The darling of South America, yerba mate has been consumed in one form or another since the 16th century. But only recently have bartenders started tinkering with the grassy, caffeinated tea in cocktails. These are seven cocktails that make the most of yerba mate.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great yerba mate drinks? Try making the Evergreen Terrace or Bombilla from this list at home.
Linden Room bartender Cesar Garcia gained inspiration for this cocktail after spending time in South America and, more recently, Europe. He says the yerba mate made into a simple syrup intricately adds bitterness while génépy and tequila add balance and approachability. He finishes off the drink with two dashes of orange bitters and a dash of Bittercube Corazón bitters.
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At rum-centric restaurant Ronero in Chicago, the kitchen focuses on Latin American cuisine, including Argentinean, so having a yerba mate cocktail was a no-brainer. Bartender Allie Kim combines Old Forester signature bourbon with Bénédictine herbal liqueur, stone ground yerba mate syrup, lemon and mint for a refreshingly herbaceous cocktail that works year-round. Meaning “lightbulb,” “little pump” and “straw” in Spanish, it takes its name from the metal straw yerba mate is usually sipped from, which allows yerba mate to be served loose-leaf without consuming any large particles.
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While Latin-focused La Pulperia has three New York locations, the Carlos Gardel, inspired by the prominent French-Argentine tango song composer, can be enjoyed at its Hell's Kitchen location. Comprised of vodka (although gin can be substituted) and yerba mate with a blend of lemon, lime and orange juice, it’s meant to evoke the spirit of the sexy dance.
At Cure, which won the 2018 James Beard award for Outstanding Bar Program, owner Neal Bodenheimer credits former bartender Genevieve Mashburn with creating the Another Green World, which Bodenheimer calls “restorative.” With yerba-mate-infused Macchu pisco, Suze, lemon and honey, the drink is given a hard whip shake before being poured into a coupe and topped with mate dust. “Yerba mate is full of antioxidants and caffeine,” he says. “So in our hot and humid climate, cooling and invigorating is a very good combination, especially when you add pisco.”
Norman Van Aken's rooftop hotspot in Miami's art-filled Wynwood neighborhood is a natural gathering spot for friends to enjoy DJs spinning a vibrant array of pop, upbeat house, Latin and Afro tunes. In that social setting, its normal to share drinks, akin to passing around the mate gourd, so Nico Abarzua and Tony Fuentes created the Cloud Nine with vodka, mate syrup, egg white, lemon juice, honey and Angostura bitters. “Drinking mate with friends is a common social practice in some parts of the world,” they say. “We liked the idea of ‘take a sip and pass it around!’”
The team at Estereo likes to have fun, and that's truly the point behind the Breezy. Guests get to pick their own base spirit for the drink, although the staff recommends Caribbean or Latin American spirits like pisco, mezcal or rhum agricole. Where it really gets fun is with the rest of the ingredients—a proprietary yerba mate tea blend created in partnership with Chicago's Rare Tea Cellar, house falernum, lime and bubbles. The whole thing gets carbonated and is served on draft. "The effervescence from the carbonation gives the drink a lightness and crispness that really sets it apart," says manager Michael Rubel.
Marco Zappia, Martina's beverage director and also a 2018 Eater Young Gun semifinalist, creates all the drinks at Argentine-focused Martina, including the Toro y Gallo. The drink, made of vodka, yerba mate, ginger, turmeric, licorice root, orange and lemon, harks back to the original idea behind a Moscow Mule. Zappia wanted to create a drink that was both alluring and approachable to neighborhood diners. He makes his own ginger beer by juicing raw ginger and combining it with a tea crafted from discarded ginger pulp. That paired with the other ingredients offers a bright, zippy drink with a bit of Argentine flair.