Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Polanco!

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Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Polanco!

Because tequila shouldn't just be for summer.

Matthew Hooper

Greetings, Wonketteers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. We’re finally getting some fall weather in Ohio, so I decided to change gears and write an elegant spirit-forward cocktail. I also wanted to try new ways of tasting tequila. A little experimentation brought me this beauty – a classy Manhattan variation I’m calling the Polanco. Let’s stir one of these up together.


2 oz Olmec Altos Anejo Tequila

1 oz Gallo Sweet Vermouth

3 shakes Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters

Orange Twist

Stir all ingredients over ice until cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Flame an orange twist over the cocktail, and garnish with another fresh orange twist.

Anejo tequila doesn’t get the same affection that blanco tequila does. I think that’s a shame, personally. Tequila that’s been aged for a few months in oak mellows and sweetens. You do shots of blanco tequila; you sip anejo tequila. There’s a new style of tequila on the market these days called “Crystallano.” It’s anejo tequila that’s been filtered until it’s clear again. I think you can only process a liquor so much until it becomes vodka, but if it floats your boat, by all means try it.

It’s something of a tradition for bartenders to swap around the ingredients in a Manhattan and rename the result after a local neighborhood. In this case, I’m renaming this “tequila Manhattan” after a ritzy address in Mexico City. Can an aged tequila stand in for bourbon in the recipe? Maybe, but a jammy blood-red vermouth wouldn’t cooperate well with the agave. I got lucky and found a vermouth with raisin notes that does the job. Instead of the traditional Angostura bitters, we’ll use cocoa bitters. Cocoa cooperates with tequila wonderfully, and it works well here. I wanted to be really off the wall and do a tequila drink with no citrus, but the orange oil is too good here to ignore.

If you’re trying to be creative at your home bar, I’d definitely recommend a similar approach. Take a classic you like, swap one ingredient for another, and see where it leads you. It’s the ratios in a classic that make it work, not the specifics. A margarita with gin instead of tequila is a gin daisy, and it’s great. A martini with sweet vermouth instead of dry is a Martinez, and it’s also tasty. Swapping liquors around when making classics is never a bad idea. You might find a new favorite.

Ingredient shot. The cocktail disappeared mysteriously shortly after this photo was taken. Matthew Hooper

Let’s talk ingredients:

Olmec Altos Anejo Tequila: I love this tequila brand for its mellow, gentle nature. This anejo doesn’t disappoint, although you could get away with using the reposado as well. There are some extremely tasty, and pricey, anejo tequilas out there. If you fall in love with the spirit, you might find yourself with a new, expensive hobby. There are worse ways to spend your money.

Gallo Sweet Vermouth: I was startled by this vermouth when I tried it. Top-notch vermouth is dark and rich, almost syrupy, like a red wine concentrate. This vermouth is rust-brown, with raisin and honey notes before ending with a mild bitterness. It compliments the tequila wonderfully. It’s inexpensive and off the wall, but well worth a try.

I go back and forth on the ratio of vermouth to tequila on this drink. By the book, a perfect Manhattan is two parts bourbon, one part vermouth. But the tequila can support more Gallo and still keep the drink balanced. I’d play around and try different amounts. We’re being creative. No reason to be constrained by the rules.

Cocoa Bitters: I love chocolate and tequila together. Earthy cocoa anchors the agave flavor wonderfully. If you don’t have cocoa bitters, orange bitters will do fine, but cocoa is much more elegant. A good bottle of this elixir includes black walnut, cinnamon, and vanilla flavors on top of the chocolate. Once you try it, you’ll end up sneaking it into all sorts of cocktails.

Orange zest: A little squeeze of orange oil on top of the cocktail is vital.The sharp citrus cuts through the earthier ingredients and brings them to life. Flaming the orange peel is even better. Take a wide slice of orange peel — no pith, please — and pinch it gently over the cocktail with your thumb and forefinger. Hold a lit match under the zest, just above the cocktail. Squeeze the zest firmly. You should be rewarded with a little spray of fireworks as the orange oil sizzles in the match flame. A little touch of smokiness in the glass makes it perfect.

In summary and conclusion, drink well, drink often, and tip your bartender — donate to Wonkette at the link below! Tiki Underground, my favorite tiki bar in Ohio, has reopened! Come shop at the fantastic Tiki Flea this weekend! And if you'd like to buy some bar gear or books from Amazon, please click here!


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Matthew Hooper
Matthew Hooper, aka Samurai Grog, turned 50 in 2021 and decided to have a midlife crisis by leaving a boring sales and marketing job to tend bar at the local country club. He's never been happier. He's also a fencer, a dad, a husband, and a punk music fan. Overall, he's way cooler than he ever thought he could be when he was 16. 

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