st. louis catholic and paloma roja cocktails from lazy tiger photo by carmen troesser

Raicilla: the lesser-known agave spirit popping up on St. Louis cocktail lists

In the realm of agave spirits, mezcal and tequila tend to get all of the love. But in recent years, other agave elixirs have started gaining ground with hip imbibers. The most recent of these is raicilla.

Raicilla (which roughly translates to “little root” in Spanish) is produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco and distilled from roasted and fermented agave piñas, the heart of the agave plant. The resulting spirit has a touch of smokiness and tends to be more acidic, fruity and floral than its cousins mezcal and tequila. Raicilla has been around for hundreds of years but has only been available for the last several years locally, and recently it’s been making appearances in fine watering holes around town.

“Mezonte Raicilla Japo is our favorite night now. It has these wonderful banana notes from the esters and a great minerality. It also has a great viscosity, which sometimes you don’t find in a raicilla,” said Brad Phillips, general manager and beverage director of Blood & Sand.

Tim Wiggins, co-owner of Lazy Tiger, did a deep dive into agave spirits while doing cocktail research and development prior to opening the bar last year and discovered the allure of raicilla.

“It was this bridge between tequila and mezcal,” Wiggins said, adding that there are a variety of flavors to be had, from the funkiness of blue cheese to sour fruitiness, in raicillas. He was so enamored with the spirit that it makes an appearance on a quarter of the Lazy Tiger cocktail menu; it’s also available in solo flights or as part of a flight of other agave spirits.

These Lazy Tiger cocktails showcase the versatility of raicilla.

St. Louis Catholic 
Courtesy of Lazy Tiger’s Tim Wiggins

This Manhattan/Negroni riff uses the bright and acidic Mexicat raicilla to full effect.

1 oz. Mexicat raicilla
½ oz. charred poblano-infused sweet vermouth
½ oz. Zucca Rabarbaro amaro
¼ oz. Cynar 70-proof
¼ oz. Providence Haitian rum 
2 dashes pink peppercorn-orange bitters

• Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, then strain into a rocks glass with a large cube.

Paloma Rojo
Courtesy of Lazy Tiger’s Tim Wiggins 

This Paloma riff uses La Venenosa’s Sierra Occidental raicilla, which has a sweet and sour profile similar to a watermelon Jolly Rancher, according to Wiggins.

1 oz. dehydrated raspberry-infused Cocchi Vermouth di Torino 
1 oz. pink grapefruit juice
½ oz. Elvelo Blanco tequila
½ oz. La Venenosa Raicilla Sierra Occidental
¼ oz. lime juice
2 oz. grapefruit soda

• Combine all ingredients except the grapefruit soda in a shaker with four ice cubes. Pour entire contents of the shaker into a Collins glass. Top with the grapefruit soda and one fresh ice cube.

Tags : Cocktails, Bars