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Usually if you order a second shot of tequila it’s because you’re punishing some sort of wrongdoing or celebrating achieving legend status. But at Republic Cantina, you’ll want another “pico back” because they actually taste great.
The co-owner of the Truxton Circle Tex-Mex hotspot, Chris Svetlik, explains that he was inspired by a pickle back, which combines a shot of whiskey with a chaser of pickle brine.
Instead of using salty pickling liquid to tame the the burn from whiskey, Republic Cantina follows a shot of tequila with a chaser of the juice that gets strained off when the restaurant makes batches of pico de gallo. The traditional salsa typically combines chopped tomato, onion, salt, lime juice, and cilantro.
The only thing Svetlik says they add to the pico de gallo juice is an extra squeeze of fresh lime juice. The result is a refreshing gulp that tastes a little like thinned out gazpacho with a kick.
“We found a couple places on the menu where we can reuse surplus or runoff products,” Svetlik says. “This is the perfect storm of recognizing that we had this delicious product that otherwise gets poured down the drain.” Food waste reduction: so hot right now.
Republic Cantina also makes its own hot sauce. Bartenders take the brine from the fermentation process involved in making the hot sauce and put it to good use in a fermented chili margarita.
Each pico back shot costs $8 (or $7 during happy hour) and they’re catching on in popularity, according to Svetlik. “People don’t come in expecting them,” he says.
The bar team has a lot of fun at Republic Cantina, which fits with the relaxed, come-as-you-are vibe. Another concoction, the cevichelada, tops a Modelo michelada with a few spoonfuls of ceviche.
Pair any of the drinks with a winter menu addition, green pozole with pork shoulder.
Republic Cantina, 43 N St. NW; (202) 997-4340; republic-cantina.com