Summer has finally landed in NOLA and it is time for a proper Tequila Reposado cocktail.
If you haven’t noticed in your local market, bell peppers are everywhere. Red, yellow, purple, green – it’s a frakin rainbow of juicy goodness. Bell peppers are available year-round in the supermarkets but the farmer’s market are chock full of the brightly colored vegetable during its peak season of summer (June-July) through mid fall (Nov). I’ve always wanted to try out my hand at a bell pepper cocktail and when I stepped into the walk-in at Square Root this week, my eyes fell upon a whole crate of red bell peppers.
And the engine started humming in my head.
My first initial thought was to roast up the bell peppers into chunks of black charred goodness, dust ’em with Togarashi – a Japanese seven spice reserved mainly for spicing up Ramen dishes – and mix it up with Tequila Reposado. I’ve danced with Togarashi before with a banana cordial recipe and the combination of red chili peppers, ginger, orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, hemp, sansho and nori provides a delight heat at the back of the throat.
I worked up a first pass and it was…OK. Not the punch-up I was expecting from the red bell peppers. I decided to dice up a few slices of cucumber and combine it with two big chunks of roasted red bell pepper. I added a touch of the house-made Olee Sacchrum, two ounces of Tequila Reposado, a half ounce of Aperol, and a citrus combination of lime and grapefruit. Almost there…so close.
Let’s take a break and talk about Reposado style of Tequila. Jump off here and read up about it for a sec. I have a big big love for Tequila Reposado bottlings. It is the perfect marriage of the agave spice notes with the vanilla/wood tannins of a proper oak barrel. Reposado barreling styles differ from Excellia Tequila’s cogac and wine casks, Casa Noble’s French white oak barrels and Siembra Azul’s virgin American White Oak “medium toast” barrels from the Ozarks in Missouri. For whiskey/brown spirit imbibers, the Reposado style is the best way to step into the world of Tequila with its familiar wood notes and supple/spicy finish long associated with Rye Whiskies and Single Barrel bourbons.
And let’s not forget all of the damn Sam Peckinpah films I watched in my youth. I was conditioned at an early age to fall into love with Agave-based spirits. The first time I sipped Reposado Tequila years back was reminiscent of the bike dance during the Prom scene in that amazing 80’s BMX movie…RAD
And then…my favorite Brooklyn electro band Holy Ghost! made it more phenomenal with their cover of an early Ministry B-Side…
Frak. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of youthful nostalgia. Where was I? Oh yeah. TEQUILA! Red bell peppers!
Back to the drawing board of cocktail builds. I decided to keep with tossing two shakes of Togarashi into the tin, muddling the cucumbers and roasted red peppers, half ounce of Aperol, a kiss of Oleo Sacchrum and equal parts of lime and grapefruit. The build was just shy of a Rickey Henderson slide while stealing second base. My thoughts raced back to the savory element of the build and the possible amplification to bring everyone to their feet in applause. I built the drink again and add a pink peppercorn/togarashi/salted rim on half of the glass.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the drink was now ready for its close-up.
The only remaining item left for the drink was its name. I turned my head around wrapping the drink up with a Mexican-themed title. Something that wouldn’t be too obvious as “El Pimiento Loco” or “Mexican Red Wedding”. In the process of racking up my encyclopedia of pop culture, my thoughts turned to an unlikely source – Stephen Patrick Morrissey: lead singer of the Smiths and an impressive solo artist. Years back, I read an awesome article by Chuck Klosterman about East LA Latino Kids who had formed serious Morrissey fan groups. Morrissey – in his own very special way – has written several songs about Latin America including a B-Side called “Mexico” – and with a loose interpretation – one of my favorite hits of his – “The First of the Gang to Die”.
I cranked up the song in my head and read the lyrics to one of my bartenders. And then the name of the drink just made so much sense… “Pretty Petty Thieves”. Boomtime.
So…crack open your favorite bottle of Tequila Reposado, turn down the lights and enjoy one of 1986’s greatest teen BMX films…
I’ll see ya on the Cocktail Front sooner than later.