Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels
After a two-week trip to the American Southwest, you didn’t think I’d come back without some form of liquor, did you? Silly you. No, there’s no new tequila on my shelf, but a set of three whiskies and, believe it or not, a vodka, and it’s a flavored one, to boot! How uncharacteristic is that?
After Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, and Williams, AZ, we kept along the now-defunct path of Historic Route 66 and rolled into Flagstaff, Arizona, a big college town with a knack for microbrewing. Matt, Jack, and I stopped in at several of the breweries, of course, and not only did they have great beer, but some really, really tasty grub was served up alongside the brew. If you find yourself in Flagstaff, be sure to visit the Beaver Street Brewing Company (I enjoyed their Hefeweizen), Lumberyard Brewing Company (their Scotch Ale is amazing), and the Flagstaff Brewing Company (get the big basket o’ fries with spicy mayonnaise with any beer on tap and sit on the patio). Top it all off with a visit to the Lowell Observatory for some stargazing and a visit to the Wupatki pueblo and you have a great trip.
Anyway, the one place I wanted to find in Flagstaff was a combination microbrewery/microdistillery, the Mogollan Brewing Company. According to their website, they recently moved into a brand new space just outside of downtown Flagstaff, sans restaurant but better-equipped to brew and distill. Well, we followed Ms. Garmin to the given address, working our way among concrete plants and machine parts warehouses only to find an empty field. We checked the spot twice. Maybe the building was stuffed back inside a bank of warehouses…who knows? In any case, we had to get to Bryce Canyon in Utah, so Mogollon Brewing Company remained unfound. I did, however, manage to pick up a bottle of their famous Prickly Pear Flavored Vodka at the Cork n’ Bottle.
As for tasting, I’ll say that it’s not my usual form of potable. It’s a lovely girly-pink color, not as vivid as, say, a flamingo, but nice and clear (a warning on the bottle mentions that its color will fade if kept in direct sunlight). The vodka has a mild, fuity, vegetal smell, and upon tasting has an expected mild, fruity, vegetal taste, with a slight bit of citrus zing. There aren’t many ways to describe the taste of prickly pear cactus fruit (agave meets pear meets exotic tropical-esque something-or-other?). The liquor is nice and smooth, and slightly sweet, but fairly low proof (70°, or 35% ABV). There’s a bit of a funky aftertaste, but it’s not abhorrent. Prickly Pear Vodka is not something I’d sip neat, but as a mixer it could prove interesting.
What to mix it with? Not sure…a quick Googling yields (unsurprisingly) few cocktails, with a couple short references to “Prickly Peartinis” that throw the vodka together with Chambord, triple sec, citrus, and the like. That’s probably the way to go: combine it with fruit liqueurs and citrus. A quick experiment with Lillet Blanc (a modified Bordeaux Cocktail) was unexceptional and un-tasty, so we can nix the quinquina idea. Looking back at Embury, aromatics and citrus don’t seem to mix. Anyway, I’m waiting for their website to come back online, hopefully with some inspirational recipes. Otherwise the Prickly Pear Vodka could remain on the shelf for some time. However, the Pirckly Pear Pisco Sour could probably be recreated with this vodka in lieu of Bar Moderno’s puree. For a bit more on the spirit and the company, check out this Arizona Republic article from way, way back in 2005.
Photos by IJL