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Keep Houston Press Free
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Cocktail Therapy: Jose Miguel of The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

Jose Miguel doing his thing.
Jose Miguel doing his thing.
Photo by Kate McLean

Jose Miguel was ten years old when his sister came home to Etla, Oaxaca and brought him a shirt with a strange emblem on the breast pocket. A colorful macaw, with the word "Ninfa's" spelled across. "Funny story," he remembers the moment now at 33, dressed in a fitted navy suit, sitting casually on the shaded patio at the Original Ninfa's on Navigation.

All grown up and a resident of the United States, Miguel states, "My [co-workers] always said the Original was the place to be." He had interviewed three different times, and even worked at two Ninfa's locations before getting his foot in the door at the Original as a server in 2012.  Miguel waited tables for a year until management encouraged him to be trained at the bar. "They welcomed me to the bar, gave me everything they knew, encouraged me to create." Now as bar manager, he gives the same chance to those he works with. "The way I grew up in the company, I want others to grow up."

Art-driven long before working behind the bar, he's always celebrated the vein of Surrealism. René Magritte, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo— after high school he first got a job waiting tables with plans to pay for a degree in fine art. Around the same time, Miguel submitted several pieces to an art show at the Consulate General of Mexico; taking home runner-up for one.

"Still Life" by Jose Miguel, runner-up piece circa 2006.
"Still Life" by Jose Miguel, runner-up piece circa 2006.
Photo courtesy of Jose Miguel

Patiently and precisely he assembles the Pumpkin Spice Margarita, and as he does, it's easy to see how his skill with acrylic has translated to spirits.

"Sea horse" by Jose Miguel circa 2006.
"Sea horse" by Jose Miguel circa 2006.
Photo courtesy of Jose Miguel

One of his favorite parts of the job is serving clientele, both local and the many that visit. "Every guest has a different story." Houstonians and out-of-towners can agree to agree on margaritas and fajitas and the best spot to score them. For 45 years this location has keep their wood-burning fires stoked and juice presses well oiled.

"Everything is fresh, from scratch, that's the secret."

"The Pumpkin Spice Margarita"

1 ½ ounce Código Silver Tequila
1 ounce Lime juice
½ ounce Agave nectar
3 ounce Pumpkin mix (Cooked pumpkin blended with spices)
1 ounce Gran Gala, for garnish
½ of Lime, hollowed out for garnish
Mole salt for rim

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Use Triple Sec to wet the rim and apply mole salt. Mix ingredients with ice, shake, and pour into a glass. Fill hollowed out lime with Gran Gala and float on top.

It's pumpkin time alright, and this rendition is sweet and boozy.  The mole spiced salt makes a lickable contrast, but the private pool of Gran Gala is where this drink gets fun. Dámelo. Dámelo. Dámelo.

Shot of Advice: If you love something, keep doing it. In the end it's going to pay off.

The "Pumpkin Spice Margarita."
The "Pumpkin Spice Margarita."
Photo by Kate McLean

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