Where: Tortilla Coast, 1460 P St. NW
Bartender: Jamie Pineda
Mystery Ingredient: Thai basil jalapeños from D.C.-based Gordy’s Pickle Jar
Bartender Response: “I love pickles, but I’m not a big fan of jalapeños,” Pineda said, taking a bite to assess the heat level. Yep, spicy.
What We Got: A scorchingly hot, take-no-prisoners cocktail with mezcal, agave nectar, and plenty of—cough, cough—jalapeño flavor. Pinenda picked Los Nahuales from “world capital of mezcal” Santiago Matatlan in Oaxaca.
How It Tasted: At first, all I tasted was my throat, on fire. But after the burning subsided, I got a hint of the smoky, woodsy flavor from the Los Nahuales. “I didn’t want to amp up the spice that was already there,” Pineda said, explaining how he tried to balance the heat with a smoky sweet mezcal rather than a spicy white tequila. Unfortunately, this drink was still all fire and only a whiff of smoke.
Improv Points (1 to 5): 1. The cocktail over-delivered on spice, and not in a good way. What about some flavors to play off the jalapeño’s Thai basil-infused brine? Actually, more ingredients—any ingredients—would’ve boosted the improv points. Just adding mezcal does not a creative cocktail make.
¼ ounce jalapeño juice
1 ½ Los Nahuales Mezcal
¼ ounce agave nectar, cut with ¼ ounce of water
Muddle jalapeños with jalapeño juice until the consistency is mushy. Combine with mezcal and agave nectar and shake with ice. Strain into a glass with a half salted rim.
Photo by Adele Chapin