Lagniappe is a French term that means “a little extra”, that little something that you weren’t expecting. Today a friend shared a little lagniappe with me. A couple of actual months ago, or three relative years in pandemic perception time, I discovered “sal de chapulin” or “grasshopper salt” and its relationship with mezcal. I shared some with a friend who’s family is from Oaxaca to test the quality. I have zero experience in ground grasshoppers mixed with salt and citrus, so she served as my guide. Well, today, she continued my education by bringing me a sackful of chapulins. A whole little bag of grasshoppers salted and covered in citrus and spices. Turns out they are super tasty, but all that salt makes a fella thirsty and makes him think about that delightfully smoky, Oaxacan mezcal. So, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Mezcalita.
Obviously, this is a riff on the classic margarita, but subbing in mezcal and enhancing that smokiness with some fresh squeezed orange juice. I’d love to give some attribution to this one, but honestly, I am working from memory here and making something close to a drink I had either at Taco Mamacita in Nashville or the friendly neighborhood speakeasy around the corner from them, Old Glory. I could go for something nice and citrusy and refreshing. I still have that headache and my natural middle-aged hypochondria has me contemplating whether one could crack their skull without realizing it, in those moments when I am not ignoring it. That’s how life goes, if it hurts, ignore it until it goes away or until you can’t stand it anymore. Can you tell that I worked as a contractor for many years without health insurance? Even now with a couple of decades of decent benefits under my belt, I still don’t go to the doctor unless I have to. I was conditioned to weigh the costs of getting better against the odds that you would actually die. Great system, huh? Anyway, our stolen summer days in November continue and it is hotter than it should be. Pretty much everything is conspiring to give a man, or a woman, a thirst. So let’s make a drink.
We are back to shaking things, so grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of mezcal, I chose Illegal; 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice, 1/2 an ounce of agave nectar and 2-3 dashes of El Guapo Fuego Bitters. Add some big ice cubes and shake hard to the beat of “Banditos” by the Refreshments, cause everybody knows the world is full of stupid people. Strain into a rocks glass rimmed with Tajin citrus salt over one big cube that you have dusted with sal de chapulin and garnish with a lime wheel and some authentic chapulins on a pick.
Yeah, that’s good and we knew it was going to be. I am into smoky drinks, so in my world there is very little that tequila can do that mezcal can’t do better. That smoky undercurrent makes this one perfect for an autumn day masquerading as summer. I could drink a lot of these, maybe I will. Next time, I may swap in some orange curaçao instead of the agave, to bring some more orange flavor and cut the sweet a little, or I may not, I’m just so changeable.
It was nice to get to experience something kind of out of left field for me today. I have eaten all kinds of crazy stuff over the years, but I tend to shy away from identifiable insects. Sure, if you cover the ants in chocolate I can scarf them down with a tip of my hat to The Pigman, but if I can see legs, it is a little tougher for me. Still, you have to be open to new experiences and I appreciated getting to try the chapulins and to share in a bit of her culinary culture. That’s a big part of life, saying yes. Being open to new experiences, even when you aren’t sure you want to. Honestly, most of the good things in my life have come from being open and saying yes…most of them. So, eat some grasshoppers and put mezcal in your margarita, live a little. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.