Last week, I had the honor of being a judge at a cocktail summit held by the United States Bartender's Guild in Hollywood's iconic Roosevelt Hotel. 10 bartenders from Southern California slinged slings, fizzes, margaritas, all with the base liquor of Patrón Tequila, a booze that gets a lot of hate for being so trendy but is better than advertised. I'm not familiar with the El Lay cocktail scene, but the guys and girls up there definitely impressed. I only knew one person: our own OC Bartender of the Year, Joe Valdovinos at Playground. He was there to offer his iconic La India Maria, his take on Mexican pop culture, ancient traditions, locally sourced ingredients, and sheer desmadre.
It's technically Patrón silver, pineapple shrub, wildflower honey syrup, and a lager float--but like with anything Mexican, the whole is all about the parts. The "shrub" is in fact tepache, the old-school Mexican drink that involves fermented pineapple and sizzles any palate that tries it. The beer is Modelo Especial, light and fizzy. Together, it transforms into the Mexican comedic legend for which it's named: sassy yet substantial, and lingering long after your initial encounter. Valdovinos has been making this for the past year at his other bars, so it was great to see La India Maria made before an audience of his peers.
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Did Valdovinos beat the LA bartenders? Not sure, but I hope so: first prize was a trip to Patrón's hacienda in Jalisco. But even if he didn't win, we can all taste the fruits of his success at Playground in downtown SanTana. And if it's not on the menu anymore? Ask him to do it, and he'll smile and whip out your drink for the summer.