Latin flavors gaining in cocktails

'Tavern keeper' Jeret Peña
From Nation's Restaurant News

SAN ANTONIO, TX -- Latin flavors are pouring into beverages, according to experts at the "Latin Flavors, American Kitchens" conference at the Culinary Institute of America here.

Jeret Peña, the "tavern keeper" at The Esquire Tavern here, said he considers mezcal, tequila, peppers, chiles and Latin American herbs the top five Latin flavors popular in contemporary cocktails.

Rick Bayless, chef and owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO in Chicago, said, "We are living in a great era of emphasis and enthusiasm about the cocktail culture. It has gotten an amazing rebirth. Where I used to ask for the wine list, I now ask for the cocktail list, because it’s exciting."

Bayless said Latin American alcoholic beverages, liqueurs and mixers also are delicious. For instance, in Mexico, many cities and regions have their own flavor traditions, such as adding ground peanuts, fruits and herbs to drinks.

"It’s all of our duties to shake the bushes and find out what’s out there," Bayless said.

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