Penca's Jicaro Is a Lightly Spicy, Agave-Centric Cocktail

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With just four components, this cocktail packs a punch. - HEATHER HOCH
  • Heather Hoch
  • With just four components, this cocktail packs a punch.

It's no secret that Penca's Bryan Eichhorst has a passion for agave distillates. Recently, he created a full menu for the downtown restaurant listing all of their mezcals—there are 32—in categories with notes on how it's made and from where it originates.

With a few new spring cocktails and old favorites like the housemade tepache, Penca's cocktail menu is modest, but ranges from bold and spirit forward to sipable and tart with just a few drinks.

One of the menu's stand-out new drinks is the Jicaro—a cocktail that shows both Eichhorst's knowledge of the history of agave spirits and his penchant for making them into balanced cocktails.

The four ingredient cocktail uses infusions to give the simple drink an extra edge. Eichhorst infuses Del Maguey Vida mezcal with elote (you know, corn). He also infuses, er, macerates aguamiel with chiltepin chiles.

Aguamiel is a special thing to include in an agave cocktail because it is essentially the reason mezcal exists. The sweet agave sap was originally harvested for its purported medicinal qualities. That sap (the aguamiel) was fermented and turned into pulque (agave wine) which was, in turn, distilled to make mezcal when the conquistadors brought their stills in from Europe.

The drink itself is just lightly sweet from the aguamiel, a little spicy from the chiltepin, a touch smoky from the mezcal which is mellowed out by the corn and a bit tart from the lime. For $10, the Jicaro is a delightfully well balanced cocktail that is complex, but not overly complicated. It will keep you interested sip after sip so much so that you might find yourself ordering another round.

You can try one for yourself at Penca, located at 50 E. Broadway Blvd. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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