Fascinated by a recent encounter with Maurin Quina—a spirit that dates back to the late 1800s but that has only recently found a home here in the United States—I decided I wanted to find a place for it in a modern American cocktail. Maurin Quina is a white wine that has been fortified with wild cherries, quinine, bitter almonds, and cherry brandy, but you’ll likely find its label more familiar; an iconic green devil, painted by Leonetto Cappiello, references la fée verte, or the green fairy, from reported absinthe adventures.
After thoroughly tasting the Maurin Quina, I decided that perhaps the most challenging thing to mix it with was tequila. The liqueur has unique marzipan/bitter almond/cherry cordial aromas, due to those fortified elements, and I knew right away that its aromas would exacerbate tequila’s inherent sweetness, rendering the final incarnation unbalanced and “clacky.”
But I like challenges, so I decided I was going to make a tequila/Maurin cocktail, figuring that if I could do that successfully, I could make any number of cocktails with it. Alas, I spent the better part of the day playing around with various tequila drinks and finally settled on a variation of the paloma called the Count Camillos paloma, which has always been one of my favorites. The original recipe calls for:
I tried the Maurin Quina in this, supplanting it with the Campari, because, in a way, the Campari has a similar bitter note on the mid-palate. The first couple of trials did not work at all, and I realized that I needed double the tequila to offset the assertiveness of the Maurin. I used Herradura, because it is a smooth, delicious tequila, which wasn’t so complex that it would cover up the flavors of the Maurin. I used Casa Mariol vermouth because, well, it is my favorite sweet vermouth, and I squeezed a quarter of a fresh grapefruit in because it tasted so much more natural than the soda. Lastly, I used Boker’s bitters to provide an aromatic lift that was much needed. The adapted recipe for our own version of the Count Camillos paloma, made with the Maurin Quina, is as follows:
Ice a highball glass with three dashes of Boker’s bitters. In separate mixing glass, mix the Herradura, Maurin, and vermouth and dry shake. Add ice and fresh grapefruit juice. Shake. Discard ice from highball and fill with fresh ice. Strain drink into highball and garnish with grapefruit twist.
As a whole, we were very pleased with the final result. Nima, Duncan, Steve Bowles, and I all loved it, and even Mr. Steven Winch, usually my harshest critic—and not a big tequila enthusiast—admitted he could be persuaded to drink an entire glass!
If you can mix Maurin with tequila and make it great, I think you can mix it with anything.