2014 began for me at the Mercado San Juan in Mexico City. It’s a dizzying maze of stalls packed with the best of all things culinary, and naturally where DF’s top chefs hunt down ingredients. I was being shown around by Iván Saldaña Oyarzábal, a botanist-turned-distiller, and the man behind Ancho Reyes – a new full strength ancho chile liquor (the brainchild of our friends the Bon Vivants).
Ivan had graciously let me tag along as he shopped for his family’s New Year’s feast, which included numerous pit stops for tapas and tiny plastic cups of wine. The ensuing three-hour lunch that followed may have gotten him in trouble with his wife, but I got to pick his brain about all things agave (he makes Monte Lobos mezcal and Milagro tequila as well) as well as the new Ancho Reyes project.
I left DF with a notebook full of ideas and a plan to incorporate Ancho into the menu. It took almost a year for the idea to coalesce, and one of our bartenders bringing in a pumpkin syrup he was working on at home, for the light bulb to go off.
Ancho chiles are deep, savory and almost sweet with a subtle back-end heat. The thought of spicy pumpkin pie immediately came to mind, and the texture from the egg whites made perfect sense.
Though I just compared it to a dessert, it drinks like a traditional sour – bright and acid forward, with accents of heat and spice. We didn’t want to make a caramel-chai-pumpkin-latte, as a certain Seattle coffee company has that covered.
Matthew McKinley Campbell