In my ongoing search for the perfect Bloody Mary, I travel south of the border. Just past the world’s busiest border is a gem of a bar with an outstanding cocktail program. But before I get there I have to stop at a local market to meet the head bartender of Nortico.
We meet at Hidalgo Mercado where locals go to get fresh produce, moles, peppers and anything else one needs to make a perfect Mexican dish. Fernando and I start by grabbing some fresh chopped coconuts to gulp down their replenishing waters. And don’t we need it — it’s only 9 a.m. and it’s already 90 degrees. I look over at one of the abundant produce stands, and in this oppressive heat, I feel like one of those dried chilis that await purchase. In a short time, I notice he’s already finished gathering the necessary ingredients for the cocktail. It’s a short drive to Nortico, but navigating this Tijuana traffic is precarious. Lucky for me, he’s driving.
The offerings of a Tijuana market could inspire many a cocktail.
Walking through a market in Tijuana in the dead of summer, you might identify with hot peppers stacked on top of one another.
The heat of a Mexican market (and maybe a few savory tacos) will make you thirst for something refreshing and rejuvenating.
When you leave the day’s searing heat and overbearing sunshine you enter into a dark, cool and welcoming bar. The room is laden with gold ceilings, marble counter tops and images from a lifetime ago. I have been in many a speakeasy bar, but this one reminds me of Capone sneaking his illegal hooch through Baja and ending up here. One would not think to get a Bloody inside this joint, but much to my surprise, Fernando whips up one using some Grey Goose and the ingredients we got earlier from the mercado.
This Bloody Mary is almost perfect to my palate. Unlike most Bloody Mary’s I’ve had, this one is light, refreshing and has a perfect amount of heat and tartness to it. My favorite element to this Bloody are the cucumbers. His use of fresh muddled cucumbers added to local tomatoes really brings out the lightness of the cocktail. On the backend you notice the chili peppers but only to a slight degree, which is a nice touch. It’s not overbearing but present.
If Capone were here, I am not sure he would approve of a Bloody Mary inside a speakeasy. Unless, of course, he was in need of a hangover cure in this sweltering Baja heat. There was a time that coming down to Tijuana wasn’t such a good idea, given all the cartel issues. But that has since vanished leaving what us locals know and love — beautiful people, food and culture.
The Nortico Bloody Mary balances heat, savory and refreshing elements, using ingredients from a local Tijuana market.
To make a Nortico Bloody Mary:
- 1 1/4 ounces Grey Goose Vodka
- 1 1/2 ounces Persian cucumber with celery purée
- 1 pinch smoked salt
- 1 pinch ground pepper
- 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 3 ounces Baja tomato juice
Combine in shaker over ice, shake, strain and serve.