Slow Burn

Chilly? There are 42 mezcals on the menu of Cultura in Carmel to warm you up. This agave-based alcohol fits Monterey County perfectly because it symbolizes the marriage between a native Mexican plant and European technique of distillation brought along by the Spanish colonizers. No matter what you think about that consequential meeting of two cultures, if it never happened, we wouldn’t have mezcal.

The only question is which one to choose, or at least which brand to start with – Cuish, or perhaps Legendary Domingo? Is it better if it’s made in copper or a clay still? A Spanish response to an old-fashioned was recommended by a polite server and consumed with much pleasure – the Oaxacan (Madre Mezcal, Reposado tequila, agave syrup and Angostura bitters).

Not a bad thing can be said about Cultura’s craft margarita (shaken, not stirred, made with bravo orange curacao, house citrus simple and lime). But the most delicioso in the menu of suggested cocktails turned out to be El Sergio Leone (mezcal, Amaro Montenegro, pineapple syrup, lime and chocolate bitters) – sweet and elegant, served with an oversized ice cube and a mound of fine, granulated dark sugar.

It feels like an ideal libation for the season: mezcal layers each drink with fire, ideal for long fall nights, and Cultura’s Mezcal Room features a wonderful chocolate-color ceiling, as well as a fireplace burning all night long.

Dolores Street between 5th & 6th, Carmel. Open 5-9pm Tuesdays-Sundays. 250-7005, culturacarmel.com.

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