Last Monday night a menu of ten original cocktails each showcasing Spanish influence around the globe tempted Julie and I as we settled onto our bar-stools at Estragon.  Sahil Mehta described his Spanish Sip cocktail menu as “a bar-stool voyage around world.”  Along with some very yummy $1 tapas, Julie and I sampled quite a few things on the cocktail menu.  Here are my impressions and taste notes about my favorites, as well as Sahil’s explanation of his inspiration.

I started my journey with the Simon Bolivar (Pisco, yerba mate, pineapple juice, mango syrup, lime, Angostura bitters)I couldn’t resist the allure of yerba mate, a species of holly native to subtropical South America that is popularly made into a tea-like drink, or the temptation of mango syrup.  With this drink I appreciated the subtleness of the pineapple and mango which did not overpower as can sometimes happen with these flavors.  Instead the hint of tropical fruit surrounded the woodiness and vegetal qualities of the pisco and yerba mate.  I liked that the sweet and woody flavors seemed to be competing for my taste buds’ attention—each sip was an interesting one.  Sahil’s approach to this drink might account for this.  He explained: I wanted a cocktail that drew inspiration from northern South America – Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, and from the south -Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Since I was combining large parts of the continent in one cocktail, I decided to name it Simon Bolivar – a tongue-in-cheek reference to Bolivar’s ambitious plan to unite Spanish colonies into a single nation. The former group of nations produces a rich bounty of fruits, while the latter is known for its fondness of yerba mate.”

For my second drink I had the Utrecht-Baden which Sahil had suggested because of my fondness for the Negroni.  Did you know that the Netherlands and parts of Italy were Spanish colonies at one point?  (I actually did because of my museum work and art history background.)   This historical fact inspired the combination of Dutch genever with Italian liqueurs and amaros for an herbal, bitter and boozy result.  Sahil was right—this was right up my alley.  Just the layering of flavors of Bols genever, Aperol, and sweet vermouth (in Negroni style) would have been delicious, but then add a little of the ultra bitter, potent Fernet Branca and mirto, that myrtle berry liqueur that suggests mint, eucalyptus, and even pepper on your palette, and my mouth was buzzing with happiness.  The drink is named for two early 18th C treaties related to Spain’s colonization efforts; quite complicated and intriguing stuff, like the flavor of the cocktail.

When Tiki Met Tequila was Julie’s first choice and I agree with her that this was also quite delicious.  We are both huge fans of all-spice dram.  But instead of tasting like your typical rum-based tiki drink, the hibiscus tequila mixed with velvet falernum, all-spice dram and lime, took things in a different direction.  Sahil’s explanation:“Mexico was the inspiration…I wanted a drink that incorporated some elements of Mexico’s Caribbean coast… I did it by mixing ingredients that are normally used in rum-based Tiki drinks, but using a floral, hibiscus-infused tequila.” Hence the drink’s name.

This was my first visit to Estragon; it will not be my last.  I absolutely loved the art deco décor (the wallpaper in the bathroom is amazing), but even more appealing is the opportunity to spend more time with Sahil.  Not only is he a great bartender, but its clear from his gracious hospitality and big smile that he’s quite passionate about what he does.  To Spain and all its influences, and to Sahil Mehta for introducing me to Estragon and many fabulous Spanish sips. Cheers!