My version of Hometown Hero, a cocktail from Jos Andrs' Jaleo that… (S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles…)
When I was in Washington, D.C., recently, I got turned around and took the wrong bus. When I got off, I realized I must be very close to Jaleo, the first restaurant of Spanish chef José Andrés (The Bazaar). It had just been redone and I wanted to check it out. All quiet on a Saturday afternoon. We took two seats at the bar and ordered a glass of Albariño and the cocktail a new friend had enthusiastically recommended: Hometown Hero.
I loved the cocktail's tart sweetness, the almost smoky taste of the mezcal and the bitter herbs of Cocchi Americano vermouth with a high note of cinnamon. While we nibbled on a couple of tapas, I managed to get the recipe out of the gracious bartender. I think I got it right -- at least, the cocktail I made at home tastes very like the original. I'm just not sure where my note "lemon juice" comes in. But actually, I'm finding I like a splash of lime juice better.
Once you've made the grapefruit syrup, which you can keep on hand, you too can be a hometown hero with this seductive cocktail. During this past heat wave, I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to the cocktail hour.
The first time I made this cocktail, I had only tequila in the house. It was good but just didn't have the requisite kick. I went out and bought a bottle of mescal without having a clue which to buy, choosing something that turned out to be far too strong. So I did what I should have done in the first place: called the bar at Jaleo to find out what they used in Hometown Hero. It's Vida de San Luis del Rio from Del Maguey. Wally's has it, as do a number of other places around town. What a difference.
Hometown Hero from José Andrés' Jaleo
1 1/2 ounces mezcal
1 ounce Cocchi Americano (white vermouth)
1 ounce grapefruit cinnamon syrup (see below)
Lemon or lime juice as needed
To make syrup: Take one grapefruit. Peel with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Throw the peel into a saucepan. Squeeze the grapefruit juice into a measuring cup. Then add one part sugar, one part water to one part grapefruit juice. (The Oroblanco grapefruit I used yields about 1/2 cup.) Pour everything into the saucepan, add two cinnamon sticks and cook until the sugar dissolves and the liquid boils, then turn off and let cool.
Note: When making the cocktail, adjust the sweetness by adding a little lemon or lime juice. Serve on the rocks with a garnish of lemon or lime peel.
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