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New Ancho Chile liqueur arrives in Texas

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Ancho Reyes, a one-of-a-kind ancho chile-based Mexican liqueur, hits Texas this month.

Roberto Hidalgo, Managing Director of Licorera Ancho Reyes y CIA, says the product was inspired by a recipe that originated in Mexico in the 1920s. The original liqueur fell into obscurity after the post-revolutionary period in Mexico, when many families produced homemade liqueurs, but few of them were sold commercially, he said.

“When Modernism started in Mexico, a lot of the liqueurs from the old world came into the country — brandies, Cognacs, etc. — they started to influence local culture,” Hidalgo explained. “”People wanted to drink what was coming in from other countries, so elixirs and concoctions that were locally produced in these states and cities in Mexico during the 1920s weren’t commercialized or sold.”

The company’s research turned up an old recipe for an ancho liqueur from a family called Reyes, which became the inspiration for the new product. “We tried to replicate as much as we could, to try to bring it to life,” Hidalgo said.

The base spirit is neutral cane spirit made in Veracruz, Mexico. Ancho chiles make up 90-95% of the formula; they are macerated in the base spirit for about six months before straining out and bottling. A minimal assortment of other chiles are also brought in to the mix to help give the final product more depth and complexity. Hidalgo says all the ingredients used are natural, which means sometimes particles of residual sediment can be seen in the bottles.

The original liqueur was largely consumed as an aperitif, or pre-dinner drink. At 40% ABV, Hidalgo says as he finds new nuances and flavors every time he tastes it. “It evolves as you get to know it. Every time you taste it you find different notes, like cinnamon, cacao, tamarind, things you didn’t notice at the beginning.”

I tried the spirit neat, and was surprised to find how sweet the first sips came across on the palate. The beginning bursts with oily sugars, cinnamon, vanilla and spice, until it evolves into a bold blast of smoke and heat that lingers long after the sip is complete. While I hoped for a bit more bitterness from what’s being billed as an “herbal Mexican liqueur,” they definitely nail the ancho flavor. If you’ve ever smelled or tasted one, imagine the natural drops of oil from the peppers squeezed into a bottle and served naturally, and you’ve got a good representation of Ancho Reyes. Dark caramels, tobacco and chocolate flavors swim in and out of sips, leaving a lasting impression.

It also works very well in cocktail form. I tried it in the recommended Daiquiri and Margarita recipes. The Daiquiri showcased the spirit moreso than the Margarita, with bright lime juice cutting right through the smoke and spice. The Margarita was a bigger hit for me. There is less Ancho Reyes used in this recipe, making it more of a supporting character to the tequila, which brings a deep complexity to the drink. I’ve been long searching for the perfect expression of a “winter Margarita,” for a very long time, and when I tasted this recipe I was quite pleased to have finally found what I’ve been looking for.

Ancho Reyes is one of the most exciting new products that’s come into the States this year. I look forward to spicing up all manner of tequila drinks going forward, and exploring how it might change a tequila Manhattan or work in an Old Fashioned application as well.

Ancho Hand Shaken Daiquiri

2 parts Ancho Reyes

1 part Fresh-squeezed lime juice

.5 part Rich simple syrup.

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wheel.

Ancho Margarita

.75 part Ancho Reyes

1.5 parts Silver tequila

1 part Fresh-squeezed lime juice

.5 -part Agave Nectar.

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wheel.