It is funny just how much of life hangs on split second decisions. The ones’s that don’t seem to matter at the moment, you just take a chance and suddenly you are on a different road. You turn left instead of right and end up in an unexpected place, you hold the door for someone and share a smile or you decide to fill out an application, you speak up in a meeting or take the time to fix something you see that is wrong. Most of the big changes in my life can be traced back to something that seemed inconsequential at the time. We all know the big ones, deciding which college to attend, though, to be fair, in my case that was a snap decision made in a moment of frustration, that seems to have turned out ok, but if I look back, that decision was only made possible by a much earlier decision to sit back in a chair, light a cigarette and tell the truth to someone who cared enough to let me. So, in honor of those low probability, high impact events that shaped us, won’t you join me as we stand and make, The Wild Card.
This drink comes to us from Marcio Ramos at The Honey Well in West Harlem and it caught my attention right away for its surprising ingredients. At first glance I thought it was a Mezcal Sour and there is nothing wrong with that, but looking deeper, I saw vanilla extract and something I had never seen in a cocktail before, mustard. On paper it looks like it is going to be amazing or terrible, depending on how that mustard plays with the other ingredients, so let’s cobble one together and find out.
Grab your tins and pop in 3-5 drops of Pure Vanilla Extract, I use Bell Buckle Country Store Madagacar Bourbon; a barspoon of dijon mustard, 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 of an ounce of agave nectar, 2 ounces of mezcal, I chose Illegal and 3/4 of an ounce of egg white or aquafaba. Give that a good dry shake to the beat of Kenny Rogers immortal “The Gambler“. After he sees you’re out of aces, add ice and continue shaking till well chilled. Double strain into something pretty, let the drink rest a moment for the head to form before adding a couple of dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters to the top, drag a spoon through them to make it pretty and float a star anise on there.
Oh. My. Goodness. This is stupid good. Like amazingly, seriously, I am not even kidding tasty, with a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel. Sweet, sour, savory, bitter, it has everything and all perfectly balanced. The vanilla pulls out the smoke of the mezcal while the mustard plays on its spiciness for a delightfully complex flavor that just continues to build and open as you sip it. If I did not tell you that it had mustard in it you might struggle to figure out what that undercurrent of flavor is coming from, but once you know it is ever present. Just fearfully and wonderfully made. Hats off.
That’s how it goes, you take chance and find something wonderful. Not always, obviously, sometimes things don’t work out at all and most of those things can be traced back to a seemingly inconsequential moment, as well. Good or bad, it all comes down to little actions that we often don’t even remember afterwards, the butterfly effect in a microcosm. The action is what matters though. That electric moment when you throw your hat into the ring and take a chance. On the one hand, I am not a fan of wild cards. I like to know the odds when I try to draw to an inside straight, but as my dad says, “You can’t always be good enough. There is going to be someone out there who worked a little harder or who knows something you don’t, but you can always get lucky enough.” So, tonight we raise our glass of inexplicably wonderful mustard powered goodness to those who take that chance and get lucky. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.