I don’t know about local politics or walkability, but as a refuge from the midwest hell of central Illinois, I like St. Louis.  We were down there this weekend visiting the Roommate, and something happened to me that hasn’t happened in over a year: I enjoyed a new drink that I didn’t make myself.  Champaign, being a hell-hole, has only a few bars that even know what fresh citrus juice is, much less are creative enough to go beyond the whole “flavored vodka + sweetened carbonated beverage” paradigm.  I’ve long since accepted that I am the best bartender in town, and that my bar is generally the best-stocked, so going out for cocktails is kind of pointless.

In St. Louis, however, we stopped in at The Royale, a bar that strikes a nice balance between hip and comfortable.  They have an extensive drink list of classic and innovative cocktails, all of which have been renamed after St. Louis neighborhoods or landmarks.  I enjoyed a well-made Toronto (Rye, Fernet, and simple syrup – I can’t remember what they called it) and a delicious burger.  But the highlight of the evening was when the Roommate noticed a bottle of Sriracha on the bar.  It turns out that they use it in a local shot/drink called the Sandinista.

The Sandinista Hola Chi Minh

  • 2 oz tequila (I used Cabo Wabo reposado in my remake)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 oz rich simple syrup (mine is 2:1)
  • 2 barspoons Sriracha
    Shake well with ice, empty unstrained into a rocks glass.  Garnish with a lime twist.

This is served as a shot, which is a terrifying idea.  It’s a lot of very, very spicy liquid.  But, I mean, as proof of cojones, this beats Fernet Branca any day.  It was also served unchilled.  I suggest serving over ice and sipping.

Like the sauce that provides this drink’s unique twist, the Sandinista Hola Chi Minh is an intoxicating blend of mouth-searing spice and sweetness.  It’s spicy enough to make you take notice, but the complex flavors of the drink come through.  The lime and tequila combine with the spicy-sweet Sriracha to give an almost tiki-ish feel to the drink.  And, if we assume that spicy foods are cooling, this cold, spicy libation is the perfect start to the warm season.

The name, unfortunately, is kind of frustrating.  It sounds ok when you don’t think about it too much, but deeper introspection reveals it as embodying a number of American assumptions about the rest of the world.  Nicaragua, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t make any agave products, much less tequila (which must legally be produced in Mexico) – it mostly produces rum and sugar-cane products.  Sriracha, of course, is an American-made version of a normally homemade Vietnamese condiment.  And limes… well, I guess limes make sense.  But it just smacks of a not-necessarily-malicious “all those brownish Spanish speakers are the same” attitude which I feel like I shouldn’t encourage.  So, without really trying to turn this into a socially-conscious cocktail blog (I prefer to drink my conscience into quiescence), does anyone have a better name for this delicious cocktail?

Update: The Roommate suggested the “Hola Chi Minh”, which is brilliant. The Girlfriend fell off her seat laughing.  We’re going with that.