Taster’s Choice – Serving Up the First Two Cocktails.

With the shopping behind me I was pretty much set except I still had to secure my panel of judges. It was a given that the drinks were free – a definite recruitment plus – but part of my “homework” meant that I would be serving as “acting bartender”, which in some people’s eyes could be a bit of a minus. (As the evening wore on some of their apprehension on my bartending capabilities turned out to be somewhat justified. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.)

With some emails and well placed phone calls I rounded up 7 friends who were game. We drew straws and narrowed it down to three for my un-official, un-professional but fun, tasting panel. Here’s a brief snapshot of my trio of non-experts:

  • Anne: Former NYC corporate executive. Chucked it. Moved to San Francisco. Current art school student. (Let’s just say she embraces change in her life.)
  • Dean: Six feet five inches of fun from the Oakland Hills and not afraid to let his Midwest roots show through.
  • Yina: Naturalized mainland Chinese. Pint-sized frame. Large personality. Want an opinion? Yina’s got one and is willing to share it.
  • I explained the ground rules and that I needed my tasters to offer an opinion on each drink. A few other notes: We cleansed the palate with some stone ground corn chips. A little salty but seemed to do the trick. We also decided to make the drinks in alphabetical order. I also prepared the drinks as close to instructions as possible.

    So we were off. What follows is a listing of the first two drinks, ingredients, directions, my bartender notes and the non-expert, non-official -yet animated- commentary of the drink.

    The first drink up was The Redevelopment created by Mathew Frantin.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
  • .75 oz Luxardo Marachino Liquor
  • 1.5 oz Pineapple juice 1.5 oz
  • .5 oz Lime juice
  • .5 oz Agave Nectar
  • 1 ring of a red Jalapeno
  • Directions:

  • Muddle the jalapeno in the shaker.
  • Put ice and ingredients into shaker, shake and pour into an old fashion glass.
  • Garnish with lime and put straws in.
  • The Redevelopment

    Bartender notes: The Redevelopment was originally named The Conquistador hence it was first on the list. My taster’s were impatient and wanted their first drink, ah like yesterday. I was derided because “everything” took way too long. “Thanks guys. I guess free booze wasn’t good enough?” Already feeling the pressure I realized that my shaker was too big which made it hard to muddle the jalapeno. Also make sure to muddle the jalapeno first! With a smaller shaker the jalapeno flavor would have come through better. Also I don’t normally “do” straws but they were helpful for sanity sharing of drinks throughout the evening.

    Taster Comments:
    Anne: “Could be dangerous. Tastes like Hawaii.”
    Dean: “Refreshingly frothy. Perfect for the pool.”
    Yina: “Fresh with a solid kick at the end. Just how I like it. Great hot weather drink.”

    Our second drink of the night was the Fillmo’better by Sean McNeal.

    Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
  • .75 oz St. Germain
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz agave nectar
  • .75 oz 99 proof bananas
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Directions:

  • Build in a shaker glass.
  • Add the Tres Agaves Tequila, St. Germain, fresh press lime juice and agave nectar.
  • Shake the bloody living hell out of it, and strain. (My favorite instruction of the night!)
  • Top with the foam, which should be the consistency of irish coffee whipped cream (ie, should be able to be easily poured and layer)
  • More instructions for me to make sure I got it right:I like to use a flash blender, adding a pint of cream, 1.5-2 oz. agave nectar, and 3 oz 99 bananas- 99 proof banana schnapps (or to taste). In a flash blender whip for 2-3 seconds.

    In a whip cream siphon, of the liter size, proportion the mixture accordingly and fill to a liter and only add one NO2 charger. Shake and test pour, shake more if need be to achieve desired consistency. Again, it should be silken smooth and only firm enough to layer on the drink.

    Fill'moBetter

    Bartender notes: Apparently the “bartender” was sipping a bit too much of the Tequila and I didn’t exactly get it right. I forgot the lime juice. Called a mulligan and reshot the hole. Surprisingly good the first time but much better the second time out with lime to balance out the St. Germain and Nectar. I also didn’t spring for the NO2 charger. Whipped up the 99 proof bananas and whip cream and got what I think was the desired end result.

