Shuji's Top Five Drinks of 2013
Business and personal travels took me to some random places this year, and along with that came the opportunity to sample drinks not normally found round these parts. I'm going to apologize in advance for the things you might need to track down with a bit of effort, and offer you a few things in recompense that are easy to come by in our fair Orange Acres.
5. Pulque at Acqui es Texcoco
ProfessorSalt.com Pulque at Acqui es Texcoco
Some alcoholic drinks you take on a dare: your first tequila shot in high school and your first flaming Bacardi 151 shot. After you've grown bored with the Jagermeister tap in your man cave, you need other boozehound Everests to scale.
And that's when you seek out pulque. It's a tart, acetic "wine" with a cloudy sliminess that can charitably be compared to semen. This fermented cactus nectar dates back to pre-Columbian Mexico, and was reputedly made by spitting chewed-up maguey leaves into a vessel where salivary enzymes gave the brew a head start.
The ancient drink is enjoying a modern revival in Mexico,where it's mixed with fruit juices into a cocktail of sorts. We can probably blame their pinche hipsters for the commercially-brewed pulque in a can that Gustavo reviewed earlier this year. To taste real-deal, fresh pulque, you need only travel as far as Chula Vista. The lamb barbacoa restaurant Acqui es Texcoco brings shipments across the border from Hidalgo.
Their pulque comes in a pint glass, looking uncomfortably like a prop at the end of a German bukkake video. If you manage to choke down the whole pint to reach the peak of the jaded boozer's Everest, you can tell gabacho hipsters that you tried it long before it went mainstream. Not that it ever will.
Acqui es Texcoco 1043 Broadway, Chula Vista. 619-427-4045. acquiestexcoco.com
4. Bloody Marys at Little Sparrow and Break of Dawn
ProfessorSalt.com Little Sparrow Cafe's Bloody Mary
You can't drink all day unless you get an early start. In polite company, that calls for a Bloody Mary at brunch. Two examples shine in their own ways at Santa Ana's Little Sparrow, and Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills.
Little Sparrow's vodka version takes a ham-handed approach with horseradish and black pepper. The sinus-clearing spices pair perfectly with the house-cured gravlax, and even cuts through the heft of the biscuits and gravy.
Proving there's no such thing as too much bacon, Break of Dawn's soju-based Bloody Mary comes with a bacon baked into a straw. You'll struggle not to chomp on the straw before you reach the bottom, but the hell with it - order another.