By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
Most people know that Ladera Taverna y Cocina is located in the heart of the Sunnyslope neighborhood of Phoenix. They also know it as a go-to haunt for tequila and mezcal-inspired cocktails.
“Most people, however, don’t know that ladera means hillside in Spanish, or that the agave plant, the chief ingredient in tequila and mezcal, grows best on the sloped hillsides of Mexico,” says Colton Brock, Ladera Taverna y Cocina bar manager.
To honor the community that Ladera calls home and pay homage to the many laderas where agave grows, Brock developed The Slope ($12), one of the restaurant’s 15 signature cocktails.
It starts with smoky Yuu Baal Mezcal Espadin, which Brock and his team infuse in-house for one to two hours with serrano peppers to add a little heat.
“I combine the mezcal in a shaker with ice and Aperol, an Italian aperitif known for its distinctive bitter and citrus notes, as well as grapefruit bitters and fresh lime juice,” Brock says. “The ingredients complement each other while offering equal parts smoky, bitter, spicy and citrusy.”
The only thing missing: a sweetening agent.
“That comes in the form of my final ingredient: Orgeat,” says Brock, noting the syrup is most often used in Tiki-style cocktails. “The combination of almond, sugar and orange flavors in the syrup add that hint of sweetness needed and a little nuttiness, but not cloyingly so.”
After shaking with ice, Brock strains the contents into a highball glass over ice. He then expresses a grapefruit over the glass to add aroma before using it as the colorful garnish.
Ladera Taverna y Cocina, 8729 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; 602.606.2258; www.laderaphx.com.