A Toast

The Vaccine

A drink from El Barón in Cartagena.

Noah Matthies, bar and events manager for Cartagena's El Barón, developed The Vaccine after suffering through a respiratory infection. He chased his prescription antibiotics with an early version of this cocktail, which he jokingly called his “double medicine” (he also called this combo “a very, very bad idea”). Later, his doctor joked that Matthies no longer needed the COVID-19 vaccination.

Despite the of-the-moment name, The Vaccine descends from classic medicinal cocktails like the Medicinal Latina and Hot Toddy. It trades out the whiskey and ginger syrup of the Sam Ross-created Penicillin for tequila and agave nectar.

El Barón is small, but it sits beside a colonial church that was completed over 350 years ago, its tables spilling into the Plaza de San Pedro Claver.

The real standout, though, is the addition of Viche del Pacifico, a medicinal drink unique to the Afro-Colombian Pacific coastal region that is known for curing ills from stomachaches to snake bites. “It’s another medicine you could drink,” says Matthies. Pimm’s No.1 can stand in for Tomaseca, which is viche infused with herbs and spices. If you can’t find Viche del Pacifico, substitute a rhum agricole, which is a pleasant, grassy rum distilled from sugarcane.

The inclusion of indigenous and heritage spirits makes perfect sense for El Barón. From its founding, the bar has focused on self-sufficiency and sustainability. El Barón grows its herbs on its farm, and makes sure that everything is part of a closed loop. Empty bottles are ground down into sand rather than being thrown away, lime peels left over after squeezing are used to make lime syrup. “Everything that's possible to work locally, we work locally,” Matthies says.

The shorter hours occasioned by the pandemic have given him the opportunity to experiment with ingredients at home, including liquor he made himself. “I have a couple pot stills, so I make fruit spirits, I make absinthe, I make rums from different kinds of sources,” he says. “Especially in the first seven months of lockdown, we distilled so many spirits.” He hopes at some point to be able to open a bar that serves cocktails made from these homegrown spirits, despite the difficulty of acquiring a license that would allow him to do so.

El Barón is small, but it sits beside a colonial church that was completed over 350 years ago, its tables spilling into the Plaza de San Pedro Claver. El Barón has been open for seating during the pandemic, though the walled city has felt more closed off lately. As coronavirus infection rates in Cartagena rise and fall, curfews have affected the bar’s hours. Matthies says the bar’s clientele consists mostly of regulars, but he’s looking forward to seeing new faces as travelers begin to venture out into the world again.

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz of Don Julio Blanco
  • ¾ oz of Tomaseca del Pacifico (could be replaced by Pimm’s No.1)
  • 1 oz of fresh ginger syrup
  • ¾ oz of lime juice  
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • ½ oz of Viche del Pacifico (could be replaced by a rhum agricole like Clemente Blanc)

Directions

  1. To prepare the fresh ginger syrup, use 1/3 oz fresh ginger juice and 2/3 oz nectar agave (could be replaced by simple syrup 1-to-1)
  2. Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass (preferably over a chunk of block ice); float Viche del Pacifico on top. Garnish with 1 lime wheel and 1 dehydrated ginger.
Our Contributors

Jessica Suarez Writer

Jessica Suarez is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Grant Cornett Photographer

Grant Cornett is a photographer and director based in Upstate New York. He likes to take pictures of pristine detritus and austere moments.

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