The word margarita may bring to mind the neon green, sticky-sweet offerings at your local neighborhood dive but the elegant, spiced pear margarita at renowned chef Richard Sandoval’s Zengo – a premiere Mexican restaurant in New York City – defies the standard set by those sugary, watered down concoctions.
“Being Latino and loving food makes it easy to bring classic drinks back to their roots with outstanding, fresh ingredients,” says Piero Rodriguez, the beverage director whose innovative offerings are listed on the menus on all 20 of Sandoval’s restaurants throughout the country. And that’s exactly what his pear margarita is: a classic tequila cocktail, made seasonal with the use of fresh autumnal pears and fragrant spices.
For Rodriguez, who began his career as a sommelier (“I’m a wine guy – that’s my passion” says Rodriguez), attention to detail, flavor and balance is the key to creating an experience that leaves patrons asking for more.
“Through my work with wines, I learned everything there is to know about terroir, varietals and flavors – all attributes when combined, go into making a fantastic cocktail,” explains Rodriguez.
And this is one 30-year-old who knows the ins and outs of the restaurant industry: his family owns popular family-style Peruvian restaurant in New York and Rodriguez began working in restaurants at the age of 13, eventually working his way through the ranks from bus boy to manager and sommelier at just 18 years old at Charlie Palmer’s Auerole. With experience working under esteemed restaurateurs and chefs like Tom Colicchio – for whom he worked at both Craft and Craft Bar restaurants – Rodriguez was able to leverage his passion for food and drink into the position as beverage manager at Richard Sandoval’s restaurant Pampano.
Now, three years into his position as corporate beverage manager and beverage director, Rodriguez is able to combine fruits, seasonal produce, herbs and all manner of spirits into flavor-forward drinks to accompany haute cuisine.
“At the end of the day, the focus is on creating an extraordinary experience for all of our guests,” says Rodriguez, who has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. “Any Latin restaurant can have mojitos or margaritas on the menu, but we like to push the envelope and elevate the classics.”
Spiced Pear Margarita
3/4 oz Fidencio Classico Mezcal
3/4 oz Pear Eau de vie
1.5 oz spiced pear puree
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Preparation: Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker, shake vigorously with ice and serve in a martini glass with a sliced pear garnish. Makes one cocktail.
For pear puree:
2 whole pears peeled and diced
1 quart of water
2 cinamon sticks
2 star anise fruits
Preparation: Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Blend all ingredients and strain. Cool and use for pear margarita.