It’s no surprise that corn, the crop that manages to find its way onto the ingredient lists of many of our food items, is one of the main ingredients in the production of fine liquor. Corn is the primary grain used in bourbon, and it contributes to the mixed grain mash bills of many other spirits, including corn whiskeys and even some vodkas and gins. However, the intrinsic, pure taste of corn is lost or masked in all these concoctions. But Nixta Liqor de Elote, the world’s first corn-forward liquor that some describe as “like drinking tamale,” makes a strong case for why the grain should be front and center in your rocks glass more often.
What Is Nixta Liquor de Elote?
Nixta hails from Jilotepec, Mexico, and was deliberately crafted as a celebration of pure maize. The spirit’s aroma exudes the essence of sweet corn with the scent of freshly baked cornbread. Its taste, while undoubtedly alcoholic, has robust notes of cornmeal — dominantly sweet but with a hint of umami — all without the grittiness.
While the tamale comparison may be a little extreme — there are no notes of any savory fillings — the sweetness of masa, the corn dough used in tamales, is present in every sip. That’s because the corn used in both masa flour and Nixta goes through a nixtamalization process, an ancient, 4,000-year-old Mesoamerican culinary technique in which corn is cooked in an alkaline limewater solution before hulling, which unlocks the strongest flavors and aromas of corn.
In the case of Nixta, the sourced maize is 100% non-GMO cacahuazintle, an heirloom white kernel variety indigenous to the foothills of the Nevado de Toluca volcano. It’s the same corn variety used in Abasolo Ancestral Corn Whisky, an elevated corn whiskey made by the same team at Destilería y Bodega Abasolo in Jilotepec. In fact, the origin of Nixta came from the production of this whiskey. Co-founder and Master Distiller Iván Saldaña realized that the unaged base of the whiskey — a 50/50 blend of roasted and raw macerated corn, water, and local, unrefined cane sugar — could be taken in another direction that would truly bring the complex flavors of corn into the spotlight.
The result of his experimentation is the world’s first corn liqueur, with 30% ABV and a smooth, silky texture. Each sip of Nixta brings the distinct, sweet flavors of roasted (and thus slightly caramelized) maize to your palate, with hints of vanilla. And if there’s any doubt of the presence of corn—not that you would need it—Nixta comes in a glass bottle fashioned like an elote (a corn on the cob), complete with the bumpy texture of kernels.
What Is Nixta Best Used For?
Nixta is a great addition to any bar’s stock, not only for its exterior beauty but also for the versatile spirit within. Some mixologists have dubbed Nixta the “bartender’s salsa,” because it’s an adaptable ingredient that can be used in any cocktail that calls for a little sweetness — almost like an alcoholic, corn-infused simple syrup. In fact, some dessert chefs have embraced it, using it as a topping on flan or panna cotta, or as a drizzle over ice cream.
Mix Nixta with whiskey, Angostura bitters, and a slice of orange peel, and you have a Jilo Old Fashioned. Shake it with tequila, agave, pineapple, and lime juices, and you have a Golden Margarita to pour into a salt-rimmed glass. Add Nixta to coffee, and you’ll have a sweet-corn take on carajillo, the Latino boozy coffee drink.
While all those cocktails sound delicious and refreshing, Nixta is also perfect right out of its elote-shaped glass bottle, to sip neat or on the rocks. Its texture is so velvety that one might throw that tamales comparison out the window completely, as sipping this licor de elote straight feels akin to sipping on a fine cognac. Perhaps it could be marketed as a “corn cognac,” or “corngnac” if you will. And if the folks at Destilería y Bodega Abasolo find that extremely corny, maybe that’s the point.
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