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Location: Big Bear Cafe, 1700 1st St. NW Bartender response: “You know almost everything has citrus in it, right?” What we got: Tequila with cherry juice and ginger beer How it tasted: Sharp, spicy and refreshing Price: $7 Improv points (1-5): 3. Cherry is a stone fruit, not citrus. Our bartender earns a point for simply knowing the difference. Still, the cherry functions similarly, adding tartness and sweetness; add another point. And considering how limited the bar is at Big Bear, the concoction seems all the more innovative.
Location: El Centro D.F., 1819 14th St. NW Bartender response: “I can do this. Just give me a minute.” What we got: Muddled fresh strawberries and mint with agave, strawberry purée, and tequila blanco. How it tasted: Fresh and not too sweet, sort of like a grown-up strawberry margarita. Price: $10 Improv points (1-5): 4. Strawberry is also not citrus. Score 1 for El C. We also liked the agave as a natural alternative to simple syrup, and the fruity purée added body. Add another point for graciously using rail spirits instead of slipping in some super-pricey top-shelf tequila (the place has hundreds of them).
Location: Oyamel, 401 7th St. NW Bartender response: “Tequila cocktails are usually citrusy or boozy. So, you want boozy?” What we got: A Riviera, tequila anejo with Pernod bitters and Bénédictine How it tasted: Like tequila. The bitters brought some smoke, but in no way tamped down the anejo. Price: $14 Improv points (1-5): 1. The monasterial Bénédictine turns this shot-worthy hooch into easy sipping material. But we’re just two weeks into this column and bartenders we’ve challenged have already invoked its herbal essences twice. Either this is the liqueur of the moment, or we have to stop going out dressed like monks.
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