Tequila!

Tequila! (Evan Siple, Baltimore Sun / October 22, 2013)

I'm more than likely not alone when I say I have a very healthy aversion to tequila.

And it's certainly not the fault of tequila; it's my own. I had too many squandered opportunities in the days of my youth shooting bargain basement brands, resulting in sickness or a gag reflex. My apologies to the agave plant and its boozy progeny. I've learned my lesson and will from now on and henceforth always consider tequila when I see a craft cocktail on the list. And Jack's Bistro has the perfect savory cocktail for those who used to be in the same boat: the Sargento Pimiento.

Bartender Ryan Sparks has put together a concoction of a truly different variety, consisting of Anejo (extra aged) tequila, lemon, rosemary-infused Lillet Blanc, celery bitters with a smoked simple syrup and muddled red bell peppers. Sparks explains that "everything is made in house by me except the celery bitters," which piqued my interest as to how the smoked simple syrup was accomplished. "We have a cold smoker in the back and I smoke the sugar before it's dissolved into syrup," he further explains. Very interesting. Which begs the question: Why don't I use smoked sugar for EVERYTHING?

But I digress. This cocktail is about tequila, and the ingredients play off of the earthy nature of Anejo tequila to create a bitter, tart, very assertive libation that doesn't compromise on flavor without bludgeoning you over the head with it. Your lips won't pucker nor ache for more sweetness; it's very well balanced indeed. And if you think the idea of a muddled vegetable in the form of red pepper in your cocktail seems off-putting, don't worry — it blends well with the celery notes imparted by bitters and adds an attractive hue.

In fact, with a topper of tomato juice the Sargento Pimiento could be one of the most interesting and different Bloody Marys ever put together. However, its savory status and vegetable highlights certainly stand on their own two feet without any assistance. And if you need any persuasion to come back to a tequila cocktail, this Sargento a unique addition to the world of craft cocktail.

How to make the Sargento Pimiento

1 1/2 oz. Anejo tequila

1 oz. rosemary-infused Lillet Blanc

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/4 oz. smoked simple syrup

2 dashes of celery bitters

Red bell pepper

Muddle slice of red bell pepper in a shaker, combine all other ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain twice to avoid pepper chunks in the final cocktail. Garnish with lemon rind.

Where to get the Sargento Pimiento

Jack's Bistro

3123 Elliott St, Canton

410-878-6542

jacksbistro.net

$9.50