Growing up in rural Vermont, Justin Lane Briggs learned at a young age why it’s important to respect the land and those who came before him. Briggs, who designed the cocktail menu at Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201), may have left the countryside, but his connection to the earth is still being served by way of classically inspired drinks like the charo’s kick. “Spirits are still an agricultural product. Someone growing the grain; someone growing the sugarcane, someone growing agave,” Briggs tells the Voice.
A fan of cocktail history, Briggs cites the whiskey-based cameron’s kick from The Savoy Cocktail Book as the origin for the charo, a mezcal riff. Anthony Schmidt of the Noble Experiment in San Diego is the man who added a south-of-the-border spin. When Briggs tried it for the first time, his response was simply, “Oh, holy shit. I love this.” The drink’s appeal has a lot to do with its layers, which include crème de menthe and a floral orgeat that adds a note of freshness. As Briggs describes, a good drink should make “people sit up and say, ‘There’s something weird in here…I like it.’ ” To fans of sour cocktails, a charo’s kick would be particularly appealing. “There’s nothing really more refreshing than mint and citrus together. If I ever wonder what to make someone and I have a drink that combines those two, I can make that and they’ll be happy,” Briggs explains.
The use of mezcal in the drink is also important; according to Briggs, “terroir and spirits do matter.” Mint and citrus, the other ingredients essential for balance, are refreshing, but also extremely potent — which is why those who enjoyed the whiskey original go for bold, smoky spirits like tequila and mezcal. It makes for an easy transition. Another note of advice to home bartenders from Briggs is that “too much menthe of any kind will destroy a drink easily. That and a straw.”
In addition to Faro, those interested in finding the cocktail around town can ask for it at Vintry Wine & Whiskey on Stone Street.
Charo’s Kick by Justin Lane Briggs
1 1/2 ounces Pueblo Viejo Tequila
1/2 ounce Nuestra Soledad Ejutla Mezcal
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce orgeat
2 barspoons of Giffard Menthe Pastille
Combine ingredients in a mixing tin. Add ice and shake with tremendous vigor. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.