Meet Your Mixologist: Mercadito’s Paul Sauter

By Shayne Benowitz

“Our cocktails are crafted using the same concepts as cooking.”

With Cinco de Mayo last weekend, there was perhaps no better excuse to sample agave spirits and cocktails, and no better spot in Miami to do it than at Mercadito in Midtown. With an extensive cocktail menu featuring tequila and mezcal, as well as a couple of beer cocktails like the Mexican classic Michelada, Mercadito has elevated tequila beyond the mere margarita.

“Our cocktails are crafted using the same concepts as cooking,” says bar manager and mixologist Paul Sauter. “We make our own purees, syrups, and salts, and incorporate fresh fruits and peppers.”

For anyone overwhelmed by the somewhat exotic menu, Sauter recommends having a conversation with the bartender in order to select a drink customized to ones taste. “A lot can be determined by quizzing a customer on four different elements. Do you prefer a drink that’s fruity, citrusy, spicy, or smoky?”

Sauter’s current favorite on the menu is Los Hermanos, created with mezcal, passion fruit, mint, agave nectar, and yucateca with a salt and pepper rim. The drink has the distinct smokiness of the mezcal complemented with the sweetness of the passionfruit, and pepper adds the perfect balance to the salt rim.

While mezcal may be a newer spirit popping up on cocktail menus, Sauter points out that it’s actually one of the world’s oldest with a history that dates back 500 to 600 years. It’s actually the father of tequila. The agave is harvested and then distilled in clay pots underground, which is where the smoky finish is attributed. The natives considered it a gift from God and used it to bless the earth. The distinction between mezcal and tequila is that tequila is made only from blue agave.

A favorite tequila cocktail on the menu is Misty’s Sleeve, made with tequila blanco, ginger, hibiscus, valencia orange, and chili serrano with a hibiscus salt rim. The drink is aromatic and sweet with a spicy kick from the pepper and ginger. All of the tequilas used at Mercadito are made from 100% pure agave. Some of Sauter’s favorites include Fortaliza, Chinaco, and Partida.

His introduction to the world of tequila began peddling shots at a Senor Frogs in Ixtapa before returning to his native Chicago. There, he worked  a handful of bartending jobs, including a stint at the upscale taqueria De Cero, before joining the Mercadito family two and a half years ago. Today, he jets between Chicago and Miami overseeing the bars at both locations.

Whether you’re a tequila aficionado or mezcal curious, the bar at Mercadito is the perfect place to sample these spirits in inventive cocktails under the guidance of a fun-loving and well-trained staff. “It’s all about the hospitality,” Sauter says. “We’re here to make people feel good.” And that’s an easy feeling to come by after a few tequila cocktails.

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