The Ofrenda
The Ofrenda Credit: Peter Holderness

“My first thought was: Don’t make a spicy margarita,” said Trenchermen bartender Jonah Frank. Challenged by Dan Smith of Barrelhouse Flat to make a drink with pimenton, Spanish smoked paprika, Frank initially found himself tossing around “a bunch of awful ideas.” But eventually he hit upon an approach he hoped would yield a drink not just tasty but restorative.

His inspiration was the Corpse Reviver #2, a classic cocktail designed for the morning after. Described by Frank as “refreshing, invigorating,” it’s made of equal parts aromatized white wine (e.g., Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc), orange liqueur (e.g., Combier or Cointreau), lemon juice, and dry gin, with an absinthe rinse. Frank’s thought was to sub in sherry for the wine, for what could be more Spanish?

First, though, he made a syrup with the pimenton, reducing the spice with water and sugar, then letting it sit overnight. To accentuate the flavor of the paprika, he turned to mezcal, “to pump up that smoke a little more.” The ball rolling now, he decided to use tequila in place of the gin and curacao as his orange-flavored spirit. From there it was just a matter of fine-tuning, with a focus on the sherry.

Frank—a big fan of Frazier, where they drink a lot of it—said he winds up using the fortified wine in quite a few cocktails. In this case he decided on a Palo Cortado, which because of its distinctive aging shares characteristics of both amontillado and oloroso. “I like the fig and dry hay,” he said; the sherry also adds to richness. To top the drink off he stuck with the traditional absinthe rinse, “just to brighten it up a little bit.”

The name of his cocktail is another take on the Corpse Reviver, which made him think of Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday commemorating friends and family who have died. An ofrenda, “offering,” is a memorial to a departed loved one— “a little morbid,” Frank said, but nothing to do with salt or parrots.

The Ofrenda

3/4 oz curacao
3/4 oz Palo Cortado sherry
3/4 oz blanco tequila
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz mezcal
1/4 oz pimenton syrup

Combine ingredients, add crushed ice, and shake well. Strain into a tumbler (Frank likes to allow some of the ice chips through) and spritz the rim of the glass with absinthe.

Who’s Next:

Frank has challenged Griffin Benko of Lone Wolf to make a drink with schmaltz, which he says “can go with anything or on top of anything.”