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Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you’re not ordering.
What: The Mate with Pisco Portón, smoked honey, yerba mate, Bonal, and egg white
Where: Ocopa, 1324 H St. NE
What You Should Be Drinking
Ocopa is pouring a cocktail with alleged health benefits, but few patrons are trying it. The Peruvian restaurant incorporates yerba mate, a type of tea native to South America, into a take on a pisco sour. “It generally has a very bitter flavor, and it’s just packed with caffeine,” says General Manager Ani Nguyen, who recommends sipping it at the start of a meal. Yerba Mate is also said to aid in digestion and supply antioxidants. Nguyen and her team make syrup out of the tea and black honey for a classic combination of flavors. Pisco is then added, along with Bonal (an herbaceous French aperitif) for another wave of bitterness. Egg white makes the cocktail foamy.
Why You Should be Drinking It
Nguyen says it’s the most intimidating drink on the list so people shy away from it, but they shouldn’t. “When you go to ethnic restaurants as opposed to American restaurants, you should always try that one thing that isn’t familiar to you,” she says. The payoff for ordering The Mate instead of one of the simpler pisco sour variations is big. You get two types of a buzz—from the caffeine and from the booze—and the drink isn’t too sweet because of the bouquet of bittering agents. It also readies your palate for the rustic, earthy characteristics of common Peruvian ingredients like potatoes and quinoa, says Nguyen.