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Where: The Coupe, 3415 11 St. NW

Bartender: David Fritzler

Mystery Ingredient: Balsamic vinegar

Bartender Response: Fritzler hopped into action, making several trips to gather ingredients. “I don’t think I’ve walked around this much for any drink I’ve made,” he said.

What We Got: A fruity, smoky spin on a michelada. In addition to tomato juice and Tecate, Fritzler added balsamic vinegar, Sombra mezcal, grapefruit and lime juice, panca pepper paste, and Maggi seasoning, a wheat-based soy-sauce equivalent.

How It Tasted: Whoa—the first sips were intensely salty. But my taste buds slowly acclimated to all that umami from the Maggi, allowing me to appreciate the subtlety of the citrus and smoke from the mezcal.

Improv Points (1-5): 3. We wish the balsamic vinegar stood out a bit more. Perhaps it was overpowered by the panca pepper and the Maggi, so those who fear salt might want to ease up on those ingredients. But on the whole, the drink was a fresh alternative to the usual spicy michelada. And the Tecate lightened things up for a savory and refreshing summer cocktail that drank like a meal. Plus, it was a good-looking drink, with the bright green accent from the thyme and lime garnish.


1 ounce of Sombra mezcal

3/4 ounce of lime juice

3/4 ounce of grapefruit juice

1/4 ounce of Maggi seasoning

3/4 ounce of balsamic vinegar

2 ounces of tomato juice

1 small bar spoon of Dona Isabel panca pepper paste

4 to 5 ounces Tecate beer

Rub cut lime on exterior of glass rim, then invert onto a dish of kosher salt. Combine all the ingredients except the beer in a glass and stir. Fill glass with ice. Top off with Tecate beer. Stir again. Garnish with fresh thyme sprig and a lime wedge.

Photo by Adele Chapin