Getting down with the mojitos at Root Down

I'm almost never in a hurry to get drunk. Drunk is somewhere I often end up, yeah, but whenever I rush to get there, I miss all the great stops along the way — stops like More Talkative Than Usual, Can't Stop Smiling and So Happy to Be Here (regardless of where Here happens to be at any given moment). For this reason, I pretty much stick to beer, which facilitates the slow fade I enjoy so much and keeps me (mostly) civilized.

I get on this topic — of why beer is better than liquor — a lot, and I always think of the novelist Tom Robbins, who once said, "You can discuss art and politics for hours on end over pitchers of beer and remain relatively coherent; there's even a time early on when you're more eloquent than normal. But most people can't drink a lot of whiskey and remain conversant in any sort of entertaining and intellectually stimulating sort of way." I'm not always in the mood to be eloquent or intellectual, but for the most part, I agree with his contention.

Except when it comes to tequila.

In recent years, I have become an unabashed tequila snob. Unlike the average lush — who has at least one epic night-and-next-day-ending tequila story — I've learned to trust Mexico's finest export. We have an understanding, tequila and me: I pay extra for the good stuff. I shoot it, drink it over rocks and mix it when possible, which is typically not at a bar or restaurant: Grapefruit juice and 7 sometimes makes for a decent bar Squirt, but is botched more often than not. So I'm giddy when Bill, my server at Root Down, tells me the 'tender would be happy to make the Classic Mojito — muddled lime, mint, agave and a splash of soda — with tequila instead of Cruzan rum. I'm already in a couple of milk stouts and wholly uninterested in anything else on the microbrew-crowded beer menu, so, fuck it: I'll board the express bus to Drunk. Anything for tequila mixed right.

An hour before, having reached somewhere near Down for Whatever thanks to Pacíficos at Rosa Linda's, we ran into some friends outside of the Squeaky Bean and decided on the fly to join them here at Root Down. In the warmly lit service bay of the retrofitted garage, we find for the taking a six-person wraparound booth beneath the rotary telephone collection and immediately get to traipsing up and down the impressive drink menu, ordering beers, wine, specialty cocktails and chasers of reverse-osmosis water (wheeeeee!!!). My milk stouts are tasty, but my tequila mojito is reason to enlist in the military — so good that I order another before finishing the first.

When Bill returns, he brings shots of tequila mixed with jalapeño-infused agave nectar, on the house. Some time after this — five minutes? Ten? — I order my third mojito, and in doing so, board the bullet train to my final destination. So I ask Bill to call us a cab, which he does, and which arrives so quickly that I have to pound the second half of my drink.

Robbins, in the same breath that he uttered the above contention, added, "Cocktails are elegant and sophisticated, and there's a place for elegance and sophistication, but cocktails have no soul."

Sorry, Tom, but when it comes to the tequila-modified mojito at Root Down, I couldn't disagree more.

Or care less.

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Drew Bixby

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