It sounds like the start of a bad joke: "One time in Vietnam, I had the best margarita."
Wait, what? No, but seriously, at Saigon Today in Canton, I found an unexpectedly delicious South of the Border gem hidden among the specialty cocktails: the Cinnamon Margarita.
When Saigon opened this summer (in the spot formerly occupied by Yellow Dog Tavern), I was pretty pumped. Not only is it hard to find really good pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup) in Baltimore, it's just difficult to find an Asian restaurant that serves anything beyond imported beers and wine.
What sets the restaurant apart from others in the area is its drink menu, a list of seven semi-rotating beverages that contrast nicely with the traditional Vietnamese food program. We're talking a mojito, a gin martini, vodka-spiked lemonade — not your average Asian-restaurant offerings. So I was intrigued to see a margarita, especially one with cinnamon. I took it as a challenge. Would it really be any good?
Owner Susu Ha conceded that the Cinnamon Margarita has flown under patron's radars. But the warmth of the cocktail's seasonal spice seems to have inspired more adventurous orders as temperatures cool.
The cocktail is itself a bit of a contradiction. And yes, there is such a thing as cinnamon tequila. In fact, the Peligroso brand claims it was the first company to make a cinnamon-infused version of the spirit. Fact or fiction, it is an unusual product and smoother on its own than that other cinnamon-based favorite, Fireball. Playing off the warmth and tang of the tequila, the pineapple juice, fresh lime juice and triple sec are mixed together to provide the sweet and sour margarita-y part of the cocktail.
A final garnish — a full cinnamon stick — completes the drink, making more of an aesthetic statement than actually amping up the flavor. The result is surprisingly balanced, even and smooth, if a little heavy on the sweet. I recommend ordering with salt to even out your palate.
Who knew you could roll into a restaurant for spring rolls and pot stickers and wind up with a Mexican cocktail? The punch line here is nothing but delicious.
How to Make The Cinnamon Margarita
3 parts Peligroso cinnamon tequila
2 parts pineapple juice
1 part triple sec
1 part fresh lime
Mix ingredients together, shake, and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Where to Get The Cinnamon Margarita
700 S. Potomac, Canton