Calavera Makes a Mighty Mezcal Mojito

It’s like a breath of fresh air—lime air, that is.


Ryan Benguerel mixes up a Mezcal Mojito at Calavera.

Photo by Lori Eanes

When you have cocktails at Calavera, you drink in more than just delicious flavors. Before your eyes have had a chance to span the custom agave menu, your fingers begin to trace the delicate designs in the bar top. That’s because it isn’t made of metal, marble, or wood; it’s crafted from leather. Based on traditionally carved Guadalajaran woodwork, the art exudes Mexican culture and sets the stage for a unique round of drinks.

Once you’ve stopped your hands from caressing the bar top, tell the bartender you want a Mezcal Mojito. Because you do. He will nod in understanding since it is a warm May evening and nothing could be better than the classic combination of mint and lime. But this cocktail is no old standard. This is a mojito created with the smokiness of mezcal and topped with an infused foam that is warm in temperature, layered in texture, and rather miraculous in presentation.

Owner Michael Iglesias and bar manager Ryan Benguerel call this cloud-like concoction lime air. It looks like a single peak of meringue but with a much more sudsy-sparkling quality. Sipping the Mezcal Mojito is tremendous fun. The mix of citrus and herbs offer the traditional, refreshing taste of a mojito, while the fluffy, warm air adds something entirely new and playful.

Iglesias and Benguerel invent new ideas frequently. “We start with ingredients we love,” said Iglesias. “I challenge Ryan every week to come up with a farmers market margarita. He’ll do something and I’ll riff off of it. I’ll do something and he’ll riff off of it. Then we just have fun and go nuts.”

Speaking of margaritas, after you’ve fully savored the flavors of the Mezcal Mojito, stay for a Salt Air. Made of milagro blanco, luxardo triplum, lime, and, yes, salt-infused air, it is a drink to complement any summer night. In fact, the month of May might just have two featured cocktails. After all, how does one choose between the brightness of mint and mezcal and the beachy paradise of salt and lime? The solution, quite clearly, is to order both.


Mezcal Mojito

2 ounces minted mezcal
1 ounce fresh, hand-pressed lime juice
1 ounce minted cane syrup
1 tablespoon of lime air
mint sprig, for garnish

Combine mezcal, lime juice, and cane syrup in a shaker and shake. Strain into a coupe and top with lime air. Garnish with a mint sprig.

To make the minted mezcal: Add 16 mint sprigs and 16 ounces mezcal to an iSi bottle. Charge with nitrous oxide and agitate for two minutes. Strain and bottle.

To make the minted cane syrup: Add 1 quart of demerara sugar to a pot with 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Let cool and remove 4 ounces for your lime air. Place the remaining simple syrup in a glass or plastic container with 30 fresh mint stalks. Let it steep overnight. Strain and bottle.

To make the lime air: Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and remove from heat. Put in a nonreactive 4-quart container. Slowly add 21 grams of Sucro while emulsifying with a hand blender to “hydrate” the Sucro. Add one more quart of cool water, 1 quart lime juice, lime zest from 1 lime, 4 ounces simple syrup, and 6 drops lime oil. Hand-blend for 1 minute. To build “air,” halfway submerge the bottom of your blender in the air mix and aerate the mixture. You want to look for what’s called “wake,” like the wake that comes off the back of a boat.