Photo: Mi Casa Margarita by Jason Rodriguez, courtesy of Tijuana Picnic. Full recipes below.
Not a day goes by without some seemingly pointless new internet holiday rearing its ready-to-celebrate-on-Instagram-head. But this Friday heralds one we’re mucho excited to celebrate — National Tequila Day! Arriba!
In honor of this oh-so-sacred day, we thought it’d be wise to familiarize ourselves a bit more with the spirit; and who better to teach us the tequila way than Jim Kerns, the Sasha Petraske-trained bar consultant behind some of NYC’s best cocktail menus and the latest LES hotspot, Tico’s Tequila bar downstairs at Tijuana Picnic.
Please state your full name and occupation for the record.
James Michael Kerns. I’m the bar consultant here at Tijuana Picnic.
So what’s the difference between a bartender and a bar consultant?
I mean, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Bartending is when I’m actually behind the bar…I do that sometimes too these days. But consulting means I’m kind of developing menus or cocktails or putting together spirit lists.
Awesome. What’s your process like to put together a spirit list or cocktail menu?
Well, it all depends on the project. Usually there’s kind of an initial vision that’s laid out, and you kind of just figure out where you’re going to take it from there (and how and why).
What kind of direction did you get here at Tijuana Picnic?
I knew that it was going to be a Latin restaurant, Mexican restaurant, basically. I got initial drafts of the menu and then I tried to take some ingredients and carry them over to the drink list. You try to incorporate things in as thoughtful of a way as possible.
What goes with the Tequila family besides blackouts?
That’s anything if you drink enough of it [laughs]. Are you talking about types of food? Anything with savory notes or peppery notes they are obviously extremely complementary. If you were talking about Mezcal, anything smoky or grilled, that’s a good pairing.
So fascinating. What distinguishes a more expensive kind of spirit in the Tequila/Mezcal family? Is it the age?
It can be. I mean you have to keep a few factors in mind when it comes to pricing on booze in general. Packaging often drives pricing up. Like if a spirit is in its own one-off kind of bottle that has a really distinct shape that you’ll never seen anywhere else, that drives the price up because then the bottle production is a specialty project.
They should sell it in a box carton like Franzia wine.
[Laughs.] Don’t know if they actually sell Tequila or Mezcal in that format. Yeah you would, uh ,definitely drive pricing down with something like that.
Have you ever been to Tijuana?
I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona so you would think that I had, but I actually I haven’t. Our little border town of note is Nogales. So I’ve been there quite a few times.
Nogales picnic doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.
No it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I think more people know Tijuana.
So, here at Tijuana Picnic, do you guys do any really frilly stuff? You know any strange margarita offerings?
We do have a house margarita that’s Tequila and Mezcal. Its kind of like a tequila margarita meets a Mezcal margarita. And then there’s also the traditional Cointreauas the modifier with some agave nectar as well to sort of, you know, cool off all of that.
Sounds delicious. What’s another signature cocktail here?
Probably the Smoking Maid. It’s Mezcal and Jalapeno Tequila.
What’s your favorite cocktail in general and specifically on the menu at Tijuana Picnic?
My favorite cocktail in general is a Manhattan. Favorite cocktail here, I’d probably goes with the Smokin’ Maid or the House Margarita once again. The Sassy Senorita is also really good…I try to keep the bad ones off of the menu [Laughs].
Favorite food on the menu?
I’m a big fan of the wings; I love the duck wings. So good. They’re like crack. Delicious.
Ok, wrapping up here with some practical advice. Do you buy into the whole sort of technique of drinking in a certain order, like “liquor before beer?”
I’ve always just sort of found that in the end booze is booze. And you’re putting alcohol in your system and it ultimately is gonna have the same effect on you if you over-consume. But actually I will say that I think probably the worst couple of hangovers there are out there are absinthe hangovers and peated scotch hangovers just because the absinthe is really strong and has a lot of herbs and sugar in it. And the peated scotch will tend to have a lot of conjurers, which are the compounds that give alcohol spirits their flavor but they’re are also part of the toxic of the rut of the distillate.
Good to know. Any hangover cure tips?
Hair of the dog does work unfortunately because a hangover is equal parts. Well I’d say equal parts sleep deprivation because you don’t sleep properly when you drink, dehydration and alcohol withdrawals. So yeah hair of the dog certainly works. Lots of water and temperance though is usually what I’d advise. Water, rest and temperance will usually cure a hangover most permanently.
Courtesy of Tijuana Pacific, here are three tequila recipes to make now for National Tequila Day (and always).
3/4 parts fresh limejuice
3/4 parts strawberry syrup
1/4 part Aperol
2 strawberries, juiced
2 red pepper spears, juiced
1 part blanco tequila
1 part agricole rum
salt and pepper rim
Combine ingredients and strain into a rocks glass with a salt and pepper rim.
Mi Casa Margarita
smoked salt rim
3/4 parts lime
1/2 part agave
1/2 part Cointreau
3/4 parts blanco tequila
3/4 parts Mezcal
Combine fresh lime juice, agave, Cointreau, mezcal and blanco tequila. Shake and pour into a smoked salt-rimmed rocks glass.
jalepeno infused tequila
salt and pepper rim
2 cucumber slices
5-6 mint leaves
sprig of mint
3/4 parts agave
2 parts Mezcal
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Strain into a rocks glass with a salt a salt and pepper rim. Garnish with a cucumber slice and mint sprig.
For more places to eat and drink in New York right now, check out the BlackBook City Guides.