La Taqueria: Small Space, Big Flavors
Last week I got invited down to the Hastings location of La Taqueria to sample their new cocktail menu.
Now, I have to say, I don’t think it’s weird for a taco place to be small. In fact, I think the most legit ones are. But this location of La Taqueria, which was Vancouver’s first (they now have 6), is tiny. There’s a bar, and a few seats, maybe 20 people can fit in there at most.
But what they can do with that tiny kitchen and bar??!? Let’s just say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The overall effect is kind of like hitting up a mom-and-pop taco stand somewhere in Mexico, but with really great cocktails.
La Taqueria owner, Marcelo Ramirez, enlisted the help of Simon Aukett for creating the new cocktail program. Recently moved here from London, UK, Simon has been making magic at the Keefer for the last couple of years. Here, he turned his attention to creating spins on classic cocktails, but using tequila and mezcal as the base spirits.
I love cocktails. I drink a lot of them. Whenever I go into a restaurant, I love to sit at the bar so I can watch the bartenders and ask them questions. And what’s important to a really good cocktail is not the base spirit, or the garnish, or the flourish with which it is presented. It’s whether or not the cocktail is balanced. You want it to be not too sweet, but not too acidic, either. You want bitter notes, floral notes, maybe some heat if it’s warranted. But overall, it needs to balance, and all La Taqueria’s new cocktails, whether heavier or lighter or spicy or not, were beautifully balanced.
Oh–and because it’s never good to drink cocktails on an empty stomach, you should probably eat something, right? I love restaurants that are vegetarian and vegan friendly, and La Taqueria is very much that. The guacamole is chunky and the chips are freshly-made. The nachos come with sweet corn and a chipotle crema that sings. And you can’t leave without trying the churros (which are baked and not fried to avoid cross-contamination), which come, of course, with dulce de leche for dipping.
Okay, the cocktails!
They run the gamut from light, summery sippers, similar to a margarita (if that’s your jam, look for Shifting Sands or Sunset), to heavier cocktails with warmer spices, heat and smoke.
I really enjoyed the lighter cocktails, but it’s March, and it’s gross out, so heavier and more warming are where it’s at right now.
The Bad Hombre is warming alright: the base is Wild Turkey, with a little mezcal for smoke. It also has ginger, chartreuse, and habanero, which gives it quite the kick going down. it’s warm and spicy.
I also really loved the Sangre Y Humo. The base spirit here is Mezcal, but with some beautiful floral notes from hibiscus, herbaciousness from cilantro, vermouth and orange to even it out.
And speaking of warming, it doesn’t get much warmer than Sinner Man. The name is a play on ‘cinnamon,’ as the cocktail is garnished with a still-smoking torched cinnamon stick. It starts with 3-yr-old Havana rum, and includes saffron and grapefruit, and falerhum, a mexican-spiced rum. Very tasty.
The new cocktail menu at La Taqueria launches this weekend, do yourself a favour and get out of the cold and into some warm food and cocktails.