A Mojito Without the Mint

El Buen Bife Grill (4527 Lomitas, 713-523-6373) has a terrible location -- in the shadow of the Southwest Freeway at Kirby, blocked almost entirely by Bennigan's -- but the Argentinean restaurant packs them in anyway with its gorgeous and muy auténtico-looking waitstaff. The men speak with heavy accents and wear loose white shirts, with poncho-tied bandannas around their necks; more than half of them have that sexy Antonio Banderas ponytail thing working for them, too. And the hostess almost stopped me in my tracks with her beautiful olive complexion. From where I sat at the bar, I was entertained not just by the employees but by a former ballet dancer who kept leaving her date to put money in the piano player's tip jar. His Gershwin was outstanding, but he'd probably earn more if he sang less. I couldn't quite place his accent, but maybe it was he who invented this crazy Caipiroska I had in front of me. Why else would an Argentinean restaurant feature a Russian drink? And who ever heard of mixing vodka and high-octane rum in the first place? Worst of all, between the limes and the simple syrup, you hardly know what you're ingesting. Think mojito without the mint. Then think of a hammer hitting you on the side of the head.

El Buen Bife's Caipiroska:

1 1/2 ounces Stoli
1 1/2 ounces Bacardi 151
6 lime wedges
1 tsp simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and reduced by half)

In a large highball glass, combine five squeezed lime wedges and simple syrup. Muddle wedges to extract pulp. Fill martini shaker halfway with ice, then add vodka and rum. Using rocks glass as shaker lid, shake well and pour back into highball glass. Add more ice if necessary and garnish with remaining lime wedge.


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