We’ve done something new for the launch of the Lost Lantern Single Distillery Series, which debuted on April 26th. For the first time, we’ve created specialty Lost Lantern cocktails themed around each release. But by “we,” we really mean “Drew created them.” Drew Record is our California state manager, and has deep experience in hospitality and as a mixologist (and bar owner and many other things besides). We are excited to share our first Lost Lantern specialty cocktails, and asked Drew to explain how each one came to be.
Two of the three releases in the Lost Lantern Single Distillery Series come from Whiskey Del Bac in Tucson, Arizona. And Tucson just happens to be Drew’s hometown. We think the signature cocktails Drew has created for both “Desert Dessert” and “Mega Mesquite” reflect that, and could only come from someone who grew up in the desert. The signature cocktail for Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite, Those Who Have Gone, makes that very clear. Now here’s Drew:
Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite Signature Cocktail: Those Who Have Gone
When the Tohono O’odham moved into the Sonoran desert, they found traces of an advanced civilization who had dug an expansive network of canals and irrigated the desert to grow beans, squash and corn. They called these people the Hohokam, or those who have gone. We see evidence of trade with the Hohokam throughout Mesoamerica with their pottery and other wares making it far south in the depths of the Mayan Empire.
For this cocktail we wanted to honor the legacies of one of the oldest continuously farmed pieces of land in the world. This drink combines Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite with our version of a Champurrado. This traditional atole (corn masa) drink combines the sweetness of corn with the bitter richness of dark chocolate, nuts and spices.
Those Who Have Gone: The Story
The first time I experienced champurrado I was taqueria hopping with a friend in South Tucson. I was probably 17, on winter break, and exploring the new-found teenage freedom of having a car and “discovering” things that had been around for eons. Growing up in the American Southwest I had been exposed to a lot of different cultures but I wanted to appreciate them more and understand more fully what made the history of my town so special. This would be years before Tucson was declared a UNESCO City of Gastronomy for its ancient agricultural roots, aided by the ingenuity of the indigenous tribes who took the scarce water resources available in the desert and spread their footprint, digging complex systems of canals.
On this particular mission we were trying to definitively determine where the best spots for lengua and cabeza were. Among my friend group it wasn’t enough to just know where a great taco joint was, you needed to know which place to go for queso fundido, which place had the best tripitas, and where the menudo was on Sunday morning. There was this thought you could find the soul of that chef through their food, if you just tried the right dish. Which recipes they excelled at were probably those they had been making the longest. These were typically foods with deep connections to family and land and home. My most cherished times were with friends and their families who were cooking homestead recipes from times before the Gadsden Purchase, possibly from a time before Mexico, on the same stoves their great-grandparents cooked on before Arizona statehood and certainly before food tourists mispronouncing lengua, the way I often did in those exploratory days.
It never really gets that cold in the Sonoran desert, but certainly cold enough in December to crave a hot drink when the sun dips behind “A” Mountain in the late afternoon. When I saw steam rising off a pot of something chocolate colored my curiosity was certainly piqued. I timidly asked my friend, “What is that?” pointing toward the massive silver cauldron and the stacks of squat styrofoam cups. Luckily I never had much of a pretense of being cool, so I wasn’t afraid to say I hadn’t heard of a band or read a book, but food was my thing. So it was much harder to swallow my pride and admit I didn’t know what something was. When my friend shrugged their shoulders, a wave of relief swept over me. At least this time they didn’t have an ante on me. When we asked the lady behind the counter, she laughed at us and said we probably wouldn’t like it but ladled a little into a cup and handed it over to us. What I tasted was rich and thick. It reminded me of hot chocolate, but was certainly less sweet than the Swiss Miss I had grown up on. Also it tasted like maybe someone dropped a tamale in it? My eyes widened and I handed the cup back to her and asked if I could have a full one. I had a new food puzzle to figure out. What was this thing she called Champurrado?
Champurrado, as I would find out, is in a family of drinks called atole (pronounced ah-TOH-leh). At its most basic level atole is made by steeping ground corn in hot water. That simple porridge has roots going back thousands of years in Mesoamerica and is one of the simplest ways to extend the usefulness of corn well beyond the growing season. That drink was used ceremonially and made using a traditionally carved tool called a molinillo, which was rotated between the palms to whip and forth the mixture of water and masa. Now atole is usually made with masa harina, the same thing your corn tortillas and tamales are made from. Usually milk is added to thicken the drink. Sometimes spices are added, chocolate, fruits, nuts or even honey. Really anything to liven it up. It is the same blank canvas as other breakfast cereal mushes you’ve encountered, be it congee or farina, it gets its flavor from what you add. This is where champurrado comes in.
Champurrado is an atole with the addition of chocolate, piloncillo (a type of unrefined whole cane sugar) and cinnamon. It would seem a completely natural fit that chocolate, first cultivated and eaten by the Olmec nearly 4000 years ago, would become a staple flavor of this drink. In the warmer months people will use a little less masa to make a thinner drink, but in the winter when you see this drink the most often it is at its richest and thickest. I think of it as a bit of a cross between hot chocolate and a hot buttered rum. Served for festivals or just as a breakfast drink alongside a colorful Mexican pastry, champurrado has a rich history, and its versatility and ease of preparation makes it a great base for a cocktail capturing the essence of Tucson’s Sonoran heritage.
Our champurrado recipe features masa from Native Seed Search in Tucson, a wonderful organization dedicated to sustainable farming in an arid desert environment and the continued cultivation of heirloom plants and seed within the community. We also wanted to pay homage to both its prehistoric roots using bitter cocoa powder and the version you’ll find in most Mexican homes these days using Abuelita chocolate disks. Additionally we added slivered pecans, which may be an Arizona specific addition as you don’t see them come up much outside the area. To help those with dairy problems we used almond milk but you can use oat, soy, cow or whichever version you typically prefer with your cereal. For sugar we used panela, a type of unrefined cane sugar which can be found at most Mexican markets, but you can certainly use brown sugar at home.
Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite Signature Cocktail: Those Who Have Gone
Yield: 1 cocktail
2 ounces Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite Whiskey Del Bac Arizona Single Malt
4 ounces Hot *Champurrado
Steps: Combine ingredients in a heat safe cup, optionally garnish with freshly grated cinnamon or nutmeg.
Champurrado – Yield: 6 servings
½ cup masa harina
4 cups milk (your choice of type)
2-3 ounces piloncillo (brown sugar is ok in a pinch)
1 (3 ounces) disc of Abuelita’s chocolate drink tablet
1.5 ounce Guittard (or other high quality 100% Cacao) Cocoa Powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 ½ cups warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
- Add milk, piloncillo, cocoa powder, Mexican chocolate, and cinnamon to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir until everything has dissolved.
- In a small bowl combine masa and warm water. Whisk until you think you can whisk no more. The more you whisk, the creamier and less grainy, the resulting drink will be.
- Combine your masa harina mixture with your milk in the saucepan. Add vanilla and salt. Whisk again to combine.
- Bring mixture to a very high simmer and then reduce the heat and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes. Whisking throughout this process will ensure a creamy drink.
- Remove from heat and serve, or chill for up to a week and reheat for a later drink!
Can’t find masa harina at your grocery store? Don’t have the time to whisk Champurrado for 30 minutes? We still love how Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite tastes with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. Just follow the recipe on your Abuelita chocolate package or whichever hot chocolate you prefer and then add a healthy splash of Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite on top. Listo!