“When did ginger beer become indispensable?” I turned on the TV just in time to hear a fictional bartender utter these words. When, indeed? There was a time when mixers came out of a gun and the most exciting fresh fruit behind a bar was an orange. Mixologists are more than mere bartenders, they are passionate about their craft and take time to create cocktails that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, usually sourced locally, which enhance the flavors of the spirit rather than mask them. These drinks are fabulous on their own, but when paired with the right food the combinations complement each other the way a Chianti complements pasta with tomato sauce.
Apothecary Lounge at Hotel Parq Central
Katixa Mercier, Apothecary Lounge Manager, and Frank Sanchez, Chef
When Katixa Mercier came to the Apothecary Lounge three months ago she had the opportunity not only to develop the cocktail program but to work with Chef Frank Sanchez to create a bar menu of small plates that would work with the cocktails. On mixology Katixa says, “It’s important to honor the classics,” but she also likes to “push the envelope a bit and get to play.” Katixa focuses on local ingredients for her cocktails as much as possible. “Hotel Parq Central is a local business and we feel a social responsibility to give back to the community.” A restaurant and bar can’t stand out there on their own—they need to “be involved with the whole industry. People want to know where things come from.”
What makes this pairing work? “It’s a play on classic Mexican tequila and tacos.” A combination that is “in the bones of every New Mexican. The play of spicy and sweet on the taste buds”—the tacos can get almost too spicy, then the sweetness of the blood orange in the cocktail calms down the spice.
Pork Adobo Tacos and La Llorona Cocktail
1 Tablespoon salt
10 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
1 12 ounce tub red chile
12 ounce water
1 cup whole garlic cloves
3 cups honey
⅓ cup slurry (equal parts corn starch and water)
Fill a stock pot about halfway with water and the salt. Gently lower the pork in, bring to a soft boil and boil until cooked through. Strain and set aside. Once the pork is cooled, shred by hand or in a food processor.
In a separate stock pot, simmer the tub of chile, the water and garlic for about 15 minutes. Strain thecontents into a sauce pot and whisk in the honey and slurry and reduce until nicely thickened, stirring occasionally. Transfer the shredded pork back into its original stock pot and pour the adobo sauce over, stirring until well incorporated. Serve with your favorite taco fixin’s! At Apothecary, ours are El Mezquite Market corn tortillas, thinly sliced red cabbage, fresh cilantro and cotija cheese.
2 ounces tequila, house-infused with local green chile
½ ounce orange juice
½ ounce lime juice
¼ ounce Solerno blood orange liqueur
½ ounce agave nectar
Prep a glass by scalloping the rim with kosher salt. In a shaker packed with ice, combine all ingredients (except the hibiscus syrup) and shake vigorously. Strain contents into the prepped glass over fresh ice. With a squeeze bottle, gently sink the hibiscus syrup to the bottom. Garnish with an orange wedge.
The Hotel Parq Central is located at 806 Central Ave. SE in Albuquerque. 505.242.0040.
Ibiza Bar at the Hotel Andaluz
Jonathan Montoya, Bar Manager, and James Campbell Caruso, Chef
Jonathan Montoya and Chef James Caruso head the beverage and food teams at MÁS and Ibiza, both located in the historic Hotel Andaluz. Ibiza is a rooftop bar (opened year round thanks to Albuquerque’s milder climate and some heat lamps) that caters to locals, tourists and a lot of business travelers who, according to Jonathan, “never get to leave the hotel.” If you don’t get a chance to leave the Hotel Andaluz, you’re okay because you’ll still get to sample food by Chef Caruso, which is some of the best cooking in New Mexico. At Ibiza, Jonathan is deep in the mixology scene, with lots of fresh ingredients—“We use everything fresh, and we make our own mixers”—and a bevy of local beers on tap. Chef Caruso and Jonathan chose their Smoked Salmon Nachos paired with a Conrad Collins.
The Conrad Collins is named in honor of Conrad Hilton, whose first property in New Mexico was at the site of the Andaluz. Jonathan says that it’s a great drink even for people who think they don’t like gin. “It’s very light and refreshing, a great way to start drinking gin.” The pairing works because of the light and fresh ingredients of both. They both call out “summertime!”
1 ounce grapefruit juice
Juice of ½ lime
1½ ounce Hendricks gin
½ ounce St. Germain Liqueur
Top with tonic
Gently muddle cucumber in a mixing glass with grapefruit and lime juices. Add gin and St. Germain. Shake. Fill Collins glass with ice, add mixture and top with tonic and a cucumber garnish.
Smoked Salmon Nachos
6 crispy wonton triangles
6 slices of smoked salmon
For the mint aioli: Combine 1 egg yolk with 2 cloves of garlic and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice in a food processor and blend well. Add a pinch of salt and ½ cup fresh mint and slowly drizzle ½ cup olive oil while motor is running until a thick mayonnaise texture forms.
Assemble wonton chips on a plate, top each with a piece of smoked salmon, a small spoonful of aioli and a sliver of fresh poblano pepper.
The Hotel Andaluz is located at 125 2nd St. NW in Albuquerque. 505.242.9090.
Story by Caitlin Richards