Craving a Margarita, but Not Tequila? Try the St. Mark's Cocktail at David's Café

The St. Mark's cocktail is made with fortified wine instead of tequila.EXPAND
The St. Mark's cocktail is made with fortified wine instead of tequila.
Courtesy David's Cafe

Rael Petit, beverage consultant at David's Café (110 St. Marks Place; 646-678-3206), is known for creating cocktails on the fly. His ability to create of-the-moment cocktails brought him, appropriately, to what might be the most spontaneous street in New York: St. Mark's Place. There, he created a menu for David's Café without the use of hard liquor, since the restaurant only has a beer and wine license right now.

Petit, a native of Switzerland, also dealt with the challenges of using his intuition to create cocktails at the Mulberry Project. Throughout his career he's been able to build upon classic recipes, which is how he helped structure the menu at David's Café using only fortified wines. Petit notes the benefits of working within the realm of just beer and wine: "It’s good. It shows your creativity. Utilize what you have."

One of the classic drinks that Petit is especially fond of is the margarita, which is why he always aims to have a spicy drink on any menu he builds. At David's Café, that drink is the St. Mark's cocktail, which is a margarita's doppelgänger — despite not having a drop of tequila or mezcal.

Fresh flavors — like red bell pepper, jalapeños, and cilantro — are all used to balance the sweetness and bitterness of  aperitif wines Cocchi Americano and Byrrh. Cocchi Americano, an Italian white wine aperitif fortified with brandy, has a touch of sweetness thanks to bittering agents like gentian root and orange peel. Quinine lends the red wine aperitif Byrrh a lemony bite. While fortified wines list ingredients that sound like they'd more likely be found in a science experiment than a drink, they usually hover around twenty percent alcohol by volume. That means these cocktails are easier to sip on than spirit-based drinks.

Petit recommends pairing the cocktail with chef David Malbequi's sardine rillettes, because of their saltiness and texture. "I try to look at what the chef does and what ingredients he uses," explains Petit.

The recipe, for those interested in making the drink at home, is below.

St. Mark's cocktail by Rael Petit
- 2 slices red bell pepper
- 1 slice jalapeño
- 2 sprigs cilantro
- 1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
- 1/2 oz. Byrrh
- 1/2 oz. agave
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice

Muddle the first three ingredients (saving one red pepper slice and one sprig of cilantro for garnish) and combine with the remaining ingredients. Shake and serve in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with remaining cilantro sprig and slice of red pepper.

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