The Drunk Monk at Empellón in New York
Empellón, former WD-50 and Alinea ex-pastry chef Alex Stupak's new fancy-pants West Village taqueria, is a family affair, with him at the helm in the kitchen and his wife, Lauren Resler, heading up the pastry station. Not to be discounted is Lauren's brother, Matthew Resler, who leads the ambitious bar program with over 35 tequilas and 20 mezcals offered. For the hardcore, a tasting flight of extra añejos could be fun, but the mixed drinks here are where Resler's subtle palate is put to full use.
Tequila-based drinks elsewhere often come off as garish, made too sweet or too spicy in an ineffectual attempt to take some of the edge off of tequila's smoky bite. But that's not the case here.
The ¿Por Que No? ($14) is the most talked about cocktail offering, and already seems to have an internet following with the zealotry of a small cult. Made with Espolado Silver, muddled pineapple and cilantro, with a hit of serrano pepper, it's refreshing and challenging in the same sip. I'm not normally a big fan of hot peppers in drinks (rather than tasting the pepper, they end up just burning your throat), but there's a good deal of restraint shown in this one.
If you're into margaritas, you'd do well to order the Drunk Monk ($13), an odd-sounding cross between a margarita and an egg white-based foamy sour that really works. It's made with smoky Espolon Reposado flavored with green Chartreuse and hoja santa, both of which give it the faint herbal kick of anise and cloves—perfect for downing at the bar with their awesome guac.
Their Anti-Clásicos are equally strong, particularly their Manhattan ($13) made with Buffalo Trace, Carpano vermouth, and chocolate bitters. It's about as smooth and drinkable as a Manhattan gets.
Check out our full review of the food here »