    Taster Comments:

    Anne: “Ah, Yum. Tart, sweet with foamy goodness. Like a Gin Fizz but way better.”
    Dean: “An adult banana split. I definitely Feel’mo Better”
    Yina: “Creamy, dreamy. Bananas emerge after lime infusion.”

    In tomorrow’s post we finish it up with the final three drinks.

    Getting Ready for the Taster’s Choice

    Doing a little homework for this Wednesday’s Fillmore Street Holiday Cocktail Crawl, which is the Fillmore District’s (for you folks in San Francisco Bay Area) way to welcome the season and sample some tasty cocktails.

    Here’s the plug for the event: It only costs 5 dollars and the “crawl” takes you to some of the hipper locales in the hood. Plus each pub will feature a special Tequila based cocktail that you get to sample. Plus all the registration money benefits the African American Art & Culture Complex. Yum and for a good cause. Sold?

    Want more details? You can find it here at Nirvino, which is one of the co-sponsors, or you or go to Brown Paper Tickets:

    Now back to my “homework”.

    Here’s what’s I signed up for: making, tasting and sampling all the featured drinks. At the event attendees will have the opportunity to text in their favorite- so one of these drinks will be crowned the Fillmore Favorite. Why not do a dry run and then compare their results to ours?

    Thanks to Nirvino I got all the recipes and held a little pre-tasting with some hip, swank and cool friends that I managed to scrounge up. Securing the location, time and date of the event was easy – my place a time of my choosing. 7pm on a Friday worked for both me and my friends.

    A somewhat harder and more time-consuming task was securing all the ingredients for the cocktails. Here’s a run down of the cocktails that I had to the goods on:

  • The Redevelopment
  • Fillmo’better
  • Jalisco Blossom
  • Joplin’s Juice
  • Zapata
  • These nifty Tequila drinks included some pretty exotic specifics: J. Witty Chamomile Liquor, Luxardo Marachino Liquor, Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters and St. Germain-an elderberry liquor-not to mention Tres Agaves Tequila. I was able to get all this plus the requisite cherries, pineapple juice and lemons in one or two stops. So far easy enough but not inexpensive. The tab for the liquor ran over 120 bucks not including the Tequila that I had in my stash.

    I had two more ingredients on my list: Kashmiri Chili Agave Nectar and 99 Proof Banana Liquor. Getting any chile-infused liquor was going to be impossible and I was definitely out of time to make it myself. Thankfully, Lenny who created a drink that necessitated this ingredient, offered my up some. Danke Lenny! Lifesaver. The banana liquor was a bugaboo. I went to no less than five places before finding it at a local chain store. Want to know which one? Click here. I don’t know why I didn’t start there. While they didn’t have 750 ML size. They did have a trial size.

    Note: Two minis were the perfect amount for the recipe and it saved me some bucks, too. So, if you’re thinking about doing something like this in the future. Good tip for all you out there who might be crafting up some specialty drinks this holiday season.

    My shopping was completed and I ended up with a table full of liquors, mixers, garni and tools. Take a look at the haul:

    Got the goods!

    In tomorrow’s blog I’ll explain what happened when we started creating, mixing, tasting and discussing.

    Tequila Talk: La cuidad de Tequila

    Everybody knows about Tequila but not everybody knows that Tequila is actually geo-denominated spirit named after the city of Tequila. This namesake town is a surprisingly untouched town located in central Mexico about an hour’s drive from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. In 2006 it was named a world heritage site for being the largest producer of agave spirits but there’s more to the city than just shots, limes and agave plants. Although you wouldn’t guess that by the monument that greets you as you enter the city. Get a load of this:

    Sure. You should sample the juice. It’s delicious. And there’s a wide range of distilleries you can visit that range from small and quaint to full-on mass production houses. Yet, if you want to see what Mexico is like away from the beaches and high-rises and hotels Tequila would nonetheless be a good stop. It’s authentic Mexico where everyday folk come to work, socialize, shop, and go to church. It’s away from the hubbub of beach vendors or the bright lights of the big city. If it’s not about big business it is about the community’s business. And there’s nothing like waking up to the quiet on the main plaza and the Church of Santiago Apostol at sunrise- before business gets started.

