A primordial ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet; a cultural legacy packed with unbeatable nutritional qualities and a variety of aromas and flavors. The virtues of Spanish extra virgin olive oil are known to all. Now, we want consumers to let themselves be seduced by another application for this liquid gold: as a magnificent mixer for cocktails. Sound sophisticated? Trust us, it is.
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/®ICEX.
Risk taking, an adventurous spirit and new journeys to embark on alongside one of the most emblematic ingredients in the Spanish pantry, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). That is what Héctor Henche – the creative director of the consulting firm Fizz Bartenders and one of this country’s most famed barmen – felt upon receiving an enticing phone call from the Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español.
The idea was to create original cocktails that would highlight the different personalities of Spanish extra virgin olive oil. From the start this proposal was, at the very least, an amazingly ambitious one. I spoke to Héctor Henche about this experience, starting off with a question as basic as it was necessary to ask. What does Spanish EVOO contribute to the incredibly creative world of mixology? “Olive oil lends us significant doses of flavor, texture, shine... as well as originality. There are two keys: Spanish extra virgin olive oil has a silky texture and sheen that infuses our cocktails with vibrancy.”
The type of EVOO used makes a big difference: “Depending on which variety we use, we are creating certain nuances or others. It isn’t the same to use an EVOO made from Cornicabra olives, with green, herbaceous notes and slightly bitter touches, than it is to use an oil made from Empeltre olives, which are sweeter and fruiter with scarcely any bitter or spicy notes.”
Of all the Spanish olive oil varieties there is one that, in Héctor Henche’s opinion, boasts the most versatility when it comes to cocktails: “This is without a doubt the variety Arbequina, one of the most common and surely the most popular ones. Its fruity notes – always with touches of green fruit – and virtual lack of bitterness with a barely spiced finish, makes it very easy to use in different combinations. Of course we mustn't forget that in Spain we are extremely lucky to have so many different olive varieties. We can find a wide range of aromas and flavors to choose from, depending on which olive oil has the nuances that we want to add to a specific cocktail.”
Sweet and spiced notes, aromas of freshly-cut grass...
Teresa Pérez, the director of the Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español agrees with Héctor Henche in that the variety of olives found here is one of the major advantages of the Spanish EVOO industry with respect to its competitors: “More than 260 varieties of olive are grown in Spain and each one yields very characteristic oils in terms of both flavors and aromas. Therefore, if a bartender needs sweeter and fruitier notes, he or she can use the variety Arbequina. However, when looking for greener characteristics, a good option would be to work with the variety Hojiblanca, for example.”
Teresa reminds me that Spanish virgin and extra virgin olive oil is nothing more than “the pressed juice of the fresh olive fruit. Therein lie the origins of the product’s organoleptic traits: aromas and flavors of fruit, aromatic herbs, vegetables, etc. And to this we should add the fact that oils are powerful flavor enhancers. They have everything it takes to form part of a palette of liquids and foods that a mixologist can turn to in order to make his or her creation.”
Spanish EVOO, a prestigious mixer
How about we put these theories to the test? The following are four examples of cocktails that use EVOO as a star ingredient. These delectable creations were invented by Héctor Henche and, we promise, you won’t regret trying any of them.
Nitro Arbequina Espresso Martini:
“A summery and very Spanish version of an Espresso Martini. The combination of the coffee with the lemon and the fresh and fruity aromas provided by the touch of Arbequina extra virgin olive oil is surprising and very refreshing.”
Under The Fig Tree:
“The herbaceous notes from the Cornicabra variety are the perfect match for this suggestive virgin cocktail that’s made by mixing green and black tea with coconut, fig and jasmine.”
“This is our own special tribute to this Andalusian river, which brings water to so many olive plantations. Our goal was to capture the spirit of the river in a glass, starting with a grassy-tasting gin. We then enhanced it with an infusion of Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil, which also boasts grassy aromas.”
Picual Banana Daiquiri:
“A version of a classic Banana Daiquiri, for which we’ve used Picual EVOO to lend the mixture both a silky texture and an element of complexity, thanks to its slightly spicy and bitter notes that complement the añejo rum perfectly, and contrast with the sweetness of the ripe banana.”
Translation: Adrienne Smith/®ICEX.