Nothing washes down a cocktail like a revolutionary slogan. Named for a folk hero on the Mexican American border, Saloon’s Tracy prepared her own creation, the Viva Cortez in front of me, otherwise I would have assumed that this was an established drink ordered from cocktail menus all over the land.
This warm, spicy drink is an homage to cinnamon’s place in Mexican culture, honoring its close relationship with its comrade, Mezcal. The Cortez of the name was a wanted man, Gregorio Cortez, a cause célèbre in the fight for Mexican-American rights, with as much staunch support for his cause as the Mezcal gives to its warm companion spice. Gregorio was on the run for alleged horse stealing and wound up in eleven Texan jails, before finally being released due to pressure from a massive Defense network. Once a tenant farmer, now a local hero, there was no going back for Cortez, who gave up the tenant farmer’s life to fight in the Mexican American War and died soon after.
A ½ an ounce of Punt es Mes, the Italian sweet vermouth, is added to the brew. There is also cinnamon syrup and thai chilli peppers. Tracy explains that thai chilli peppers are chosen for their warmth over jalapenos, which have a more herbal flavor. Lime Juice adds a “bright vividness” to the Viva Cortez that is as essential as the legend. The limes must be fresh: Tracy’s emphatic instruction, underlined in my notes, reads: “can’t emphasize enough!”
The drink was born during a phase when Tracy was really into Tiki drinks. With all the fascination surrounding these drinks, she recalls how surprised everyone was to discover that one of the so-called ‘secret’ ingredients was nothing more than cinnamon.
And yet “nothing more than cinnamon” is the main ingredient in a tasty cocktail with a gazpacho tint and a heady warmth. Cortez lived on in the Corridos sung about his deeds; the Viva Cortez has its own longlasting kick. This is definitely one that you’ll remember the next morning.