    Here’s some other facts about charming and rustic city:

    Population: 26,809 (according to Wikipedia) Other sources have it around 35,000 (Still surprisingly small given that it’s only 27 miles from Guadalajara, which has 5 million inhabitants.
    Elevation: 3,996 feet (higher than I would have guessed, especially since it’s in the “lowlands” Tequila region.
    Industry: Corn, bananas, agaves plants and Tequila production (with more acres devoted to corn than agave)
    Other names: Santiago de Tequila, Pueblo Mágico

    Want to know more about the city of Tequila? Click on these links:
    http://www.mexicomapxl.com/land-and-people/cities/tequila.html
    http://www.chapala.com/chapala/ojo2008/tequila.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tequila,_Jalisco

    “Frieday” Fact: The Birth of the Margarita

    Seems like every body has as story about why and when the Margarita came to fruition. They go back as far as 1934 before most of us were even a notion in the shade of the Sonoran desert. (I have no doubt that more stories are being concocted daily. Shaken, not stirred.)

    Here’s a few that I grabbed from Wikipedia. Most of the stories center around a bartender, a starlet and the need to woo:

  • Barman “Willie” concocted the drink for a friend of the Melguizo family who employed him. Her name was Marguerite.
  • Daniel Negrete gifted the Margarita as a wedding present to Margarita, his sister-in-law.
  • Danny Herrera, yes a bartender, was en amor with Marjorie King, an American actress who hated taking tequila pure. Herrera mixed her up a softy.
  • Don Carlos Orozco crafted a saltier version Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the German Ambassador to Mexico.
  • Enrique Gutierrez, who lived in Tijuana, made it as his ultimate homage to actress Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Cansino.
  • (Riffing on the above) Francisco “Pancho” made for Hayworth when she was working at the Foreign Club in TJ.
  • Pancho Morales, bartender, invented the Margarita when he screwed up a Magnolia.
  • Santos Cruz created the drink for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee.
  • Margaret Sames, created the drink at her Acapulco bar, because so many celebs wanted to be “close to her”. Yikes!
  • Thankfully, there’s a simpler and more probably more viable explanation. According to David Wondrich, in his book “Imbibe“, it’s probably just a figurative and literal spanish translation of “Daisy”. “The Daisy” was a popular sweet ‘n sour cocktail in the US during the roaring 20’s. When Prohibition hit the Yanks took their cravings south of the border and ordered up Daisies down that-a-way. With no whisky, rum or brandy on the shelf the bartenders substituted Tequila – what else?

    And you know what? It tasted pretty great. “Margarita” being the literal spanish translation of “Daisy” stuck. Call it a pre NAFTA success story.

    Who’s says what’s the best?

    I’ve been doing a round up of the medals, awards and accolades for a PR piece (catch it later this month!) and thought it would neat to share a listing of some of the top competitions that taste, rank and differentiate the over 20,000 beverage brands that we all love. It’s certainly not an all inclusive list but it’s a nice resource.

    Who’s the best? These sites can “help” you decide. Yet, ultimately, the best is what “you” like.

    For 10+ years the Beverage Testing Institute, has been ranking beers, wines and spirits. You can catch their latest reviews at:

    http://www.tastings.com/LatestReviews.html

    For Tequila-specific reviews go to:

    http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaAnejo&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All
    http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaReposado&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All
    http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaSilver&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All

    TheFiftyBest.com opines on all things “fine living”. The online pub ranks everything from beer to Tequila as well as topics outside the beverage category. Here’s their latest Tequila ranking:

    http://www.thefiftybest.com/spirits/best_tequila/

    The International Wine and Spirit Competition, started in 1969 and is an international competition where winners are determined by a combination of blind tasting and chemical and product analysis. Here’s a searchable directory of spirit rankings:

    http://www.iwsc.net/search/spirit/

    The San Francisco World Spirits Competition prides itself on being the first international spirits competition held annually in the US. f
    For a lit of their latest spirits results go to:

    http://www.sfspiritscomp.com/pdfs/2010SpiritsResultsbyClass.pdf

    The Spirits of Mexico Competition judges (naturally) Tequilas and Mezcals and other Mexican beverages. For a list of their latest results go to: http://www.polishedpalate.com/docs/SOM2010_Competition_Results.pdf

