Mex Mixers: El Camino
Fun taco joints shake up citrusy twists on tequila cocktails
Bloody Saint at El Camino Inn
Photo by Will Shilling
Walking into El Camino is like walking into a Quentin Tarantino movie: the anachronistic ’70s decor, long-lost AM hits playing on vinyl, cheap plates of tacos, even cheaper cans of beer.
It’s just one of several kitschy Mexican joints putting fun twists on tequila cocktails. At El Camino, that means the Bloody Saint ($6), an excellent pick for tequila drinkers tired of prefab margaritas. Made with Sauza Silver, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and blood orange San Pellegrino soda, the Bloody Saint is a tasty mix of sweet and tart citrus with the true agave bite of tequila.
At Local Cantina you can help yourself to chips and salsa—cheekily served in a vintage wash tub—before cooling off with a Jimmy Paloma ($7). Local Cantina upgrades the traditional paloma (tequila and grapefruit soda) with El Jimador Reposado tequila, grapefruit juice and agave nectar. Pretty in pink in a mason jar, the drink is light and sweet, smoothing out the liquor’s rough edges.
El Camino Inn
238 S. Fourth St., Downtown
1423 Grandview Ave., Grandview
2162 Henderson Rd., Upper Arlington
505 N. High St., Short North
Cuco’s is the kind of authentic taqueria that inspired these newer places. Once a modest Mexican market, Cuco’s has grown into a full-fledged restaurant with its own (unintentionally) kitschy decor: brightly painted faux adobe arches in the dining room and a terracotta roof over the bar.
Settle in at that mosaic-tiled bar to enjoy a Vampiro ($5), mixed with tequila, grapefruit soda, lime juice and sangrita (a Mexican mixer and reputed hangover cure made with fruit juice, chili powder and hot sauce). Sweet and citrusy but much less tart than a margarita, the blood-red sangrita gives the Vampiro a smooth finish with a spicy cayenne kick.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 ounces fresh lime juice
3 ounces fresh orange juice
1 cup filtered water
6 to 7 ounces simple syrup
Combine all ingredients and chill.
To make a margarita, combine 1 1/2 ounces of the mix with 1 1/2 ounces tequila and 3/4 ounce triple sec or orange liqueur. Serve over ice.
The Tapatio Margarita gets another round at Knead
Anyone who haunted the Short North in the 1990s has fond memories of Tapatio—or rather, hazy memories of the house margarita. Happy hour at the Latin-fusion restaurant was legendary. Knead chef and co-owner Rick Lopez, who was executive sous chef at Tapatio, revived the original recipe for Knead’s cocktail list. Lopez credits the drink’s enduring popularity to the top-notch ingredients, including fresh lime juice, which was a rarity back in the day. “Now, with the resurgence in classic cocktails, everybody has upped their ingredients, so it is still relevant today,” he says.