a powder.
  3. Then add the cucumber water and blend.
  4. Remove from the blender and stir through any neutral oil and a squeeze of lemon.

For the totopos

  1. Cut the tortillas in triangles (8 pieces per tortilla).
  2. Fry the tortillas pieces in oil at 200C until stop bubbling.
  3. Take out and dry immediately with kitchen roll.
  4. Reserve at room temperature in a dry environment.

To finish

  1. Serve the pistachio guacamole and the totopos in separate bowls.

Note: you can finish the plate with edible flowers and herbs for decoration

Fig leaf and pine French 75

Makes 1

Preparation time 10

Ingredients

  • 35 ml Sotol Ono
  • 25 ml Parafante Fig Leaf liqueur
  • 6 ml Spruce Tip Syrup
  • 15 ml Verjus
  • 25 ml Arbes aux Abailles ete Fleuri (Mead - substitute with)
  • 40 ml Soda Water

Method

For the spruce tip syrup

  1. Equal parts spruce tips and white caster sugar by weight.
  2. Mix in mason jar and let sit until dissolved and strain syrup.

For the cocktail

  1. Lowball glass or rocks glass, ice cubes or block.
  2. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Add Ingredients and mix gently until cold.

Langoustine ceviche with rhubarb aguachile

Serves 6

Preparation time 1.5 hours

Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the ceviche

  • 9 Langoustine (clean and slice into 2 cm chunks)
  • 120g sesame and almond mole
  • 50g rhubarb aguachile

For the rhubarb aguachile

  • 1 stick of rhubarb
  • 1 scotch bonnet without stem
  • 150ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50ml white wine vinegar

For the mole

  • 80g sesame seeds
  • 80g almonds whole (peeled)
  • 120g onions
  • 280ml seaweed water
  • 1g chilli powder
  • 8g garlic paste

For the seaweed water

  • 200g dry kelp seaweed (or kombu)
  • 5 litres water

For the garlic paste

  • 150g garlic (whole)

Method

For the rhubarb

  1. Gently simmer rhubarb in the solution until tender.
  2. Let cool, peel and slice to 5cm length.

Refrigerate

  1. For the seaweed water.
  2. Soak the seaweed in the water for 12 hrs refrigerated.
  3. Remove the seaweed.

For the garlic paste

  1. Wrap the garlic in tinfoil.
  2. Place the garlic on a tray uncovered.
  3. Cook in the oven at 190C for 45 minutes until golden and crisp on the outside.
  4. Should be soft to the touch.
  5. Cut the top of the garlic off to expose the cooked cloves.
  6. Squeeze out the garlic while warm into a bowl.
  7. Using gloves, pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove the excess skin.
  8. Blend until smooth.
  9. Refrigerate.

For the mole

  1. Cook the onion with oil until smooth but hasn’t taken on any colour.
  2. Toast the almonds for 8 min at 180C until golden.
  3. Toast the sesame seed for 12min at 180C.
  4. Blend all the ingredients until smooth.
  5. Season and refrigerate.

To finish

  1. Place 20 g of sesame and almond mole in the bottom of a bowl in a small circle.
  2. Place 1-2 langoustines worth of meat on top of the mole.
  3. Top up with 7 pieces of cooked rhubarb sliced.
  4. Finish with 10 ml of rhubarb aguachile.

La Cigala

Makes 1

Preparation time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15 ml Pensador Espadin mezcal
  • 15 ml Glenmorangie Original
  • 12.5 ml Rhubarb Cordial
  • 15 ml Verjus
  • 10 ml Hibiscus infusion
  • 55 ml Water

Method

For the rhubarb cordial

  1. Equal parts rhubarb and caster sugar by weight.
  2. Split and cut rhubarb in approx 3cm big pieces and mix it with the sugar. Cover and let sit for a few days until all the sugar is soaked up by the liquid. Strain.
  3. Per 100g of cordial, add 0.5g tartaric acid.

For the cocktail

  1. Wine glass, no ice.
  2. Mix ingredients but soda in a bottle or mixing glass and store in the fridge. When chilled pour into a wine glass and top with soda water.

Truffle quesadilla

Makes 10

Preparation time 1.5 hours

Cooking time 3 hours

Ingredients

For the cabbage puree

  • 1.1kg white cabbage
  • 40ml vegetable oil
  • 150ml white wine
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 40g chipotle in adobo (can)

For the truffle butter

  • Ratio of 1 part truffle to 4 parts butter (i.e. 20 grams truffle to 80 grams butter)

For the filling

  • 250g Oaxaca cheese (can also use mozzarella with added salt)
  • 50g truffle butter

To finish

  • 20g fresh truffle

Method

For the cabbage puree

  • Chop the cabbage into small pieces.
  • Roast the cabbage in a large pan with the oil and caramelise until golden. Stir continuously.
  • Add the white wine and reduce.
  • Add the water to cover and simmer for 3 hours.
  • Once cooked, blend all the ingredients until smooth.
  • Season with salt.
  • Pass a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate.

For the quesadillas

  • Follow instructions on store bought maize in a bowl and work with the hands until homogenic.
  • Reserve the mix at room temperature with a wet towel on top.
  • Make 25g balls of the corn masa mix, press with a tortilla press (between 2 plastic sheets or parchment paper) to create a 12cm diameter circle.
  • Place 20 g of Oaxaca cheese in the middle of the masa circle with 5 g of truffle butter.
  • Gently fold the masa to create a semicircle pressing the borders with your fingers to create a quesadilla (make sure the masa doesn’t break in the middle).
  • Deep fry the quesadilla in vegetable oil at 190C until it stops bubbling.
  • Dry the quesadillas with paper and leave to cool down at room temperature.
  • To finish
  • Serve the quesadilla in a plate and spread the cabbage pure on the top.
  • Finish the quesadilla with truffle slices to cover.

Sorrel & hop sour

Makes 1

Preparation time 10 minutes

Ingredients

For the cocktail

  • 20 ml Amorea Cupreata mezcal
  • 20 ml Volcan blanco tequila
  • 25 ml Sorrel Cordial
  • 5 ml Beefeater

For the sorrel cordial

  • 100g sorrel
  • 400g caster Sugar
  • 400g water
  • 20g malic Acid

Method

For the cocktail

  1. Rocks glass, ice cubes or block of ice if you can get it.
  2. Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well, and double strain into rocks glass over ice cubes.

For the sorrel cordial

  1. Mix all ingredients and blend.
  2. Strain.

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