A Fresh Spirit
When people describe their early encounters with tequila, the stories invariably involve salty shots, a nasty hangover and a general lack of memory of what happened in between. Admittedly, this mostly occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, when tequila purveyed in bars and restaurants were ‘mixtos’, typically bottom-shelf tequilas fortified with sugars, which would account for those hangovers.
Today’s tequilas are different spirits altogether. While Mexican law requires that all tequilas contain at least 51 per cent agave, premium tequila makers now produce their bottlings from 100 per cent blue agave, sometimes distilling them in small batches, and ageing them in oak barrels.
Proof & Company
“We’ve definitely seen a growth in the popularity of tequila and we believe that it’s a category that will continue to grow," says David Cordoba, portfolio director of spirits distributor Proof & Company. “In recent years, tequila brands have come together to rewrite the category, educating consumers about how to drink it and how it is produced. People who love tequila don’t tend to follow certain brands, but are open to trying different things."
Super Loco Customs House
At Super Loco Customs House, director Ajay Parag is championing tequila by stocking the bar with 80 artisanal tequila, mezcal and raicilla options.
The selection includes Purasangre (“great for those who want to get to know true tequila"); prized barrel ultra-aged tequila from Fuenteseca; and Ocho Tequila, famously produced in a collaboration between the official global tequila ambassador, Tomas Estes, and the renowned Camarena family of distillers. “People now appreciate the complexity and character of good tequila," observes Parag.
“Even from the same distilleries, you can taste the different flavor profiles of the tequila from batch to batch because of the terroir. The agave plants take so long to mature that their flavours change over time. That is one of the most magical things about tequila."
Indeed, tequila is today more sipped and savoured than knocked back as shots, and enjoyed in cocktails that range far beyond basic margaritas. Among Super Loco’s impressive selection of margaritas — many of which are made using the house pour Cimarron Blanco — is Margarita Ultimo, infused with lime, orange zest, flamed bitters and egg white to give it a cool, frothy texture.
Over at the newly opened Junior, a bijou bar in the multi-concept Crackerjack, agave spirits (namely tequila and mezcal) will take a starring role in the first six months. Co-head barman Zachary de Git says Junior will feature rotating concepts, with its maiden one titled Norma (short for Norma Oficial Mexicana, the series of compulsory standards and practices for Mexican products such as tequila).The concept will offer guests an opportunity to taste flights of agave spirits and agave spirit- based cocktails.
“Some of the tequila brands we are excited about include Fortaleza, created by Guillermo Erickson Sauza, now a fifth-generation tequila producer, who reopened a rustic distillery using traditional methods not commonly used today. It is, by far, my favourite brand of tequila," says de Git.
“The other one is El Pandillo, a distillery in the highlands started by the Camarena family. The third-generation master tequilero Felipe Camarena likes to play around with the water he uses, like a deep well water and rainwater from the reservoir. The water is mildly filtered and then added to the tequila. We tried it in a comparative tasting and each is completely different from the other. It’s very unique."