On the Sauce: Let's Be Frank, O Cocina

The modern Mexican restaurant pays homage to a timeless stirred sipper with añejo tequila.

click to enlarge On the Sauce: Let's Be Frank, O Cocina
Courtesy of O Cocina

This week for On the Sauce, we're spotlighting a cocktail from one of Tampa Bay's newest modern Mexican joints: O Cocina

If you're not familiar with the popular South Tampa restaurant, an introduction is long overdue. Not only are classic and contemporary Mexican flavors combined to pull off the food, but fresh ingredients drive the impressive, ever-evolving cocktail list — a list that incorporates house-made shrubs, syrups, cordials and purées for all tastes.

"We want our guests to sit down and know they are in good hands," said bar manager Sean O'Donnell, who's been with O Cocina since the doors opened in 2016. "They will be able to enjoy a incredible cocktail, [and] be educated on various spirits that aren't readily available at most bars in the area."

One look at the diverse drink menu certainly gets that point across. Affectionately known as the "O," the restaurant features an extensive selection of tequilas and mezcals the staff is happy to drop some knowledge about — including flights of the stuff — and stays true to its roots with the house margarita, an elevated take on the classic with tequila, Lillet, dry Curaçao, lime, guava nectar and tomatillo foam.

O Cocina's affinity for whiskey is also evident. However, the recipe below is for Let's Be Frank, a drink lovingly built upon that glorious aforementioned booze derived from the agave plant. Developed by O'Donnell, the featured cocktail pays homage to a timeless stirred sipper, the Manhattan, but with a south-of-the-border twist in the form of añejo tequila.

To top it off, Let's Be Frank includes four liqueurs, three of which — Cynar, Aperol (one of my favorites) and Fernet-Branca — are Italian and fall under the amaro category. While the drink only gets a rinse of Fernet, the bitter, herbaceous spirit could be a surprise to your taste buds.

Let's Be Frank is always available, as it's offered on the regular O Cocina drink menu; look for it under the "Stirred" section. And not to give away what's sure to become my new spot for after-work happy hour, but you should know that the restaurant runs $4 marg and $6 cocktail deals from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily.

"We also take pride in our variety," O'Donnell said. "If you truly do not enjoy tequila, there is a cocktail on our menu for you."

Let's Be Frank

Makes 1

2 ounces Milagro Añejo

1/2 ounce Cynar

1/2 ounce Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur

1/4 ounce Aperol

3/4 bar spoon of Fernet-Branca

Precisely measure all ingredients and pour into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir 25 times, add more ice, and stir another 25 times. Strain into a small coupe glass. Peel a medium-size piece of orange skin. Take the peel (zest side down) and squeeze the fresh oil over the top of the cocktail. Take the peel, rim the glass (zest side in contact with the glass), then drop it in for garnish.

Connect with CL columnist Chris Fasick on Twitter, or email him at [email protected] if there's a cocktail or recipe you'd like featured.