The magic of cocktails is in the dramatic difference a seemingly minor change can produce. Take the basic sour for example: a combination of spirit, citrus, and sugar. Make it with lemon juice and vodka and you have a lemon drop. Mix it with gin and lime juice instead and you have a gimlet. Take out the gin and put in tequila, and you have a margarita in its place. This isn't to say that creating new drinks is an easy matter of finding a new combination and laying claim to it. Making it work requires some finessing.
At Picán in Oakland, bar manager Sam Babalola tweaks the margarita into a whiskey-based, Southern flavors direction by simply using Tennessee whiskey in place of the tequila. The resulting Tennessee Margarita ($11, George Dickel No. 12, Cointreau, lime juice, agave nectar) is lush, interesting, and way too easy to drink.
The taste is a little like a whiskey sour, yet amazingly very margarita-like. Babalola says you can use bourbon in the recipe, but that after some experimentation, he settled on Tennessee whiskey. "We used George Dickel, which adds great character, flavor and a creamy mouthfeel to our margarita."
1 ½ oz. George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whiskey
¾ oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lime juice
½ oz. Agave nectar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds or until your arm gets tired. If that is less than 30 seconds, go to the gym, get stronger, then come back and make the drink. Strain cocktail into a salt rimmed double rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.
Picán, 2295 Broadway (at 23rd), Oakland, 510-834-1000