Having covered the Por qué No? zinfandel blend from Tres Sabores for our wine of the week, por qué no continue our theme of the week with the equally outstanding Por qué no? cocktail from the West Village’s Empellon Taqueria, which used to be simply Empellon until little sibling Empellon Cocina opened early this year. Alex Stupat was brilliant as the pastry chef at WD-50 during one of my summer visits the past few years to New York, and so late last year I had to try his pioneering take on Mexican cuisine. Far from modern but not in the least lacking originality, Stupat’s take on everything from tacos to ceviche is a thrill ride in an enjoyable way.
Surprisingly, the margarita is actually a slight weak link at Empellon Taqueria. So that brings in one of the greatest cocktails I’ve tried recently, the Por qué No?.
Served in a highball on a large square ice cube, the drink is a beautiful golden hue, made even more alluring in the dark candlelight of the restaurant. Pueblo Viejo Blanco tequila will make you repeatedly say “why not?” after a few too many cocktails, but here is balanced out to have just the agave sweet-smoky notes enhance the drink without Montezuma’s Revenge arriving later. Fresh pineapple purée adds the fruit to counter-act the tequila, then serrano pepper adds a noticable spice with some burn, and then it’s finished with cilantro muddled prior to mixing. The drink is a perfect example of how four distinct ingredients can make for a simple cocktail that tastes as if dozens of homemade tinctures went into its complex creation. Cilantro deserves to make its way into more cocktails. The serrano is definitely noticeable, being twice as intense as a jalapeno, but the pineapple keeps it at arm’s length from commanding the taste.
It’s perfect with Stupat’s exciting cuisine, particularly when paired with dishes that are less spicy, yet still intense in flavor such as a sweetbreads, shitake mushroom, and tlatonile taco. Empellon Taqueria even gives a little sidecar à la Musso and Frank’s martinis to refresh your cocktail. A cocktail this good cannot possibly be allowed to be diminished by melting ice.
Paired with some of New York’s most exciting food, don’t even dare saying just por qué no to this cocktail.