Jenn Tosatto is the bar manager of Mission Taco Joint in Kansas City.
What was your first bartending job?
My first job was at a divey frat bar in Springfield, MO. I was actually a karaoke DJ, and one night, the owner needed a bartender more than a DJ, so she threw me behind the bar with a rolodex of beautiful ’90s drink recipes and a prayer. It was hectic, crazy, and I loved every minute of it. I knew from that moment that I wanted to make a career out of being behind a bar.
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
I’m a mezcal fanatic. I love its nuance, and how no one tastes the same as another. It adds a challenge to mixing it that I love. It works so well with many different flavors in new and interesting ways. Mezcal presents endless possibilities for flavor combination, which is always a plus in this business. I also love educating guests and staff alike on this often misunderstood spirit.
Mission Taco Joint offers a number of Margaritas, including a custom option. How do most guests like to customize it? We see all sorts! We can always add any of our house-made agua frescas in any combination, but I think the most popular by far is the addition of fresh jalapeño for a spicy margarita. We go through an exorbitant amount of jalapeño.
You also have a selection of Tiki cocktails; do those pair well with the casual Mexican cuisine?
Absolutely! Our Tiki list uses a lot of fresh fruit juices and high-proof spirits, which both provide a great foil to spicy food. And the Tiki cocktails range from sweet (like the Painkiller) to more nuanced and boozy (The Siren Song), which pair well with the variety in our menu.
The menu has a few beertails as well. We haven’t been hearing much about beertails recently—are they popular with your guests? Very. Beer cocktails are a great alternative for people who want to enjoy a cocktail with a slightly lower ABV.
Our Mexi-Cali bulldog is really popular because it is basically as if a beer and a Margarita had a beautiful little baby. You get the Margarita flavor, but it is not as in your face. Another crowd favorite is the Michelada, which you can think of like a Bloody Mary, but tastier and with beer as the base.
We didn’t see any wine on the menu—do you sell wine? We do! It is definitely not our biggest seller, but we do offer a Spanish red blend, a Spanish unoaked chardonnay, and a beautiful rosé. We do often get asked for Sangria, which we make to order.
What’s the most popular drink on the list at the moment?
Well, an easy 70% of out drink sales are Margaritas, which is pretty much a given, so I usually look outside that. Other than Margaritas, our current best-seller is the Paloma, and it’s easy to see why. It is a classic for a reason. Bright, refreshing, but with a nice Reposado tequila backbone. There is something magical about tequila and grapefruit together.
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
I’ve been really enjoying a low-ABV kick lately. Like a nice port or madeira served neat. Or if I’m feeling a tad fancy, a sherry cobbler. Amontillado with fresh OJ, pineapple chunks, lemon juice and cinnamon syrup is my current favorite variation, but I’ll never say no to sherry in any form.
Would you share one of your favorite drink recipes?
I’m really proud of my O! You Pretty Thing cocktail. It is my tribute to David Bowie (one of my all-time favorite artists) and it features pisco, which I also love.
O! You Pretty Thing
1 ½ oz Pisco
½ oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Pineapple agua fresca
½ oz. Turbinado syrup
¼ oz. Grenadine
Barspoon bruleed mango
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Pour entire contents of shaker into a Collins glass. Garnish with an edibe orchid topped with more mangos, and brulee quickly before service.