Sufferin’ Succulents

2 oz Prickly Pear infused Pisco [Macchu Pisco]
1/2 oz Chareau Aloe Spirit
1/2 oz Blanc Vermouth [Dolin]
barspoon Mezcal [Del Maguey Vida]

Pour mezcal into a cocktail glass, swirl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir. Dump out mezcal, and strain other ingredients into the glass. Garnish with lime and orange Prickly Pear Cactus.

The other day I was at the grocery store, doing my normal weekly shopping. Veggies for some dinners during the week, snacks for lunches, and some fruit for the house. As I made my way towards the citrus, there was a whole display with a bunch of – shall we say, weirder – fruits. Yucca, star fruit, chayote. My cocktail gears started turning, so I took a closer look, and spotted some prickly pears. “Yeah”, I thought, “I could work with that” (despite the fact I never even had one before).

When I got home I peeled it to reveal a gorgeous deep pinkish-red flesh. I cut a small taster slice and popped it in my mouth. Weird was the first thing that crossed my mind. Slightly vegetal, hints of melon, soft texture. It’s not an overpowering flavor, but very distinct. I thought about ways to get it into a drink. Maybe a shrub, but I was afraid the vinegar might overpower it. I settled on a small infusion, but again wanted a spirit that would let the prickly pear breathe a bit. That meant whiskey, gin and tequila were out. Plus I wanted to pick a bottle that doesn’t get as much play in my bar, which led me to Pisco. Its bright, clean, straightforward flavor profile provided the perfect infusion canvas.

I put a few chunks of prickly pear in a small jar, filled it with pisco and let it sit for a few days. After three days of shaking and sampling, I felt like it was in a good place. The color was positively stunning, as the clear pisco took on all of that wonderful dark magenta from the fruit (glad I picked a clear spirit). The prickly pear married nicely with the pisco, and now I turned my attention to constructing a drink.

The concept of succulents drove the process. Prickly pear comes from a cactus, which is a member of the succulent family. As it happened, I had some Chareau aloe liqueur (shoutout to my instapal @mmydrinks for the sample), another famous member of that plant family. I even worked in some mezcal to complete the triad. Finally I grabbed some Blanc Vermouth, as I thought its soft flavor profile would compliment the prickly pear nicely.

The drink started with lots of melon and aloe on the nose. The sip had a thicker mouthfeel than expected, as the melon flavors continued. Subtle smoke and vegetal notes swirled around, but the overall taste was clean and smooth. Mild grape flavors from the pisco and vermouth anchored everything. The finish was long and smooth, setting you up for the next sip.

This was an enjoyable little experiment. It’s always fun to grab some random item from the produce section and see how you can cocktail-ify it. Bringing various succulents into the glass was a concept that paid off, as that identity came through in the drink. The good news is overall the prickly pisco is a success; the bad news is I only made a few ounces. Next time I’ll up the volume for sure.