LET'S GET THE MARGARITA out of the way, first. According to Don Julio’s global ambassador, Brian Van Flandern, it is the number one cocktail in North America.
So what should be in it? Over to the experts at Mayahuel – number 44 in the World’s 50 Best Bars and named after the goddess of agave: 2oz 100% [agave] Tequila; 1oz Cointreau; 0.75oz lime.
OK, good. Mayahuel obviously turns out more sophisticated tipples than the Margarita. Mayaheul’s Philip Ward also recommends a couple of favourites from the Mayahuel list: Spicy Paloma: jalapeno-infused blanco; grapefruit; lime; salt; and soda. Randy: reposado, fresh ginger, lime.
But we are all much more familiar with the Mexican spirit in a shot glass. Though it might seem bad for business in terms of savouring tasty drinks and promoting responsible drinking, it does still have a place.
Van Flandern worked with Diageo’s World Class gurus – including Salvatore Calabrese, Gaz Regan and Peter Dorelli – to create new ways to drink tequila. That was a couple of years ago and, since then, Van Flandern has been spreading the Luxury Drop concept throughout the world.
“We got together at World Class to talk about 100% agave tequilas. “We decided we could capitalise on the ritual of doing shots so it’s really not a shot and really not a cocktail,” he says.
The Luxury Drop concept includes drinks that are designed to be enjoyed in the company of others and with a specific ritual. Here’s Van Flandern’s Agave Drop:
1 oz Don Julio Blanco
0.5 oz agave nectar
0.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Garnish: angled lime wedge
Place all ingredients into a Boston Shaker, shake vigorously and strain into ice-filled glass.
Clink glasses with your friends and shout: “To the Don”. Bite the lime, holding the lime juice in your mouth, and drink the Agave Drop.
Although this ‘shotail’ (hate that term) uses blanco for a refreshing zing with the lime, Van Flandern says: “People are enjoying blanco tequila neat or frozen, reposado in cocktails and anejo to sip.”
And when it comes to sips, tequila expert and Ocho brand owner Tomas Estes has a few – actually many – words to say on the subject of glasses. Here’s his general idea: “The keys to get people to appreciate sipping rather than shooting tequila is the message given by the glass. The proper glass not only ‘flatters’ the tequila in it, it also gives the consumer a strong message. This is ‘consider this drink something other than to ‘shoot’.”
In terms of more simple serves, Van Flandern suggests blanco tequila and tonic. “That could catch on and be huge,” he says.
There’s also the classic Paloma – tequila with grapefruit soda or grapefruit juice – and Estes says he’s seen a lot of Palomas “showing up around the cocktail and bar scene”.
He says: “Some are rather straightforward and some get creative. I know of one customer of Julio Bermejo at Tommy’s [in San Francisco] who squeezes his own grapefruit juice and carbonates it with a machine.
“I see a lot of Palomas or Paloma-like drinks being served at parties where the ease of preparation is important – it is often important especially for the casual server, in a bar or at home.”
Van Flandern also says agave nectar has become increasingly popular because it complements the flavour profile of tequila.
“It also has a lower glycemic index than sugar syrup,” he adds. But surely it’s more expensive? “It is, although it’s twice as sweet so arguably you only need to use 50%.” Sweet.