• Jarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with Chris Lake of Blind Burro: How to make the El Pepino

Located in downtown San Diego, The Blind Burro is serving up some crisp and refreshing tequila-based cocktails. Chris Lake, bar manager, shares their take on a tequila mojito called the El Pepino.

El Pepino

$12

Muddled basil

Muddled cucumber

.75 oz. fresh lime juice

.25 agave nectar

1.50 oz. CASAMIGOS Blanco tequila

.50 oz. Cointreau

Pineapple juice

Top with soda water and garnish with a basil leaf

What’s the origin of El Pepino?

When we put together the Blind Burro's drink menu, we wanted to add something that had a crispy flavor and that represented San Diego's year-round sunshine and ocean vibe. This is our take on a tequila mojito, using fresh flavors with cucumber, basil, lime and pineapple juice to sweeten it. How would you describe the taste to someone who hasn’t had this before?

Very refreshing and clean. It has the fresh herbs of the basil. The basil and cucumber really complement each other. The smoothness of the tequila we use and the sweetness from the pineapple juice makes for a very refreshing and clean tequila-forward cocktail. What would be the key component in this drink?

It's tequila-forward, and the basil and cucumber are really what separates it from a regular margarita or tequila drink.

When choosing the tequila, why did you go with CASAMIGOS blanco?

Very smooth, very clean, and its the overall profile of this drink. It allows all of the other flavors to come through.

What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?

They're surprised at how well it works. During the summer, everyone wants a mojito, and this cocktail compliments the heat and the overall summer vibe in San Diego.

What are some good dishes to pair this drink with?

Our ceviche because it also has a fresh clean tasting, lime-based taste. Having an El Pepino with our ceviche would really be a nice flavor profile.

Bar manager Chris Lake shows you how to make their take on a tequila mojito, El Pepino.

What kind of experience can diners have at The Blind Burro?

A very comfortable experience. We try to make everyone feel like they're a guest in our house. Everyone is as important as the next. The driving focus of this company is hospitality. People aren't customers, they're guests. We want people to come in, be comfortable, enjoy tequila and good traditional Baja food.

Tequila is very popular at The Blind Burro. What is the Tequila Exchange Program?

It is to its truest form, a guest driven happy hour. How it works, is it is very similar to a stock market, it reflects purchases of tequila shots that are being bought at the the bar. Every five minutes it does a system refresh to where it grinds all the numbers that were purchased at the bar and it starts to increase and decrease prices of tequila based on what is being purchased, and changes immediately in our computers. For example, if someone orders five shots of Milgaro Silver, once the refresh happens it will grind those numbers and increase the price of Milgaro Silver and decrease the price of the competing blanco tequilas. One thing we tell the guests is that the price can never go higher than our menu price. If you play along with the stock market, you'll always win.

About Chris Lake

Are you from San Diego?

No, I am from New Jersey and have lived in San Diego for four years.

What's your thought process when creating a new cocktail?

I want to make sure that cocktails are balanced and palatable. Balance and making sure people are able to enjoy it is the key.

Define the perfect cocktail?

An old fashioned, a really traditionally well-made old fashioned. That's the perfect cocktail for me.

What are some cocktail trends are you seeing in San Diego?

Mezcal is huge. I feel like a throwback to the traditional cocktail scene, taking it back to original traditional cocktail recipes. Rum and tiki are on the up spring, they're really hot right now in San Diego.

Are you planning on creating any new cocktails in the future?

I feel like my mind is always spinning on what can be made. You see a new spirit, you try a new cocktail on a drink menu and my mind wonders what you can do with it and where you can go with it. My mind is constantly thinking about what new cocktail I can make. What is one thing you wish people understood about bartending?

A LOT. I would overall say, multitasking. The ability to do multiple things at once while being able to give that customer service aspect. People don't realize the multiple orders you take in a very fast paced environment. I think the multitasking aspect of it is something people should understand. Bartenders don't get enough credit as they should, especially in San Diego.

What's your favorite drink to make behind the bar?

Old fashioned. I want to experiment with mezcal old fashions here at the bar.

Are you a tequila drinker? If so, what's your favorite tequila libation?

I am. I enjoy tequilas. I would say that in terms of my favorite tequila libations, it's one here we have on our menu, the Azteka. It is a mezcal-forward cocktail crafted with El Silencio Mezcal, ginger liqueur, chipotle agave nectar, lemon juice, soda, beef jerky and chipotle salt. It is a very complex drink but flavorful and balanced. It is unique, complex, smoky with the heat of the chipotle salt, with the ginger all mixed together, makes for an outstanding drink. What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?

Hanging out with my dogs and checking out new restaurants with my fiancé. We are constantly on the hunt for new hot spots. We are always checking out the culinary scene in San Diego while enjoying the sunshine.

The Blind Burro

639 J St., downtown San Diego. (619) 795-7880 or theblindburro.com

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