Known and loved for authentic Mexican cuisine, Talavera in Downtown Coral Gables has raised the bar on happy hour with the recently introduced Margarita Lab. Offering six super-sized shots (about 3 1/2 ounces), this Wednesday evening deal serves up creative variations on the standard Margarita. Recently, this cocktailian had an opportunity to experiment with the Lab.
Good sippers start with good spirits. Rather than making a strong tequila statement, mellow Jimador Tequila is used to boost the flavor of the Lab's fresh ingredients. In the passion fruit offering, its subtle baked agave grounds the dominant, vivid citrus and natural sweetness. Instead of building heat, the shot's spiced rim adds a clean finish that makes this selection a fitting opener after a long day at work.
Moving into rounder flavors, the cilantro variation is a unique gem. Incorporated into lime juice, the herb lends a satisfying medium body while bright lemon notes and, of course, tequila keep the finish light. Paired with homemade sopa de chilorio, the shot’s cooling qualities tame the pork’s warm spice and enhance its slightly smoky qualities.
Deeper into the lab, the fresh mango variation is well executed. Pulpy by nature, fresh mango juice can sometimes drown out other flavors, but Talavera strikes the proper chord. Round and full, the mango still makes room for a robust smoke on the nose and a spiced finish, which, together, render one satisfying, complex cocktail.
While gently sweet, the tamarind shot is a bit thin; an additional component that gives more body could amplify the tamarind's quiet play between sweet and sour. Yet, overall, this sipper is mellow and subtle with the tequila's agave and the tamarind offering a gentle, earthy combination.
A prime cocktail opportunity, the Margarita Lab offers novice cocktailians a gentle opportunity to try new flavors and creative variations with a familiar cocktail. For more experienced drink lovers, the focus on fresh, bright flavors paired with complimentary authentic bites (definitely try the delicate cactus salad) is an equally valuable experience.
For the adventurous who wish to take drink discovery a step further, the one missing element is the Paloma, Mexico's most consumed tequila cocktail. However, the quality selection of tequila and mezcal matched by the staff's first-hand knowledge makes Talavera an excellent location to learn more about all things agave.
Generously priced at $16, the Margarita Lab is intended to be shared with others, so bring a friend, a coworker or a loved one who is ready to have the middle of their week brightened.
To get a close look at the Lab, view the slideshow.
Talavera Cocina Mexicana
2299 Ponce de Leon (at the corner of Giralda in Coral Gables)
Wednesdays 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
$16 with complimentary bites from the menu