For our first libation adventure east of the Mississippi, Gut Check clocked in at Edwardsville hotspot Cleveland-Heath (106 North Main Street, Edwardsville, 618-307-4830). Bartender Samantha McCulloch guided us through the cocktail list and eventually toward "The Matador," a drink that highlights repasado tequila & jalapeño.
"Repasado tequila is aged, so it's a lot smoother," McCulloch says. "It's not as hot. I think a lot of times when you use blanco or silver tequila, it's that taste of being 21 and doing tequila shots. The repasado has a lot more going on. It's spicier but it's a lot easier to drink, too. You can do more things with it."
The drink also features St. Germain -- an elderflower liqueur known as "bartender's butter" that goes well with almost everything -- and amaretto, which takes the place of tequila's favorite partner in crime, Triple sec (the duo better known as a margarita).
"This kind of came out of nowhere," McCulloch says. "We all love St. Germain. It's always on our list. Triple sec is always done with tequila, and he wanted more of a weight and sweetness with it, and the amaretto gave it a different twist."
"The Matador" is a great gateway into the possibilities of tequila. The repasado is much more even-keeled than its younger counterparts while the St. Germain and amaretto provide a deeper, cleaner profile than Triple sec. The jalapeno creeps up at the end, cutting through the drink with hints of heat.
"At Cleveland-Heath, we're obsessed with jalapenos, if you can't tell by the menu," McCulloch says. "They're everywhere. What goes better with tequila and lime than jalapeno?"
Click through for the recipe.