El Pelón at Porter & Frye

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

El Pelón, translated from Spanish, means “the bald guy.” You’d think that a drink with this sort of a name might be austere and simple, but Porter & Frye’s Pelón cocktail ($10) is far from straightforward — it’s a roller coaster of flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The drink is a combination of Don Julio silver tequila, fresh cucumber, lime, and jalapeno. A sip of El Pelón is a skillfully crafted procession of experiences — it starts like a margarita, with a blast of sweet, lime-kissed silver tequila flavor. But then it takes a wild twist, throwing off some of the jalapeno’s heat.

Heat’s a tough thing to work with in cocktails — it tends to overpower everything else or drown under the weight of liquor, but in this beverage it’s well balanced, a distinct and pleasantly provocative backbone for the drink. And after the heat, the cool of the cucumber asserts itself, with just a tiny stinger of pepper rattling to a full stop at the very end of the sip.

Great drinks, like great food, balance extremes and take the palate on a trip. This is a cocktail that deserves some celebration — staying balanced while playing with fire is no small feat. There are some interesting things afoot at the always turbulent Porter & Frye — on that note, we’ll be publishing a long interview with executive chef Sarah Master in the near future.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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