It must be said.
The accordion player was dead. Those who knew him stood in line to pay their respects and celebrate a master. Those who had only heard of him after he was gone, the morbidly curious, those who seemed to stalk the dead, also showed up under that great neon sign, that beacon of the St. Mary’s Strip, Saluté.
There was a feeling then, for those of us remaining at the bar, watching Azeneth dance to the last song of the night, tears pouring from her eyes, that even though Esteban Jordan was gone, Saluté would somehow struggle on as it always had, that the great neon sign would still stand long after the rest of us were dust.
Saluté eventually went the way of so many other San Antonio staples. A new bar, TBA, now stands in its massive shadow. The thing is: I respect the hell out of chef James Moore and head bartender Jonny Yumaol and I know their hearts and talents are in the right place.
I sit with Moore and Yumol, scanning for the Tejano Conjunto Festival posters that once hung from these tired walls, scanning for any bit of memorabilia that might’ve been left behind. A section of ceiling has been cut away, exposing the skeletal rafters, now stained dark brown. This is the same space we once witnessed bands, old and new, struggle night after night to earn their audience. This is where Jordan played his last days. This is where I will drink to their memory.
I order a drink that best reminds me of Saluté’s spirit: something strong, spicy and unapologetic. It has plenty of kick up-front, but trust the Sprite to calm it down after the first few sips.
1 1/2 oz. Cilantro and serrano chili-infused blanco tequila*
3/4 oz. Pineapple juice
1/4 oz. St. Germaine
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
2 Dashes celery bitters
Shake ingredients and pour into an ice-filled Collins glass.
Top with Sprite.
Garnish with a cilantro sprig.
*Stick the infusion ingredients into the spirit and let it sit for a week. To make a gentler infusion that wouldn’t be as abrasive when taking it as a straight shot, throw in some simple syrup. Strain before mixing and serving. Alternately, skip the infusion by muddling 4-5 serrano slices with a handful of cilantro in the shaker before adding the rest of the ingredients to shake. Strain before serving.