What: El Chapo with mezcal, dry curaçao, lemon, nutmeg, and tamarind-infused falernum
Where: Pepita Cantina, 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
What You Should Be Drinking
Yes, that El Chapo. When Ballston’s Pepita Cantina opened its doors in July 2015, the Mexican drug lord was on the loose, having escaped prison through a tunnel. Even though the fugitive has since been captured (thanks, Sean Penn!), Mike Isabella Concepts Beverage Director Taha Ismail has kept it on the menu. The mezcal cocktail leans a little tiki with dry curaçao, lemon, nutmeg, and tamarind-infused falernum. Each ingredient is poured in equal quantities, just like a Last Word cocktail. Anyone that’s encountered a bodega selling Jarritos soda knows that tamarind is pure Mexico. Ismail takes fresh pods, roasts them in the oven, and lets them sit in falernum—a spiced, citrusy liqueur—for 48 hours.
Why You Should Be Drinking It
“I think people are still scared of mezcal,” Ismail says. “We sell a lot of mezcal margaritas, but not so much the cocktails because people are afraid of the smoke and waking up with a hangover—but that’s not true.” Ismail joins the ranks of bar folk on a crusade to #MakeMezcalGreatAgain. While any booze can leave you feeling icky after a bender, forget the next day for now, because El Chapo is velvety, balanced, a little smoky, and goes down smooth. The freshly grated nutmeg, one of Ismail’s calling cards, is always a nice touch.
Photo by Laura Hayes