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Drink This Weekend Edition: Gringo drinking

May 17th 03:05pm, 2013

“We are red-blooded Americans serving authentic modern Mexican food with a twist. We are a handmade taco, small-batch craft beer and tequila restaurant in an environment best described as a re-imagined mid-century Baja surf lodge.”

This is the concept for Gringo, newly opened in the Central West End, as described on its website. So how does a place called Gringo approach Mexican drinks?

“I wanted to be true to origin and true to flavor. Those were my biggest drivers,” said Coby Arzola, Gringo senior general manager, who developed the drink menu.

It’s not a Mexican joint without a margarita – Gringo has this queen of Mexican cocktails available on tap but more interesting are the freshly made shaken ones. For a burst of bright color, get the Rosa Mexicana (pictured, above), which holds hibiscus-infused blanco tequila. The vibrant pink drink is accentuated by a gorgeous rim of dried hibiscus flower and sugar. When it comes to pure flavor, we’re all over the Tamarindo. Get past the murky, yellowish-brown hue, and enjoy what tamarind purée can do to a margarita: It lends a unique sweet-sour element and a thickened texture you don’t encounter often in a marg. Tajín, a seasoning made of ground chile peppers, salt and dehydrated lime juice that Mexican street vendors shake atop fruit cocktails, adds a nice touch to the salt rim.

Gringo keeps the cerveza culture alive with eight (mainly local) craft beers on tap and another half dozen south of the border brews in cans and bottles. If you want to go native, make it a michelada (pictured, above), a Mexican-style beer cocktail (and purported hangover cure). You’ll get a can of Tecate, a shot of house-made tomato sangrita (think V8 juice with a touch of fruit and chile heat) and a lime wedge. Pour the beer into a frosty mug, top it with the sangrita and then squeeze in the lime. Need more alcohol in that beer bloody mary? For an up-charge, you can float a shot of tequila or smoky mezcal on top.

Teetotalers and tots aren’t omitted from beverage fun. Gringo offers agua fresca, a traditional Mexican thirst quencher made with water and sugar and brightened with the flavor of fruits and flowers. The hibiscus-flavored Jamaica (pictured, below right) was reminiscent of lemon and berry iced tea, while the Pineapple-Chile agua fresca (pictured, below left), a seasonal offering, is a delicious balance of not-too-sweet and mild heat.

“People come to Mexican restaurants to celebrate. We wanted the drinks to be the same,” said Arzola, who also stocked the bar with a formidable line-up of tequilas and bottled Mexican sodas. Pair any sip with a basket of house-made tortillas and a bowl of fresh salsa, and the gringo fiesta has begun.


By Ligaya Figueras

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