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What: Joya with La Venenosa Raicilla Sierra de Jalisco, Green Chartreuse, and Dolin sweet vermouth
Where: Espita Mezcaleria, 1250 9th St. NW, (202) 621-9695, espitadc.com
What You Should Be Drinking
No surprise here: the lead spirit in Espita Mezcaleria’s “Joya” cocktail is mezcal. But La Venenosa Raicilla is a little edgy and oft-ignored. “It’s kind of an illegal mezcal from Jalisco,” says owner Josh Phillips. In that Mexican state, distillers call their mezcal “raicilla.” They cannot legally certify their product as “mezcal” because it’s produced outside the Denomination of Origin (a geographic area in which products must be made a certain way to earn the right to use a certain name). Without regulations, Phillips explains, “they can do it how they used to, whatever their family did.” The agave spirit forms the base of an otherwise gin-based New Orleans cocktail called the “Bijou” with a supporting cast of Green Chartreuse and Dolin sweet sermouth. The raicilla makes a keen gin substitute because it’s light and botanical with notes of raw lemon oil.
Why You Should be Drinking It
Beverage Director Megan Barnes says the $16 sticker shock and unfamiliar ingredients deter guests from ordering the drink. But she claims it’s actually a deal. The raicilla retails at $75 a bottle, which is pricey for mezcal. If you were to order a 1.5 oz. pour (the amount in the cocktail), it would be $17, and that doesn’t count the cost of Chartreuse. “It’s our way of discounting it to get people to try something that’s just stunning,” Phillips says. Given that the drink plays a magic trick—it’s 100 percent booze, but goes down smooth—the price tag is worth it. Barnes adds that it’s the drink bartenders from other spots order on their days off. However, the pair cautions guests about the drink’s high alcohol content. “Yeah, I would get something in your stomach, maybe pound some salsa first,” Phillips says. “Two of these and you’re done for the night.”