Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you're not ordering.
What: El Parque with Espolón Blanco Tequila, watermelon shrub, Peychaud’s Bitters, club soda, pink peppercorns, and a lavender sprig
Where: Poste Moderne Brasserie, 555 8th St. NW
What You Should Be Drinking
Shrubs have been a buzzword in the craft cocktail realm as of late because of their ability to add a punch of acidity without the use of fresh citrus. Poste Moderne Brasserie head bartender Justin Hampton is so smitten with these vinegar-based syrups that he’s christened a new category of drinks that star shrubs plus a leading liquor, vermouth or bitters, and club soda. “It’s a type of cocktail that I don’t think is being made other places,” he says. “I want it to be its own genre of cocktail, like a sour.” El Parque, combining a watermelon shrub with tequila, is the second iteration of Hampton’s formula. Hampton makes the shrub by vacuum sealing the fruit with sugar and vinegar. He wants tequila fans to be more open-minded: “People who are drinking tequila, they’re not thinking about vinegar as a good pairing,” he says. “They want the classic margarita, they want the salt and the lime—I think vinegar is an awkward drink pairing for traditional tequila drinkers.”
Why You Should be Drinking It
El Parque is a real looker thanks to its garnishes of pink peppercorns and a lavender sprig from Poste’s courtyard garden. There are non-Instagram reasons to order this drink, too. Despite its Country Time Pink Lemonade shade, El Parque carries more subtle vegetal notes than a predictable fruity blast thanks to the tequila. The watermelon flavor is gentle, as is the vinegar. Hampton is also correct about its uniqueness—no immediate cocktail comes to mind when trying to make a comparison. El Parque and its iterations are simple on purpose; Hampton’s mission is to have them catch on. “Classic cocktails spread because they could be passed on from bar to bar easily, unlike a nine-ingredient cocktail.”
Photo by Laura Hayes