what: Pepino Enmentado
where: Coa Agaveria Y Cocina, 823-A Lady St.
contact: 803-851-5965, coaagaveria.com
Staying cool during Columbia summers can often feel like an exercise in futility. Any dip in the pool or time spent with the air conditioning cranked is inevitably undone by roasting temperatures the next time you’re forced to venture outside. While the cocktail menu at Coa Agaveria Y Cocina in the Vista features a wealth of purely refreshing concoctions, the Pepino Enmentado embraces and reflects our famously feverous days through its waves of cool, spicy and smoky flavors.
A shaken mixture of Sombra mezcal, green chartreuse, cucumber, mint, jalapeño syrup and lime juice, the Pepino is served on the rocks in a highball with slices of cucumber and jalapeño speared by a mint sprig as garnish. The cocktail’s jade green appearance looks quenching in the sweaty glass, but don’t be fooled by its familiar margarita-like complexion — this drink has surprises in store.
Though it’s mezcal-based, the Pepino doesn’t taste like huffing a campfire. The herbaceous qualities of the chartreuse and mint combine with the cucumber and lime to temper the agave spirit’s smokiness, bringing a bright freshness to the first sip, accented by the subtle undertone of the Sombra. As soon as the refreshment is there, it quickly dissipates, ceding the foreground to the building intensity and grassy spice of the jalapeño syrup, which tingles the lips and lingers throughout the finish. Mezcal is ultimately the last flavor standing, a smoldering foundation for the cocktail’s vibrant interplay of acid and heat.
Considering the Pepino Enmentado’s substantial pepper component and $11 price tag, it likely isn’t for everyone. If you’re imbibing merely to cool off, go with any of Coa’s other excellent non-spicy craft margaritas. But if you’re willing to double down on Columbia’s hot-blooded summers, let the Pepino refresh you — then blissfully light you up — over and over again.