Friday Cocktails: Moradita
When you dine at Manhattan’s 30-year-old Gotham Bar and Grill, you quickly understand why chef/co-owner Alfred Portale and his crew have such staying power in this tumultuous town. Beneath its vaulted ceilings, the energy of the place crackles with the pleasured energy of a sophisticated crowd that’s being taken very good care of and eating every upscale, comforting thing they’d ever want to eat: roasted wild mushroom and sunchoke salad laced with crispy prosciutto; luscious miso-marinated cod; a brontosaurus-sized rack of lamb in a super-charged lamb reduction with the creamiest puréed potatoes on the side; foie gras, its intensity offset by a white balsamic gastrique; white truffle risotto; caviars of various kinds; Maine lobster in a classic sauce américaine.
Clearly, after three decades, Portale and staff are still making all the right moves—including paying attention to their Mexican-born bar back, Eugenio Ochoa, when he concocts a drink. This jalapeño-infused, blood-colored tequila cocktail, the Moradita (“Little Death”), is one of Ochoa’s creations, and it shows the experienced hand of a guy who has been the sole supporting player to Gotham’s bartenders for the past 18 years. A fresh, nearly healthy-tasting drink with, also, some real body and a balancing hint of elegant richness, it relies on the kitchen to deliver the main flavor component, roasted beets—a fact that shows off the success of the Gotham staff’s teamwork. But you don’t need a huge restaurant crew to make it; it’s easy enough to whip all by yourself at home, and a great way to use up the leftovers from a dish of winter’s fat, crimson roots.