Adorned with beautiful artwork and colors, Tico provides great service and a bevy of superb cocktails.
Overall Rating: 4.25
I’m a fan of awards, although I rarely win them. Honors like the Rammy’s help me (and my liver) by lending order and focus to my cocktail love, pointing me to those special places like Tico on 14th street, which was nominated for best cocktail program this year (along with, among others, 2 Birds 1 Stone – check). I had an enjoyable time at Tico, which has a sophisticated but still egalitarian vibe. The joint was hopping, choc-full of impossibly well-dressed 20 and 30-somethings who appreciate good beer and like to talk about work. The furnishings are lush, eye-catching and elegant, exuding a crimson-dipped Andean intensity to any evening. Let’s just call it like it is, the place is is sexy. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make special mention of the exemplary bar service – awesome bartenders who made time to explain and discuss the drinks even as the press of business increased.
Tico’s cocktail list was a good time: I sampled nine of the drinks, liked almost all of them, and found four standouts. The program has fun with some classically Latin ingredients such as mezcal, cachaca, and agave while throwing in some superb wildcards like sake and cashew syrup.
I started on the sweet, tropical side with the “Location Vacation” with gin, Drambuie, mint, agave, lime, and cava. A good gin drink, strong up front (almost too much) with a minty, Caribbean bite that runs through the drink evenly. The agave and Drambuie gives it a subtle sugar coating as you sip. Nice. Then our first standout, the “Northwest Ninja” with Blanco tequila, sake, grapefruit, lime, and agave. Loved this drink, surprisingly sedate given the strong ingredients, with tequila and sake portions that are perfectly evened out. Then the agave and lime comes in and sexes up the recipe, creating a rich, tequila celebration that I could sip on all day. Great.
Up next was the “Pueblan Monkey” with scotch, Ancho Reyes chile licor, lime, and ginger liqueur. A peppery little beaut, I enjoyed the hot chili and how the heat is deliciously extinguished with cool lime and that intriguing ginger liqueur, which I want to get to know better. The scotch is a player but doesn’t overwhelm. This monkey works well, good drink. Moving to my favorite drink of the evening, the “Caju Caipirinha” with aged cachaca, cashew, lime, and sugar. My mouth waters just thinking back to this drink – pleasant and adventurous, this pairing of the sugary, milky cashew-syrup (which I got to taste on its own, delicious) and that sweet Brazilian cachaca is heavenly, perfect. Great bite up front that extends throughout the gulp, I could have had five of these boys.
I did the “14th Street Shuffle” with aged rum, cardamaro, and lime. This was a standout with a consistent and spicy taste that dovetails well with that lingering molasses off the rum. A nice, relaxing bite, this drink was well-built and even, a generous and simple cocktail that’s a real treat. We grabbed the “Oaxacan Donkey” next with mezcal, passion fruit, lime, and ginger beer. This was mezcal-dominant with a harsh kick on the front end, a severe, door-kicking entrance. The rest of the drink flows fine and smoother with the poppy ginger beer and cooling passion fruit, but that Mexican heat sticks with you. For real mezcal fans only.
Then did a workout with the “P90X” with rye whiskey, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, angostura, and orange. This was a surprisingly understated flavor, with the sherry pulling more than its own weight and tempering the rye. Most of the bite is at the end of the drink, with some nice bitterness. Just fine. Nearing the end of my Tico tour, I ordered the “Barrel-Aged Rosita” with Reposado tequila, Campari, dry and rogue vermouth, angostura, and orange bitters. This was an extremely bitter mix with a powerhouse hit, a strong cocktail mixed to sip. I did like how that tequila simmers and swims so well in the Campari bitterness – this is a truly distinct and memorable flavor, even if I didn’t quite love it. An experience worth having, like most of them.
We concluded our evening with an amazing standout, the “Word of Mouth” with mezcal, green chartreuse, lime, and vanilla. Again, I’m not a natural fan of mezcal, so my passion for this one is particularly notable. Just a superb drink with the lime and vanilla combining in this cool, smooth, sugary kiss that evens out the mezcal perfectly. A nice herbal echo in the background from the chartreuse, this is one of my favorite mezcal cocktails in recent memory. Such a nice way to conclude a classy and delicious time at Tico!