“I love speakeasies,” said Arturo Castro. “All around New York, I love finding the most hidden spots.”
Which is why, one June afternoon, he was at Please Don’t Tell, the East Village cocktail lounge tucked behind a hot dog joint on St. Marks Place. Despite the heat and humidity, he wore a dark long-sleeve shirt, black jeans and boots, topped off with a green fedora.
He was there for a mixology lesson from A-K Hada, the head bartender, hoping to glean a few tricks for entertaining at home. In the spring, he had hosted “Game of Thrones” viewing parties at his apartment in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
“I make cocktails, but not as elaborately as they make them here,” he said. “And I’m a raging alcoholic,” he added, jokingly.
While he may not be a master of elaborate artisanal libations, Mr. Castro does have a party trick: “If you shake it, even a little bit, people are like, ‘Wow, is that a cocktail?’ Truth is, it’s straight vodka.”
Mr. Castro, 33, stepped behind the bar as Ms. Hada prepared the ingredients for a Mezcal Mule, a riff on the classic drink traditionally made with vodka. “The most important thing about cocktails is balance,” she said, holding two double-sided measuring jiggers. “You want to still taste the spirit but then get all the other flavors.”
To start things off, she asked Mr. Castro to muddle some cucumber with a masher, which he did violently, cursing the gourd with an expletive as he asserted his dominance over it.
Mr. Castro will be familiar to fans of “Broad City,” the Comedy Central show in which he played the hysteric gay roommate Jaime (pronounced HI-may). In real life, the actor is far mellower than Jaime, though he is every bit as quick-witted.
He now stars on his own sketch comedy show, “Alternatino” — he is also one of its writers and executive producers — which takes a humorous look at being a Latino today. It finds laughs in cultural clichés and stereotypes, and even in the fun-house mirror horrors of Trump-era politics.
One sketch, for example, addresses the immigration crisis at the border. Playing a blond immigration agent named Bryce J. Korn, Mr. Castro extols the conditions under which children are being held after being separated from their families.
They’re not in cages, he explains, but “free range.” In the background, detained children wander a field fenced in with electrified barbed wire.
“I’m not a very politically motivated person, but that changed when they started caging kids,” Mr. Castro said, his cherubic face turning suddenly serious. “Having a platform, it would be irresponsible not to say stuff like that. This is a Latino show, that’s my angle. And if the comedy pushes buttons, well, that’s the point.”
Ms. Hada had Mr. Castro measure out a half-ounce of agave syrup, explaining that it’s best to build a drink starting with the least expensive ingredients first. “That way if you mess up, you don’t have to pour out all the mezcal,” she said. Next was lime juice, then passion fruit purée and ginger beer.
“The fresh ingredients make a huge difference,” Mr. Castro said, even though both he and Ms. Hada admitted their own refrigerators were not well stocked. “I barely have ice,” he said.
Mr. Castro was born in Guatemala and caught the acting bug when he was 12, after performing in local theater productions. After hosting a TV show there called “Conexion,” he moved to New York, where he made professional inroads by acting in commercials and performing in plays. Landing the role of Jaime in “Broad City,” which ended its five-season run this year, was his big break.
“Being an actor, you just wait around for a phone call to change your life,” he said. “It’s a high-low that drives people nuts. That’s part of what inspired me to create my own show. Instead of waiting by the phone for someone who’s written something that’s right for me, I should just write it, and, hopefully, someone will make it.”
It was time for the star ingredient: mezcal. “So we’re balancing the sugar, the acid and the booze,” Ms. Hada said. The shaker was filled with ice, the drink poured and given a vigorous up-and-down shake by Mr. Castro. The gyration made its way from his arms to his shoulders to his hips, and soon he was doing a salsa-style dance. Then the singing started. “Dessssss-pa-cito,” he crooned.
Lastly, a piece of ginger and slice of cucumber were added as garnish and a metal straw was plopped in. (“We’ve been using them for years, before they got trendy,” Ms. Hada noted.) The drink was passed around and received warmly.
“Mmm. You nailed it,” Ms. Hada said.
For an encore, Ms. Hada went with a much simpler concoction: Zacapa and coconut water. “This one’s mad easy,” she said. “Zacapa is an aged Guatemalan rum, made and aged at a very high altitude.”
Mr. Castro piped up. “I know the family who made it,” he said. “Some of them are really sweet. They’re, like, Guatemalan royalty. We were all privy to it growing up.” In fact there’s a sketch in “Alternatino” in which rum is given the royal treatment in a United Nations-like summit. “You’ll watch it, you’ll love it,” Mr. Castro said.
The second drink was refreshing and had a little tropical bite. Best of all, it was practically foolproof to make. Ms. Hada and Mr. Castro clinked glasses and took sips.
“Mmm this is really good!” she said again.
He raised his drink. “From this day forth, this is called the Arturo Castro!”