Monday, March 28, 2011

Reinventing the Margarita: Alex Day & Dave Kaplan Bring Craft Cocktails to an Empire Built on Guacamole

El Mezcalito
Rosa Mexicana, the chain of ten high-end Mexican restaurants which began in New York, has hired Alex Day, Dave Kaplan and Devon Tarby of Proprietors LLC. to revamp their cocktail program nationwide.  Day and Kaplan, who gained prominence in the cocktail world for their achievements at Death & Co in New York City, took on the assignment of updating the cocktail program at restaurants best known for guacamole made table-side.  Tarby is a more recent addition to the Proprietors team, having met the others through her work at The Varnish, the downtown Los Angeles cocktail mecca and worked with them at Bar Kitchen.

Alex Day
Day (above) and Kaplan (below) were excited to take on the challenge of creating a program that could be replicated across the soon to be dozen Rosa Mexicanas across the country, while maintaining the standards upon which they have built their reputations and providing a range of beverages which customers would find accessible.  Mezcal has been introduced into the program, which also now includes sangrita, a new favorite of mine.

Dave Kaplan
I recently had the opportunity to try a variety of the cocktails and beverages from the new list and I left impressed.  I knew Kaplan, Day and Tarby would not attach their names and brand to any program they were not proud of, but the program they developed for Rosa Mexicana exceeded my expectations.  Whether it was El Mezcalito, a cocktail with strawberry, jalapeño infused tequila, mezcal, lemon and agave (top picture) or the La Pera Noble (below) with tequila, vermouth, pear brandy and cinnamon simple syrup, the cocktails were well balanced and refreshing. Tarby described what makes the Mezcalito work as the interplay of the strawberry and mezcal flavors, "Strawberry and smoke like each other, they tame each other. The sweetness of strawberries tames the smoke."

La Pera Noble
Among my favorites are La Mandarina (below) which includes fresh muddled tangerine and basil, tequila, lemon juice and agave and La Antigüa (The Old One) which includes cocoa infused tequila, bitters and an orange twist.  I tend to be skeptical of flavored spirits but the cocoa and jalapeño infused tequilas were both very tasty and had none of the cloying quality that I usually associate with such flavored vodkas or rums.  It is fun to be pleasantly surprised and have your expectations exceeded.  It is great to find wonderful drinks in the unlikeliest  places and to know that there is a spot to get cocktails made with fresh juices and care in LA Live.  Around the corner from the Staples Center and the Nokia Theater, now there is no excuse to drink poorly before a game or concert.

La Mandarina
These drinks are available in all Rosa Mexicana restaurants.  Here in Los Angeles the restaurant is located in LA Live, in downtown LA.  A second location will be opening later this year on Sunset Blvd.

Rosa Mexicana @ LA Live: 800 West Olympic Blvd, Downtown.  Phone: (213) 746-0001.  Website:

The full list of new cocktails and beverages at Rosa Mexicana is below:

Agitados/Shaken Cocktails
La Sandía
Fresh muddled watermelon, rosemary simple syrup, El Jimador silver tequila, fresh lemon

La Piñela
Silver tequila, pineapple juice, cinnamon simple syrup, fresh lime

El Mezcalito
Fresh strawberry, Tanteo Jalapeño-infused silver tequila, Del Maguey-Vida mezcal, fresh lemon, organic agave

La Mandarina
Fresh muddled tangerine, fresh basil, El Jimador silver tequila, fresh lemon, organic agave

Flor de Humo
Silver tequila, Del Maguey-Vida mezcal, St. Germain, orange marmalade, fresh lime

Movidos/Stirred Cocktails
La Pera Noble
Casa Noble Organic silver tequila, bianco vermouth, pear brandy, cinnamon simple syrup

La Antigüa
Tanteo Cocoa-infused silver tequila, bitters, orange twist

Águila Real
Hennessy VS, Kahlua, Licor 43, cream, chocolate mole bitters

Micheladas/Beer Cocktails
Tecate, fresh lime and spices, served over ice with a salted rim

El Betabel
Pacifico, beet juice, fresh lime and Cholula, served over ice with a salted rim

La Sangrita
Negra Modelo, house sangrita, served over ice with a salted rim

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