After the unplanned stop at Oak + Rowan, we made our way to our first visit ever to Lolita Cocina. Being VERY familiar with other stunningly designed COJE restaurants (Yvonne’s and Ruka), we were prepared for a dazzling interior but Lolita Cocina’s Fort Point location was INSANE. It’s like Trader Vic completely took over the joint in Tarantino’s From Dusk ’til Dawn and turned it into a gothy, foodie, skull encrusted Day of the Dead tequila bar.
You can check out the spooky swankiness at this great Eater.com article.
It was about 8:30 pm at this point, and the place was pretty full, with the bar too jammed to get the coveted seats, so we took over a couch in one of the many different seating areas.
Like most Mexican joints, Lolita’s menu is margarita heavy. Fairly or unfairly, I usually skip over the entire margarita section since they tend to be minor variations on the same theme but if there was ever a place that put a lot of thought into making 10 very different margaritas, Lolita would probably be it.
Nonetheless, I went for the Bourbon Smash, with others going for the Oaxacan Old Fashioned (classically done with a split of reposado tequila and mezcal, though Lorri prefers ALL mezcal), and I’m guessing some Frolitas (which I thought was some obscure Mexican cocktail until I realized it was just a clever name for “frozen Lolita margaritas”).
Tom, being the artsy guy he is, managed to get a sweet shot of our drinks under deathly dark circumstances. Tom’s attendance on our tour was kind of a gift – he was scheduled for band practice this night (he’s the singer – toldja he was artsy!) and we were going to postpone to a later date, but Danna confidently said “Nah, keep the date. They’ll cancel”. Therefore, this photo is dedicated to The Flaky Bandmate (which is a future cocktail name that I have to con Danna into inventing)!
Overall, the drinks were passable, a slight cut above a typical higher-end Mexican restaurant (like Besito) but hardly the agave revelation of a place like Brooklyn’s Leyenda (which will make you want to buy truckloads of tequila and mezcal and start experimenting like crazy – I think Lorri’s still under Leyenda’s spell, searching for mezcal glory everywhere we go).
One of our great regrets was never making it to Mayahuel in NYC’s East Village, where Phil Ward, certainly one of the great cocktail savants of all time (and originator of the Oaxacan Old Fashioned), put mezcal firmly on the cocktail map there. It closed suddenly in 2017, a victim of a landlord dispute, but lives on in the popularity of mezcal cocktails.
Mezcal has no equivalent in its stunning range of flavors – smoke is the obvious standout, but one can often taste orchard fruit, citrus, vegetal pepper, saline, syrup and sometimes even a meaty umami. It’s a broad, challenging canvas on which to draw on for great cocktails but is also easy to fuck up, which is probably why the vast majority of mezcal cocktails use Del Maguey’s Vida which is pretty medium-everything in terms of smoke, sweetness, and every other flavor I described above. That’s not a knock on Vida or Del Maguey (who has done incredible work in producing sustainable and distinctive mezcals from the extremely vulnerable agave plants), just a way of saying that if you find a mezcal cocktail that DOESN’T use Vida, there’s a good chance that someone has done their homework in choosing something different.
Vida is also reasonably priced in the upper $30’s – in my experience, cheap mezcal is atrocious and there aren’t any consistent bargains to be found, whereas there are fine cheap gins, bourbons, vodkas, rums and even cognacs. This is surely due to the painstaking process in making quality mezcal – it’s not easy to grow mature agave plants, harvest them, crush them properly, and bake the hearts just right in underground pits. I’m certainly no mezcal expert (our buddy Ryan is much more the mezcal guru) but even a whiskey snob like me has to bow down to the extreme amount of dedication and craft it takes to make a fine mezcal.
Oh …. where was I? Right, in Lolita Cocina, which I had hoped would become our new mezcal joint, but it wasn’t gonna happen sitting on a couch at 9 PM on a warm summer Thursday night. We’ll have to give that a try on a future date.
What WAS gonna happen was a really fun time in a rollicking space with creative Mexican food and the kinds of friends that you can debate such weighty statements as “Campari is like anal sex. You have to try it 6 or 7 times before you learn to like it.” Discretion forbids me from divulging who we heard this quote from and DEFINITELY forbids me from saying which of our party said “Well, I liked it the FIRST TIME I tried it.” ***
Check please! On to Tom and Danna’s first trip to the fabled jm Curley!
*** – Get your mind out of the gutter – this was referring to CAMPARI, you degenerates.