I had my first sip of sotol in Chicago at Estereo. Since then, I have seen a couple of sotol cocktails popping up on menus. It’s definitely not a common spirit you’d find in most parts of the world. But, hopefully you’ll be able to find some near you to try. As with most spirits, I would suggest trying it on its own before using it to make sotol cocktails. That way you can more easily distinguish the flavors, aromas, and texture that it brings without competing with other ingredients. And although the traditional way to drink sotol is neat, I do love it in cocktails as well. Here are a few that highlight the range of this special spirit.
What is Sotol?
Although it’s commonly mistaken for an agave spirit, sotol is distilled from a a related group of plants called dasylirion. The plant grows in the Chihuahuan desert and is called desert spoon (English) or sotol (Spanish). Sotol can only be produced in three Mexican states, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango. While it does share characteristics of mezcal and tequila, it has its own unique flavor. Although it is smoky like mezcal, it has a bright, grassy or pine flavor. Most sotol is unaged, called joven (young), but you can find it barrel-aged as a reposado or an añejo (similar to tequila or mezcal).
One of the most interesting things about sotol is the method by which the sotolero (the producer of sotol) determines the desired alcohol level has been reached in the distillation process. The sotolero pours some of the distillate into a cow horn and then proceeds to pour it into a second cow horn. They are looking for the desired size and position of the bubbles they want, which is usually a 50% alcohol level.
1. As She So Told (Riff)
I discovered the original recipe for this sotol cocktail in Ivy Mix’s book, Spirits of Latin America. While it sounded delicious, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand and improvised a bit. The name was too clever for me to change, so here’s the riff I came up with. Not sure what the original tastes like, but this was one of the best cocktails I’ve made in a long time. It’s perfectly balanced and unique. Plus, I always love an excuse to use Zirbenz and a mixing glass.
As She So Told Riff
- 0.75 oz sotol
- 0.75 oz reposado tequila
- 0.5 oz dry vermouth
- 0.5 oz Cocchi Americano
- 0.25 oz Zirbenz
- 0.25 oz simple syrup (1:1)
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir 15-30 seconds until properly diluted.
- Strain into a rocks glass over a large cube of ice and serve.
2. Strawberry & Sotol
If you’re looking for something light and bright, then this is the sotol cocktail for you. A highball is traditionally a spirit with a non-alcoholic mixer, often one that is carbonated. With the earthiness flavor of the sotol, I thought it would pair nicely with a zing of strawberry and some sweetness. To make the strawberry syrup, I heated one cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a cup of fresh cut strawberries until it came to a gentle boil. I let the mixture cool for 30 minutes before straining into a storage bottle.
Strawberry & Sotol
- 1.5 oz sotol
- 1 oz strawberry syrup
- 8 oz Topo Chico (or sparking water)
- Add sotol and syrup to a mixing tin with ice.
- Shake 20 seconds until tin is cold and strain into a highball glass with ice.
- Slowly pour the Topo Chico down the handle of a bar spoon and stir gently.
- Garnish with a strawberry and serve.
3. Liquid Sunshine
If you’re searching for recipes for sotol cocktails you won’t find many. Most of my cocktail books don’t feature any recipes, except for Spirits of Latin America. This led me to experiment with flavors I thought might work well together, like Strawberries & Sotol (above). I wanted to make something slightly tropical but balanced. I love Reàl Passion Fruit Puree with spirits and a kick of heat. For the heat I used my favorite bitters from Crude Bitters, the No No Spicy Pepper Bitters. The result is a tangy and refreshing beverage you can enjoy any time.
- 1.5 oz sotol
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 0.5 oz passion fruit puree
- 1 dash spicy bitters
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shake 20-30 seconds until tin is frosty.
- Strain into a coupe glass and serve.
Let me know what you thought of these sotol cocktails. And, if you are looking for a good, affordable bottle of sotol to start with, this is what I used. If you’re looking for more cocktail recipes, this pineapple gin cocktail is great.