Berber & Q, a Middle Eastern and North African grill house in East London specialising in meats and mezze, was established in 2015 by Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi (both previously worked for Yotam Ottolenghi – Katz as a chef, Bianchi as a wine buyer). Alongside a huge mangal (Middle Eastern BBQ) they have a long bar that is perfect for after work sunset drinks on warm summer evenings.
According to Bianchi, Mexican mezcal will be the sunset drink of summer 2016 in London and believes despite it originating on the other side of the world, it sits perfectly with the sweet and smokey flavours of Berber & Q's menu.
Elixir of the gods
"We’re big fans of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal," says Bianchi. "It comes from San Louis del Rio at 8000 feet in a narrow valley with an arid micro-climate where the Red Ant River flows. Mezcal is distilled from any type of Agave plant. The agave was one of the most sacred plants in pre-Spanish Mexico. It is said that a lightning bolt struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing its juice. For this reason the liquid is called the 'elixir of the gods'. I want to believe this myth because sipping mezcal has something magical that probably no other spirit can quite reproduce."
Clean and Smooth
San Louis del Rio Mezcal has a spicy nose, a creamy, smokey taste and a long, clean smooth finish, says Bianchi. It's twice distilled and produced by hand using a 400–year–old organic method. "It's similar to tequila, but most mezcals have a distinctive smoky flavour, thanks to their particular production method: roasting the hearts of the agave plants [above] underground before mashing, fermenting and distilling them. This smoke emerges beautifully in cocktails and is perfect with our meats, such as smoked short rib with date syrup glaze or harissa hot wings."
Here's Bianchi's suggestion for the prefect mezcal sunset drink:
– Fill a tall glass with ice.
– Add 60ml Mezcal, 60ml pink grapefruit juice, 30 ml lime juice, 10 ml agave syrup and a pinch of salt.
– Stir and top up with soda water.