¡Salud! to Tequila
Here, how to throw a sexy tasting party
Until recently, I wouldn’t have suggested tequila as the star – I’ve always thought of it as a nasty drink that brings back vague memories of my younger self perched on a bar stool with a group of gal pals, all of us licking our paws like naïve kittens before downing a shot and then shoving a lemon wedge in our mouths.
But then a couple of years ago, I visited Reposado on Toronto’s trendy Ossington strip for the first time. When I glanced at the menu, I didn’t recognize a single dish and was surprised when the waitress patiently explained that the menu was comprised of different types and brands of tequilas.
“All of this is tequila?” I asked, flipping through the pages. “Who knew?”
According to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), lots of people. Recent stats reveal that tequila’s share of the spirits market has risen in the province over the last five years with sales in 2012-2013 reaching $41.7 million, or 9.3 per cent over the previous year. Since 2008, tequila has been the top-selling spirit category by volume, beating out even vodka.
To find out why, I headed down to Mexico to hang out with a tequila sommelier.
Of the 52 acres that make up the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, tequila expert Alfredo Sanchez and I took up only a few square feet of space. Huddled together at the Aramara Bar one sultry evening, the 29-year-old native of Mexico City and man at the helm of the resort’s beverage program, gave me the low-down on his country’s national spirit.
Aging influences taste in terms of length of time stored and the characteristics of the storage vessel. It also determines the four different categories of tequila.
Blanco (Silver): The youngest of the four, Blanco is bottled directly after distillation or aged no more than 60 days in stainless steel tanks. Clear, generally vegetal and somewhat peppery with intense agave flavours.
Reposado: Meaning “rested,” Repo-sado is aged in wooden barrels (usually American or French oak) or storage tanks from two to 11 months. Sometimes aged in barrels formerly used to store other spirits (whisky, bourbon, etc.), where it picks up those flavours. Golden hue.
Shortly after I returned from Mexico, I went back to Reposado to meet Sandy MacFadyen, who owns the establishment along with his wife, Katherine. Interestingly, Sandy, too, had once thought of tequila as a from-hammered-to-hungover drink responsible for a few terrible morning-afters back in the ’80s. But then, while honeymooning in Mexico, he and Katherine fell in love with the spirit.
“There was a hurricane that left us stranded in a half-demolished hotel. With not much to do, we decided to head to the bar. It was the first time we ever sipped good tequila.”
After many return visits to Mexico and much research, in 2007 the couple opened the doors to Reposado. Now, be inspired to open your doors and host a sultry tequila-tasting party.
You will be serving each guest a “flight,” the term used to describe tasting samples generally composed of three ½ to one-ounce pours. You can choose to do a vertical flight, which means different categories of tequilas – blanco, reposado and añejo, say – all of the same brand; or a horizontal flight – one type, añejo, for example – but of different brands.
What You’ll Need
– 3 bottles of tequila (look for CRT stamp-of-approval logo). To serve vertical flights, choose a blanco, reposado and añejo of the same brand; to serve horizontal flights choose 3 different brands of one of the above types
– 3 small-bowled wine glasses or
brandy snifters per guest
– 2 shot glasses per guest (for sangrita if serving blanco and reposado)
– Pieces of high-quality dark chocolate (if serving añejo)
– White table cloth (so tequila colour is easier to discern)
– 1 scorecard/pen per guest (download PDF from www.everything zoomer.com/tag/tasting-party)
– Pitcher of sangrita if serving blanco, reposado (see recipe)
– Water and tortilla chips (or plain crackers) for palate-cleansing
Set Up and Ambience
– Hold the party in a room free of strong aromas so guests can use their nose, a big part of a tasting.
– Keep it simple: a white tablecloth, perhaps with Mexican runners at each end, and snacks in simple earthenware and baskets.
– Create a playlist of authentic Mexican artists – Carlos Santana, who was born in tequila-producing Jalisco.
– In front of each guest, line up 3 glasses and pour ½ -ounce to 1 ounce of each tequila into each glass, youngest to oldest, left to right.
(recipes courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico)
Maggie seasoning sauce
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-½ to 3 tsp
Tabasco sauce (to taste)
fresh squeezed lime juice
Salsa Pico de Gallo
Make 3 servings
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped white onion
½ chopped Serrano chili