The cocktail and spirits program is designed and run by Nopa bar manager Neyah White. He's created a compact but well balanced list of five different cocktails (descriptions after the jump) and a thorough study of agave spirits on the small list. You'll find the requisite tequila and mezcal, but also some rare items like Sotol, a spirit made from a wild agave from the northern desert of Mexico, and locally produced Agua Azul, made by St. George Spirits.
The tequila list is divided up by region, offering a nice survey of both the "lowlands," which tend to be more vegetal and woody, and the "highlands," which tend to be fruitier.
White has taken an innovative approach with shots of tequila, making the pours smaller (one ounce each) and therefore cheaper, with selections starting at $4.50. In keeping the experience authentic, each shot comes accompanied by a glass of sangrita, the classic Mexican tomato-based chaser.White is also in the process of assembling the largest collection of mezcal "this side of Mayahuel," he told us, a reference to the well regarded all-agave spirits bar in New York City. He's currently working on bringing in exclusive/rare mezcals.
Just like the tequilas, mezcal pours start at $4.50 and come in one-ounce measures. Staying true to Oaxacan tradition, you are provided with some chile-spiced salt and an orange wedge. Add a pinch of the salt directly to your tongue, take a sip of mezcal, and chase it with a bite from the orange. A reliable source tells us Nopalito even has sal de gusano ― the ground agave worm ― behind the bar, for an ultra-authentic experience!
Here's a look at the five cocktails on the menu, all $9 except for the margarita, whose price varies with the choice of tequila. They are available all day:
• Tommy's Margarita: The classic recipe from the celebrated Tommy's in the Richmond. An exceptional and straightforward combination of tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar, served on the rocks. Rest assured that the recipe is being used with the blessing of Julio Bermejo, the owner of Tommy's.
• El Diablo: Classic tequila cocktail made with house-made ginger soda and crème de cassis, served on the rocks.
• Mezcal Paloma: Mezcal with house-made grapefruit soda.
• Bloody Maria: Tequila, tomato, orange, and smoked jalapeño vinegar, with salt rim.
• Mezcal Ponche: A very clever play on the Mexican punch and the classic punches of early colonial times. Mezcal, orange, lime, cinnamon, and Xtabentún, a rum-based honey-anise liqueur from the Yucatán.
By necessity, there is no space to create a bar, per se, so vanish any thoughts of talking to the bartender while ordering, or having anything besides agave-based drinks. Thankfully, the staff knows its agave spirits, and can help guide you to something that suits your taste and level of adventurousness.
Nopalito 306 Broderick (at Oak), 437-0303.
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