The Story Behind The Maximilian Affair
Imagine someone started smoking a 12-hour brisket in a French botanical garden. Now imagine that in cocktail form — the smell, not the brisket. That would be the Maximilian Affair. This modern classic, invented by Boston-based bartender Misty Kalkofen, employs mezcal, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, Punt e Mes, and lemon juice.
Kalkofen first made the Maximilian Affair at Boston’s Green Street in 2008 when Ron Cooper, the founder of Del Maguey mezcal, showed up unannounced. Caught off guard by his appearance, Kalkofen wanted to wow him with an original mezcal cocktail, so she made this one up on the spot.
The cocktail’s name is a historical reference to France’s involvement in Mexico during the 1860s, hence the mix of elderflower liqueur (France) and mezcal (Mexico). Napoleon III appointed Archduke Maximilian as the emperor of Mexico during the Mexican Civil War, and he backed the conservative forces. Unfortunately for him, he was captured by Mexican liberals and executed in 1867. The cocktail, however, is alive and well.
St-Germain Elderflower liqueur is distilled from an annual harvest of hand-picked elderflowers in the late spring. The drink’s split base of the liqueur and mezcal brings on that smoky, floral flavor, while lemon adds brightness and acidity. Punt e Mes, translating to “point and a half,” is an Italian vermouth that is one part sweet and a half-part bitter, according to its producer. Its flavor is somewhere between a sweet vermouth and amaro, adding a touch of bitterness and improving the cocktail’s overall drinkability.