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When you think "Southwestern food" and "cocktails," your mind likely goes to an over-sized, frozen margarita, that's about half bad tequila, half sugar. At least, that's where mine went, until I tried the cocktails at San Francisco's West of Pecos. The restaurant is one of the city's few spots dedicated to Southwestern cuisine and culture (no, Chevy's does not count), and they're putting as serious an emphasis on the drinks as on the food.
That means whole-fish fajitas, a green chili cheese burger wrapped in a pillowy fresh tortilla, and sticky, messy ribs. As for those drinks? They're just the thing to pair with your next summer barbecue, or any spicy dish laced with peppers and fresh sweet corn. Fortunately, we've got the recipes for 5 of the cocktails, thanks to bar manager Brent Butler.
"The idea was to pair drinks well with the food, and keep the Southwestern-North American spirit," bar manager Brent Butler told us. Butler, who formerly was the manager at Castro bar Blackbird, landed the gig at the recently opened Valencia Street hot spot quickly. Run by the MacNiven brothers (of the Woodhouse Fish Company), Pecos is their first restaurant with a full bar program.
That means drinks that highlight the variations in well-crafted tequilas, mezcals, and whiskies. But this serious cocktail menu has a playful side, as well. You can order the requisite margaritas (there's a prickly pear version, too) by the pitcher, or simply go for the Grandote, a fresh cucumber margarita for two that's served in a heavy glass goblet with two straws. Or throw back a cowboy cup, or three, of the dangerously drinkable Pecos Punch, currently featuring fresh muddled cantaloupe.
Mostly, Butler wants to keep things simple, and delicious.
"I've gone through all that barrel-aging, tincture crap—and it doesn't necessarily make the drinks taste better," he says. "I wanted to simplify things a bit. The drinks should have clean, strong flavors, but shouldn't require a dissertation."
This attitude makes them perfect cocktails to make at home—they don't require too many ingredients (or that dissertation), but prove to be flavorful, delicious, and unique. There's a tequila variation of a Manhattan and a mezcal-infused take on a Negroni, both perfect for enjoying on your back porch with some green chili queso.
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