Will It Pair: Mariscos El Mar II

by Melkon Khosrovian

Every time I come to Mexico to make another batch of IXÁ tequila, I stop by Mariscos El Mar II just outside the city of Tequila for a bite of fried huachinango, or Pacific Red Snapper, one of the most prized fish in this region. OK, I usually stop by two to three times because it’s a killer combination crispy, chewy, mildly fishy and works well with the heaping of lime and hot sauce I add to it. The restaurant’s location on a bluff with a million dollar view of what looks like a mini Grand Canyon also doesn’t hurt.

On this visit, I got to meet the owner, Nicanor Serna Pérez, and we hatched an idea to pair up our respective handiworks — his fried huachinango and a cocktail with my IXÁ Silver tequila. He’d cook up the fish, I’d shake up a couple of drinks and together we’d see which one paired better.

The next morning, I stopped by the fruit & vegetable market near Tequila’s main town square to pick up some fresh produce: cilantro and oregano for aroma, tomatillo and lime for sourness, cucumber and jalapeño for some heat and veggie goodness, yellow guava for fruit sweetness and star fruit for decoration. I also liberated some flowers and bitter oranges from my hotel garden (which shall remain unnamed) for wild cards.

Now…what to make? The huachinango on its own is not the most dress up dish in terms of flavor. Customers do that on their own with additions of lime, chile, a slew of hot sauces and salt. It comes with a basic salad and some rice, but is otherwise fairly plain.

IXA Will it Pair Tequila Cocktails_Melkon
I decided to approach the pairing from two directions: sour, veggie and spicy with one cocktail and fruity, bitter sour and spicy with the second:

Tequila Cocktail 1

  • 2 oz IXÁ Silver tequila
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3 cucumber slices
  • 3 jalapeño slices
  • 1 medium sized tomatillo
  • Firstful of fresh cilantro

Muddle cucumber, jalapeño and tomatillo. Add rest & shake with ice. Strain into tall glass with beautiful garnish.

Tequila Cocktail 2

  • 2 oz IXÁ Silver tequila
  • 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz fresh bitter orange
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 2 yellow guavas
  • 3 dash house hot sauce

Muddle guava. Add rest & shake with ice. Strain into tall glass with beautiful garnish.

Nicanor and I then sat down to see which one of these, if either, would pair with his fried huachinango.


Tequila Cocktail 1

“Muy verde, muy sabroso. Casi como una salsa.” — Nicanor

“Yup…and who knew tomatillo could work so well in a drink! Also, love the spice kick.” — Melkon

Tequila Cocktail 1

“No entiendo esta bebida. ¿Y por qué lo hiciste tan picante?” — Nicanor “

A little too sweet and spicy, with not much in the middle to hook in the dish.” — Melkon

And the winner is… Tequila Cocktail 1…because it so completely complemented the dish by adding in the missing flavors of sour, heat and veggie. Oh, and it was also a kick ass cocktail!

IXA Will it Pair Tequila Cocktails_MelkonJudge