What if I were to tell you that one freewheeling, devil-may-care London bartender had invented a cocktail dedicated to the humble pork scratching? The obvious reaction would be to find him and immediately profess our undying love, right? Well, get your stalking boots on because that is exactly what Nico Peratinos, mastermind mixologist at Spanish restaurant Aqua Nueva, has done. Inspired by the ancestral tradition of La Matanza – translated as “the slaughter” in Spanish – and riffing on the classic Pisco Sour, Peratinos has elevated a simple, fatty snack to culinary magnum opus, releasing it from its pub-and-ale associations by combining a mosaic of textures and flavours to create a gob-smacking spectacle of a cocktail. “We built the whole drink around pork,” says Peratinos. “Pork scratchings, or chicharones as they’re called in Spain, combined with sugar, salt and pepper, create an explosion of flavours on the palate; salty, sweet and savoury – and then you get fruity notes from the figs and a hit of citrus from the lime. Figs beautifully complement pork. Here, the fig liqueur adds a deep but delicate sweetness to the drink.” La Matanza is deep rooted in Spain’s rural areas and involves the slaughter, preparation and consumption of a pig in a ‘nose to tail’ style of eating. Traditionally, this was a method for surviving the year ahead, where communities would come together at the end of the winter to help prepare the meat. Rooted in sustainability, the entire pig is prepared and nothing is wasted: it is said that just three pigs could feed a multi-generational family for an entire year. “Traditionally, one would drink a generous slug of grappa before venturing out in the the cold to slaughter the pig, in order to keep warm,” explains Peratinos. “Grappa is similar to pisco, but the latter works better in cocktails.” With the modern conveniences of pre-packaged pork products and artful local butchers, we have little cause to venture into the wilderness to fell our own dinners, no matter how tasty it might be. But we can certainly raise a glass to those who do.
The Pork Cocktail (Serves 2)
100ml Pisco 30ml fig liqueur 50ml lime juice 40g absinthe sugar 40ml egg whites Absinthe sugar 4 tbsp absinthe 100g caster sugar
Chilled sherry glass Pork scratchings, to garnish Sugar, salt and pepper, for the rim Juice of half a lime
- Start by making the absinthe sugar. Add the caster sugar to a bowl, and 1 tbsp at a time, add the absinthe. Using a fork, mix together well until all the sugar is coated (and green) but not saturated with liquid. The mixture should look like wet sand. Add more liquid to coat if needed.
- Line a baking tray with wax paper and tip the sugar onto it, arranging it into a single layer. Leave to dry for 30 minutes. Store the sugar in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Prepare the garnish. In a food processor (or pestle and mortar), blitz (or grind) the pork scratchings until they reach a small crumb. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar to the mix, and stir to combine. Tip the mixture onto a plate.
- Add the lime juice to a separate bowl. Dip the rim of the sherry glass in the lime juice, then carefully roll the outside of the glass across the pork scratching mixture until the rim is well-coated.
- Now assemble the drink. In a cocktail shaker, add the Pisco, fig liqueur, lime juice, absinthe sugar and egg whites. Shake well until completely combined.
- Using both hands, strain the drink carefully through a Hawthorne strainer (held flush with the opening of the shaker) and a small fine sieve positioned over your glass, making sure not to disrupt the garnish on the rim.
From delicious to stratospheric… “Make sure you get high-quality pork scratchings: the whole cocktail was built around this key ingredient.” Shopping list… “ABA Pisco has all the right characteristics a good pisco should have.” Diners can enjoy ‘The Pig Menu’, inspired by La Matanza, throughout March at London’s Aqua Nueva.