Ancho Reyes was first introduced in 2013 and quickly became popular due to its unique, spicy taste. But what is Ancho Reyes exactly?
In a nutshell, Ancho Reyes is a spicy liqueur produced in Mexico that's produced by macerating sun-dried Ancho chiles in a sugar cane spirit. It has a complex flavor profile and pairs well with agave spirits from Mexico in twists on classic cocktails like the Margarita or Paloma.
The Mexican chili liquor is produced in Puebla de Zaragoza, the capital of the state of Puebla in Mexico. The recipe is based on old liqueurs called menjurjes, dating back to the cultural revolution in 1920s Puebla. Lately, the brand added a green version, the Ancho Reyes Verde.
What does Ancho Reyes taste like?
The taste of Ancho Reyes original chile liqueur is spicy but has much more complexity and is better balanced than you would expect from a chili-infused spirit.
On the nose, you can detect subtle notes of cacao, dark chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, vanilla, and green chilies.
The taste is complex and warm, with notes of smoke, baking spices, and a hint of sweetness. The spicy heat from the chiles cuts through and mixes with spicy cinnamon notes.
The balanced and complex flavor profile is surprising, as chili pepper-infused spirits tend to be super hot and spicy. If you want, try it yourself by making Jalapeño infused Tequila.
How is Ancho Reyes made?
I didn't have the chance yet, to visit the production in Puebla, but luckily Camper English from Alcademics did. So here's a quick overview of how Ancho Reyes is made:
The journey begins in San Martín Texmelucan de Labastida, near Puebla, where the poblano peppers grow. These peppers love the volcanic valley's wet soil, thanks to the nearby volcanoes. After six months of tender care, it's time for the first harvest, the fresh green poblanos. -The red ones take a bit longer.
2. Drying the Poblano Peppers
The real magic happens when the poblano chilies stay on the vine. Normal poblanos are harvested when green, but the ones used for Ancho Reyes stay on the vine until they're ripe and red. These red chiles have significantly more flavor and more sugar.
Once mature, they are sun-dried. The drying process happens in fields with raised beds, like unfinished building foundations. Here, the chiles soak up the sun for 15 to 30 days, getting flipped every few days. That not only preserves the chiles but also boosts their flavors and sugars, making them richer.
3. Maceration / Infusion
Ancho Reyes' secret lies in its infusion process. The recipe, inspired by a 1927 formula, includes:
- 90% sun-dried ancho chile peppers
- 10% guajilla and pasilla peppers
- 55% ABV cane spirit from Veracruz, Mexico
- Cane sugar syrup
- A set of secret ingredients.
These dried chiles are hand-cut, keeping some seeds for the right heat. Then, they're carefully soaked in 1000-liter alcohol tanks, stirred weekly, and left for around six months. Each of the three chile types goes through this process separately. During blending, sugar is added to match the heat, but there's no set amount.
The Chiles in Ancho Reyes
The original Ancho Reyes is made from three types of chiles: Ancho chiles, guajilla chiles, and pasilla chiles. Here's how they compare:
- Ancho chiles: The sundried poblano chile peppers are also called ancho peppers. The majority of the poblano peppers are harvested while green and unripe. But to get "proper" ancho peppers, part of the chiles are allowed to ripen and develop a deep red color. These chiles have an SHU of 1,000 to 2,000.
- Guajilla peppers: These peppers are the second most-used chiles in Mexican cuisine. It's a medium-heat pepper with SHU of 2,500 to 5,000, making it slightly less hot than jalapeño peppers.
- Pasilla peppers: Pasilla peppers are mild peppers with a thick green skin with a SHU index of 250 - 3999. These peppers bring mild and earthy flavors to the liqueur, balancing the heat of the other two chiles.
How to Drink it?
One of the best ways to drink Ancho Reyes is neat as a shot, paired with jicama spears covered with Ancho chile powder. Jicama is a common vegetable in Mexican cuisine that is often cut into spears and served with dips like salsa, yogurt, or hummus.
But the unique blend of the heat in this spicy liqueur is also great on the rocks served as an aperitif or as an ingredient in all kinds of cocktails. It adds sweetness, spice, and smoky flavors that enhance a drink and add incredible depth.
Ancho Reyes in Cocktails
Naturally, Ancho Reyes works as a tasty addition to classic Mexican cocktails like a Margarita, Paloma, or Cantarito. The spiciness and smokiness of the liqueur bring another dimension to these drinks. But the versatility of this liquor makes it also excellent in original concoctions. Here are some recipes with Ancho Reyes you have to try:
- Old Fashioned: This split-base Old Fashioned made of equal parts bourbon and Ancho Reyes is a perfect spicy twist on the classic drink. Add Angostura bitters and orange peel as usual.
- Margarita: I recommend a split-base approach again. Use 1 ounce of Tequila and 1 ounce of Ancho Reyes with triple sec and fresh lime juice for a refreshing, spicy, and earthy Margarita cocktail variation.
- Daiquiri: For making a spicy Ancho Chile Daiquiri you can either use equal measurements of rum and Ancho Reyes or make a drink based only on the liqueur.
- Negroni: Adding the spicy liqueur to a Negroni works best in a Mezcal-based twist. Add a quarter to half an ounce of the spicy liqueur to the base recipe of mezcal, Campari, and sweet vermouth to add a subtle spicy note to the drink.
Ancho Reyes Verde
Following the success of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, our liqueur of the year in 2014, it was only natural to introduce a new member to the family. Enter Ancho Reyes Verde Poblano Liqueur, a bright green addition to the lineup.
While the original Ancho Reyes is made from dried ancho chiles, this one takes a shortcut using roasted green poblanos. The result is a light greenish-brown liqueur that captures the essence of poblano peppers.
The aroma is reminiscent of charred poblanos, evoking images of cheese-laden chile rellenos. It starts sweet on the palate, but the poblano's vegetal character quickly takes the stage, complemented by hints of citrus.
The finish offers a pleasant, lingering spiciness without overwhelming heat. Ancho Verde shines best in cocktails, as its distinctive green chile flavor thrives in the right mix.