The Schug-A-Rita: A margarita with an Israeli kick

The Schug-A-Rita at Rooster Soup Co., 1526 Sansom St.

I've spent many an evening over couscous at my Israeli friend's house trying, but failing miserably, to properly pronounce the Hebrew name of his favorite spice paste: "Please pass the schug!"

Wrangling that "ch" can be an awkward, guttural acrobatic in which you swallow the word while you say it. But I love this Yemenite spice paste so much -- the green chilies aromatic with earthy cumin and cardamom (and sometimes fenugreek) -- that I keep trying.

And now that Rooster Soup Co. has mixed it into one of its excellent and potent cocktails, the Schug-A-Rita, I'm finding it considerably easier.

A Mexican drink with Israeli spice at an updated American luncheonette? It's no surprise given Rooster's Zahav DNA, but also so perfect for the multi-culti menus of 2017. And in an era in which spice in cocktails has become common enough to go beyond its onetime novelty status, I find this combo convincing.

Paired with a bracing shot of good blanco tequila and lime, the cilantro and serrano chilies transform this margarita into a vivid green Mediterranean brew whose prickly heat is frosty cold and lifted in perfect balance on a fragrant wave of Levantine market spice.

It's so good, in fact, I have to wonder whether Rooster Soup, which excels at comfort counter lunches and blue-plate dinners, is a sleeper happy-hour hit waiting to happen. With little meatballs to nibble and good discounts on the drinks between 5 and 7 p.m., I can at least practice my schug pronunciation skills at half-price.

Schug-A-Rita, $12 ($6 at Happy Hour), Rooster Soup Co., 1526 Sansom St., 215-454-6939;

What's up in Philadelphia's food world? We'll have you covered in our new food newsletter, launching soon. We'll answer your burning (and simmering) questions: Where should I eat? Where are the new restaurants? Where should I drink? Where are the best values? SIGN UP NOW to reserve your seat at the table.