    The Ultimate Spirits Challenge, is a blind tasting lead by F. Paul Pacult of the New York Times and Spirit Journal author. Here’s a link to the award winners:

    http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/uscresults2010/#tequila

    The Ultimate Cocktail Challenge is Paul Pacult’s companion cocktail competition. For the latest go to:

    http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/cocktail-competition/cocktail-tasting-results/#category3

    The World Beverage Competition is the largest combined international competition which boasts industry judges hailing from 6 continents. Here’s a link to their home page which lists beer, wine, spirit and beverage winners: http://www.beveragecompetition.com/home.htm.

    If I missed any of note please let me know and I’ll post your comment with a link to the site.

    Salud!

    Tequila Talk: Mixto

    In just a few months I’ve gotten immersed in the Tequila culture here at Tres Agaves and things I hadn’t even thought about are part of my everyday “lingo”. Yeah. I’ve now acquired Tequila “lingo”.

    One such term that is now part of my daily parlance is “Mixto”. “Mixto” now trips off the tongue quite easily. As if I’ve always known that Mixto was a term indicating a class of Tequilas that are blended with at least 51% Blue Weber Agave and at most 49% of other products (which typically are high fructose corn syrup and/or other sugars). 100% agave Tequilas, like Tres Agaves, are just that- 100% agave. No sugar, or anything else, added. One taste will tell ya. Not all Tequilas are the same.

    And now I know why.

    “Frieday” Fact: The Birth of the Frozen Margarita

    According the HoustonPress the frozen margarita was invented by Mariano Martinez of Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine, in where else? The “Big D”.

    The Frozen Margarita debuted at Mariano's Mexican Cuisine in Dallas.

    Mariano got the recipe from his Dad who used to mix up virgin versions for customers who then would add their own Tequila to get around Dallas’ dry liquor laws. When the laws changed in the early 70’s Mariano adapted it to make it “production ready.” Key to his success was modifying a slushy machine. Even back then technology was king. The drink was enjoyed by everyone from Trini Lopez to Lee Trevino but it was Southern Methodist co-eds, who were looking for a frothy sweet drink to “function” with, that popularized it. Chi-Chi’s, Chili’s, Azteca’s and Applebee’s all thank you.

    Tres Tequila Traveler

    Some people have all the luck. Take Eric Rubin for instance. He spends his days and nights talking about food and Tequila and doing gigs like this one in Vegas:

    Pancakes. Tequila. Agave Nectar? Sounds like breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert, Eric. Although I think I’m gonna have to be sold on the “buttered” agave nectar. I do love it in a cocktail, for lime aid and I am seriously gonna try out the “fun” Arnold Palmer.

    Seriously, Eric earned his stripes in the restaurant business, having founded Tres Agaves restaurants among others, and is one of the foremost experts in Tequila in country. The guy is a wealth of knowledge- from history to tasting notes and flavor profiles – Eric’s the man and as you can see from the above he’s not shy in front of the camera. So he’s a natural ambassador for both Tres Agaves and 100% Agave Tequila in general.

    And right now he’s doing just that: leading a couple dozen folks on a Tequila tour in and around the town of the same name. Mixing in Tequila facts, shots, tours of the local sites and I’m sure one helluva Day of the Dead party. When you go on a tour with Eric you can count on two things: knowledge and Tequila will be shared and Eric will be doing a lot of the pouring – both literally and figuratively. If you want to learn more about Tequila, the business or spirits/food in general, Eric’s a great resource. You can connect with Eric on Twitter by clicking here. Who knows? He might just invite you to join him on his next great Tequila adventure.

    Eric Rubin Leading a Tour at a Distillation Facility