On the plant-filled rooftop of the Penny Hotel Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the recently opened elNico plays homage to the rich Latin American heritage of its team, and not just in the Mexican-inspired dishes from the restaurant. The bar program was developed by Leo Robitschek, who previously brought his skills to Eleven Madison Park and NoMad Bar, along with bar director Cristhian Rodriguez, drawing inspiration from their shared stories as immigrants to the U.S., from Venezuela and Peru, respectively.
For Robitschek, the Verd-Rita cocktail is representative of elNico’s approach behind the bar: “forward-thinking, seasonal, vibrant, and collaborative with the kitchen, with a focus on using ingredients in its entirety,” he says. “I was looking to make a variation on a Margarita that was reminiscent of guacamole in flavor and has a more lush texture.” That led him to layer the complex base of fino sherry and smoky mezcal, with citrus top notes, herbaceousness from the cilantro- and pineapple-based verdita, spice from jalapeño, and a velvety creaminess from the avocado.
The cocktail is also part of the bar’s efforts toward closing the loop between kitchen and bar by using ingredients from root to flower. “The cocktail shares ingredients with the kitchen allowing us to eliminate or lessen possible waste,” says Robitschek. But most of all, this one is a seasonal crowd-pleaser.
Verd-Rita Selling Points
- “The cocktail is a crushable take on a margarita with a vegetal and spice note,” says Robitschek. “It would appeal to anyone that likes refreshing drinks with a bit of spice.”
- For the sustainability-minded guest, the low-waste approach of the bar makes for a notable backstory.
- Everything mezcal is trending at the moment and this culinary-inspired cocktail offers the spirit in a savory package.
- ¼ oz. agave syrup (2:1 dilution)
- ¼ oz. elNico Margarita blend*
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- ½ oz. verdita**
- ¾ oz. avocado syrup***
- ¾ oz. Lustau Fino Jarana Sherry
- 1 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Method: Combine all the ingredients in a tin, add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe with a salt rim.
* Margarita blend:
- ½ oz. L’Original Combier Liqueur d’Orange
- ½ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
- 1 oz. agave syrup (55 Brix)
- 3.17 oz. cilantro, stems and leaves
- 3.17 oz. mint leaves
- 33.85 oz. pineapple
- 1 l pineapple juice
- 1 l honeydew melon juice
- 240 ml lime juice
- 20 jalapeños
- 0.15 oz. Morita water
- 0.35 oz. black pepper, lightly crushed
- 0.35 oz. ascorbic acid
Method: Weigh all ingredients, blend, and pass through a chinois.
*** Avocado Syrup:
- 1 kg avocado
- 1 l lime juice
- 1 kg sugar
- 500 ml water
Method: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and strain.
Tyler Wetherall is the senior editor for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Her drinks journalism has appeared in publications including Punch, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Thrillist, and The Spirits Business, which awarded her the Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer of the Year. Tyler is also the author of No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run. Follow her on Instagram at @tylerwrites.