The only spirit that has a tendency to turn my stomach is tequila. For years I have assumed that involuntarily, outside of a margarita, if I drink tequila I will meet a messy end. However, after experiencing the tequila con verdura at Casita bar’s charms to my mouth and stomach (it’s a shot, no less!), I somewhat reluctantly joined The Hoodooist for the opening of El Nivel, a new mescaleria venue from the cheap and cheerful CafePacifico/LaPerla franchise.
On the second day of opening, we were in good company. The bar’s owner was there along with the movers and shakers from nearby bars (some of whom we could forgive for choosing this place over their own terrible establishments) and some of the best bartenders in town. Indeed, nearby places such as Megaro Bar and NOLA had donated bottles to the opening, so this was certainly the bartender’s bar.
But the Hoodoo and I never go out to socialise, we go to drink. First on the menu were the Mezcal fix and Fallen Angel.
QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, roasted pineapple syrup, fresh lime, Cynar and saltwater spray.
Gran Centenario Añejo, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Cynar. A heavenly twist on the Sweet Manhattan.
Pineapple balanced the smokiness of the Mezcal Fix, with saltwater adding an interesting aftertaste to Cynar’s of-the-moment savoury aroma. As for the Fallen Angel? As someone who dislikes tequila but adores Manhattans, this was a delightfully deceptive drink.
Elsewhere on the menu, the most tentative experimenters in spirits from this part of the world may want to try the citrus-based Siesta – long enough to not be dangerous but with flavours that enhance the delicacy of tequila, and the Horchata, a boozy version of a traditional Mexican (and somewhere in my archives tells me Mauritian) beverage.
Sit at the bar, and if you prove you know your stuff the bartender may even give you an ad-hoc Mezcal tasting on the house. We hear spirit flights are being planned for the future, and will be returning to learn more about this long-neglected spirit.