As the restaurant industry in D.C. bounces back, chefs, owners and beverage directors are implementing new menus and innovative ideas to bring patrons back into the city’s food and drink scene. At Espita, beverage director James Simpson, head bartender Justus Staton, and the cocktail team have developed an exciting new beverage program. The cocktail menu, which remains committed to Mexican ingredients and flavors, features 21 drinks, with a separate section for classic cocktails which remain permanently or long-term on the drink list, hyper-seasonal themed drinks changed quarterly, and a series of new cocktails which the team tries out on guests for possible selection on the long-term menu.
Cocteles de Temporada
The current theme for the seasonal portion of Espita’s cocktail menu is Frida Kahlo. The drinks were devised in consideration of her preferences, or based on interpretations of her paintings, or with a focus on ingredients and depictions that relate to her. The seasonal section of the cocktail menu, cocteles de temporada, was by far our favorite area of the cocktail menu, largely because the creativity behind these drinks blew our minds, but also because the cocktails were the tastiest on the menu, and ripe with seasonal flavors. Visit Espita by the end of May to sample these gems; at that time the theme will change to a pollinators theme, which will focus on ingredients from pollinated flowers.
Inspired by Frida’s painting “The Wounded Deer,” the granizo is a dark and brooding beverage, poignantly representing Frida’s epic painting. The artwork depicts a deceased deer, impaled by arrows. The painting symbolizes Frida’s pain and suffering which she experienced after a serious spine injury as a teenager. The drink is comprised of a blend of rum, tea, mint and lime, which come together to offer a drink defined by a smoky, herbaceous flavor with a fresh, minty undercurrent. It comes adorned with a sprig of mint, speared on a silver arrow – another nod to the famous piece of artwork.
La Casa Azul
Arguably the best of this series of concoctions, this cocktail pays homage to Frida in two ways. First, it features some of her favorite flavors, including mezcal and pineapples. Second, the drink is poured over a formidable blue ice cube, made from butterfly pea flower, which represents Frida’s famous blue house in Mexico City where she lived much of her life. In addition to mezcal and pineapple, the drink includes lemon, for a hint of acidity, clarified milk, for a slightly creamy texture, and tea for a bitter herbal note. The drink is wonderfully inspired and brings together a handful of diverse ingredients to create a perfect harmony.
My Own Muse
Kahlo often referred to herself as her own muse, and indeed, as she was “the subject she knows best,” so the mixologists know their craft best. This drink is light and fresh, a great spring brunch beverage, where a Collins glass is filled with ice cubes, gin, vermouth and bubbles, studded with bright, cheerful raspberries and a bunch of basil.
The Dos Fridas
Based on the “Dos Fridas” painting, where Frida featured two images of herself seated side-by-side holding hands, this delightful mezcal drink, infused with raspberries and lime for tartness, comes crowned with a sugar decal of Frida’s face, the same image which is painted on one of Espita’s walls. The image is detailed and beautiful and you will find it hard to ruin, but the team recommends “swirling it into the beverage to add a hint of sweetness to the zesty cocktail.”