The Hunter’s Mule at Comida
Years ago, Ted LaMontagne didn’t know much about flavors. He was bartending at Trattoria Stella, where he started to learn about good wines and to develop his palate. “I was the pickiest eater you could ever imagine,” he says, “until I started working at that Italian place.” Trattoria’s chef would, occasionally, get LaMontagne to taste various bits of his food. “It just opened my eyes,” he says, “because he forced me to tasted things and describe flavors — and what they would mesh well with.”
LaMontagne brings that flavor training to this role as bar manager at Comida, where he recently concocted a tasty warm-weather drink called Hunter’s Mule ($9) with tequila, lime juice, falernum, sage leaves, ginger syrup and soda water. “I think it’s one of our finer craft cocktail options,” LaMontagne says of his cocktail, one of over a dozen on his current drink menu. It’s a version of a classic mule, which consists of booze (most commonly vodka), plus ginger beer and lime juice. Hunter’s Mule, however, is a tequila drink.
“Cazadores means ‘hunter’ in Spanish,” LaMontagne says, and that’s where the drink’s name came from: the tequila he uses is Cazadores reposado tequila. It’s a 100-percent blue agave spirit, aged for more than two months in new American oak barrels.
But the Hunter’s Mule departs from the classic mule template with LaMontagne’s addition of falernum, a liqueur from Barbados, which is used mostly in tiki or tropical cocktail recipes. He turned to the classic John D. Taylor velvet falernum, used in cocktails such as the Rum Swizzle, the Mai Tai, the Zombie and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. It’s a mix of sugar cane syrup, Barbados rum, spices and lime juice.
“It’s super versatile,” LaMontagne says. “We use it in a lot of specialty drinks. It’s one of my favorites, for sure.”
“I love the traditional flavor quality of Cazadores,” LaMontagne says, talking again of his tequila choice. “The head distiller of the company was in the restaurant, and he was tasting us on his product. I thought that kind of flavor would really, really nicely combine with the falernum, which pairs really nicely with the spiciness of the ginger.
Instead of using ginger beer in his mule variation, LaMontagne makes his own. He juliennes a quart of fresh ginger, then boils it in a quart of water, later adding a quart of sugar, to make a syrup. “I cook it down a little bit,” he says, “to give it some of that caramelization, color and flavor.” When the syrup is cooled, he blends it to release even more of the ginger flavor, then he strains out the solids. By topping the drink with soda water, he effectively makes his own ginger beer.
“It’s certainly one of our best sellers,” LaMontagne says of his Hunter’s Mule. Just a few steps from his bar inside the Source, Comida’s garage doors are wide open, the patio full of people enjoying drinks and food on a warm March afternoon. Hunter’s Mule is designed for that kind of setting.
“It’s a refreshing porch-pounder,” LaMontagne says. “That’s kind of what I like to go for: something you can session quite easily.”
Now that LaMontagne is more adept at picking up on flavors, and pairing them with other flavors, he’s having fun making cocktails. “It’s really playful fun that you can have with all these ingredients,” he says. “I like to open peoples’ eyes to flavors.”
1.5 ounces Cazadores reposado tequila
.5 ounce John D. Taylor Velvet falernum
.5 ounce ginger simple syrup
.75 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
4 sage leaves
Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker tin. Bruise the sage, add it to the shaker tin, and fill with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with sage and an orange peel.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.