It was a bland, gray Thursday afternoon downtown, leaves rather than tumbleweed blowing through streets, emptied by the oncoming holiday. I was heading to El Big Bad, a promising new margarita cantina from the look of it, but the bar was temporarily shut for the afternoon as it fine-tuned for a hard opening.
Instead, I slipped into the nearby Goro & Gun Izakaya, to get a take on this classic drink from a bar that's not margarita-driven. The lunch crowd had cleared out, and the space was a welcome refuge from the shopping chaos I'd been fighting for the past few weeks.
I sat down at the bar, next to a pair of out-of-town TV producers who were upset about the vagaries of their programming schedule. At least I assumed they were from California, as they were speaking in a manner reminiscent of 1980s Valley Girls. The two seemed indecisive with the Happy Hour menu, but that was only because the list is complex and fascinating, and the bartender patiently and expertly answered all of their questions.
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With such a compelling cocktail list, I felt dumb ordering a margarita, and asked Matthew "Tulu" Whiteside for some help. Tulu recommended the house margarita, and when he started pulling several bottles from the high shelves behind him, I knew it was going to be something less "house" than I'm used to.
The margarita at Goro & Gun is intricate, with a blend of Espolon Blanco and Siembra Azul Reposado tequilas. Rather than Cointreau, it uses the new trend in triple secs -- Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. Technically, the Pierre Ferrand is not a curaçao, as they are originally made with distilled spirits as a base. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao is made with a Cognac base, much like Grand Marnier, but according to Tulu, it has a much zestier taste than other cognac-based orange liqueurs.
With the addition of fresh lime juice and turbinado simple syrup, this margarita has a deep and complex taste. Whereas simpler margaritas are either sweet or tart, the Goro & Gun margarita manages to be sweet and tart at the same time. The rich tequila, orange, and Cognac flavors make the margarita more like a light liqueur to be sipped and savored, rather than the simple drink that one gulps with chips and salsa and enchiladas. At $11.00, it's around the same price as a premium margarita at Tex-Mex joint.
There's no chips and salsa here, but I love the atmosphere of Goro & Gun. As Tulu explained, the layout of the tall shelves makes it seem like a library, with fascinating spirits rather than books. But except for mid-afternoons, don't expect a quiet library, as Goro & Gun is an integral part of the newest entertainment district shaping up in Houston.