After a limited release in California and Texas at the end of December, Ancho Reyes immediately became a hot commodity—and near impossible to find. Now, thanks to William Grant & Sons, the high proof chili liqueur is rolling out across the US and delivering a simmering spice enveloped in a light syrupy sweetness. Inspired by a 1920s recipe, its roots were planted in the Mexican town of Puebla de Zaragoza's Barrio del Artista neighborhood. There, this homemade mixture, or "menjurjes," was born from blending native ingredients and local spirits by the Reyes family. As no surprise, the spirit prominently featured Puebla's most well-known crop: ancho chilies. Then, the original recipe fell into obscurity, only to be rediscovered and revived with the tremendous care a spirit such as this requires. And, as great as their story is, the fact of the matter is that Ancho Reyes is, simply put, superb. It showcases the essence of the pepper as a complex, unfolding treat for the tongue.
With such a dynamic nature, the liqueur can be sipped on its own, but also adds a wild, potent flourish to cocktails—especially the standard margarita. Ancho chilies make up a vast percentage of its mix, and each pepper is hand-selected and scissor-cut before soaking in natural cane spirit for half a year. It's then blended according to the menjurje tradition and left to rest. The craft, the care and the concern are all reflected in the subtleties of the drink. Whether you're looking to compliment a cocktail or venture out into a bolder world of aperitivos, Ancho Reyes does the trick.
Ancho Reyes is available for $32 online.
Photos by David Graver