First Call: Milagro Cantina's Blogging Bartender

Mark Sexauer wants to turn you on to mescal.

The Watering Hole: Milagro Cantina, 148 Lake St. S., 425-952-6270, KIRKLAND. The Atmosphere: Situated in downtown Kirkland right off Lake Washington, this trendy new establishment serves Mexico-inspired cuisine that goes above and beyond beans and rice: braised lamb in mole sauce, lobster enchiladas, and guacamole dressed in almonds and pomegranate seeds. The bar showcases top-shelf liquor from the branches of a seven-foot steel "tequila tree," and patrons have the option of being seated around fire pits, at candlelit tables, or on the sidewalk patio. Milagro Cantina gives off a casual but sexy ambience. Essentially, it is the sort of space you want to relax and enjoy several hours in, rather than throw back several tequila shots and stagger out of. The Barkeep: Mark Sexauer not only has an awesome last name, but is the bar supervisor at Milagro Cantina and runs his own cocktail blog ( In other words, he knows his shit. Sexauer himself prefers pure spirits to cocktails: "If you sip a pure spirit, you will drink slower and enjoy yourself more. It gets the job done. You will feel good, but you will also be able to get up the next morning!" But he still enjoys a quality cocktail, and can whip up a mean one using an unlikely combination of ingredients. The Drink: A variation on a Blood and Sand, Sexauer calls his concoction a Blood and Guts and Sand, admitting that "it's kind of a dark name." He substitutes two types of mescal for whiskey, and also adds orange juice, cherry Heering, and Punt e Mes vermouth. "If you judge it by reading the ingredients, it doesn't sound like it would be a great drink," he explains. "But it results in a smoky drink that hits the palate with plenty of flavor." The Verdict: It certainly does taste smoky. But for drinkers like myself, who generally shy away from mescals and scotches, it contains just enough tang to take the edge off. Order it on a warm evening when you have a few hours to unwind on the patio—or, better yet, order two, then finish off with a walk along Lake Washington until the buzz wears off.

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