1 large red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
½ large red or gold tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
¼ ounce simple syrup (see NOTE)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 thin crosswise slices jalapeno pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon smoked salt or chili-lime salt, for garnish (see headnote)
Several thin slices unpeeled cucumber, for garnish
3 ounces mescal, such as Del Maguey's Vida
Fresh basil leaves, preferably purple basil, for garnish
Squeeze the lime half to yield ½ ounce of juice; reserve the spent lime half.
Combine the bell pepper, tomato, lime juice, simple syrup, salt and jalapeno, if using, in a blender. Puree at high speed, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth or jelly bag, reserving the juice and discarding the solids. You should get 6 to 8 ounces.
Make a small heap of smoked salt or chili-lime salt on a plate. Rub the spent lime half around the rims of two chilled highball glasses, then roll the rims gently across the plated salt (you don't have to go all the way around, and it doesn't have to be neat). Fill the glasses two-thirds full with ice. Slip several slices of cucumber into each glass.
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, then add the strained juice and the mezcal. Shake briefly to chill, then divide between the glasses and garnish with basil.
Cook's notes: While a reposado tequila will do here, a good mezcal takes the flavor to a smokier level and works well with the veggie-centric nature of this savory drink. Using red bell pepper and tomato for a backbone and straining out the solids preserves the vibrant flavor and color of summer produce but eliminates the gloppy texture of some bloody marys.
Smoked salt is available at Whole Foods, Sur la Table and other stores. Chili-lime salt is available at Sur la Table, many Hispanic markets and some grocery stores.
M. Carrie Allan