Today I was invited down to “Ancora Waterfront Dining” for a margarita masterclass. A tequila workshop, that included a step by step tutorial on how taste and assess the quality of tequila, with the opportunity to make our own signature cocktail; all sponsored by “Herradura” brand tequilas. Not only do I love drinking, but when looking for a good time, my spirit of choice is tequila, to shoot. So not only did I walk away from this class with a smile, but also having discovered a tequila I would gladly sip over ice.
All participants were seated around the restaurant’s naturally well lit bar, eager to learn from Joel Virginillo, a tequila specialist and a master of spirits; like a sommelier is to wine. From him we learned that by definition tequila must come from Mexico, and that only certain areas in Mexico can produce tequila. We also learned the difference between regular tequila and the top shelf stuff like “Herradura, that uses premium agave, which makes a difference.
Tequila has a similar preparation to whiskey, with parallel vanilla and wood tones that come through. Tequila is made from a specific blue agave and much contain 100% pure agave. Anything else and any other percentage made using agave earns the designation of Mezcal wine. By law Mezcal much contain at least 51% agave, and the remaining percentage can be a cheaper, fermentable sugar.
To make tequila you first harvest your agave plants. These plants are not cactuses, but are more like succulents, aloe, or orchids. These picked plants are then slow roasted in an oven where its starches are broken down. This sugar is then extracted and the plant is fermented. The resulting product is then distilled and allowed to age before being bottled.
“Herradura” originated in 1870, they are the original tequila producers and the “godfather of modern day, luxury tequila”, according to Joel. The company is family run, with their own agave fields. They boast Mexico’s first tequila distillery. “El Jimador” tequila is also produced in the same compound, which is the most heavily consumed tequila in Mexico, it is the label that the locals go for.
“Herradura’s” logo is an upside down horseshoe. Which makes sense given that the word “Herradura” means “horse shoe” in Spanish. It is inverted because when you pour from the bottle, the horseshoe would be right side up. This represents luck, and who isn’t lucky when they are getting some tequila.
And when it was finally time to taste, Joel walked us through a sampling of “Herradura’s” three tequilas. Before this, I didn’t realize there were variations to tequila.
But before we put lips to rim, we were given a crash course on how to drink tequila, or any other hard spirits for that matter. You want to draw the liqueur in and then hold it, allowing the alcohol to rest on your tongue. This pause allows you mouth to get use to the spirit and its intensity, so that it doesn’t burn going down. Instead, you get a warming sensation with a nice finish.
Our first taste was the “Herradura Silver”, which is most commonly used for cocktails. Given its smooth and sweet finish, I was surprised to learn that it was only aged for a month. This is easily the most enjoyable tequila I have ever had. No chase needed.
Next was the “Reposado”, aged for 6 months. Here, you tasted an oak barrel flavour. Finished with caramel tones, and some light honey and vanilla notes.
The last taste was the “Anejo”, a tequila that is aged for 2 years plus. This spirit is best in any popular smokey drink, like an Old Fashion or Manhattan.
Any tequila that is aged any longer, with a minimum of 3 years is classified as an “Ultra”. The amount of time the tequila spends in the aging process affects its price, along with techniques used in this slow process. But out of our 3 case study bottles the “Reposado” is available at any government owned liquor store. The other two: “silver” and “Anejo” are only available at select privately owned liquor stores, like “Legacy” at the Olympic Village.
With all our drinks came rounds of appetizers prepared by the “Ancora” kitchen team. Short rib croquette with Caribbean cheese aioli. A crispy meat ball stuffed full of shredded beef. It was a little on the dry side. I could have used a more creamy and tangy sauce to fully dip my ball in to.
Tuna tartare over a tempura fried seaweed cracker. It was on the blander side, but where it lacked in salt it made for in interesting texture.
One mushroom tortellini with red onion jelly. I would have liked the tortellini as is, to be able to taste it more. The one bite had the red onion and its sweetness taking the lime light.
Fresh sushi in a vegetarian cucumber and tempura sweet potato roll, a dressed up “Dynamite Roll” with tempura shrimp; and a not so spicy, spicy tuna roll.
After we loosen up with a welcome lime margarita with a thick salt rim. And once we knew more about the nuance of tequila through the taste, it we finally time to make our own signature drink.
We stared off with worksheets and the ability to check off which ever sweetener, sour or acidic element, fruit, herbs, etc; that we wanted to use. And then we all took turns behind the bar, learning basic bartending skills and having our concoctions critiqued, ensuring a delicious mix. We would later take our recipes home, along with a metal cocktail kit; it included everything we would need to recreate our signature cocktail, except of all the ingredients.
I was first to debut “MagMei in Paradise”, a pretty in pink drink that was garnished with a spring flower plucked from one of the trees surrounding the water side restaurant. Herradura Blanco, plum wine, lime juice, simple syrup and watermelon juice; all shaken with ice and served in a large coupe.
Others too crafted their drinks with a specific colour in mind. Like this purple cocktail with cassis and this blue one with blue curacao.
We ended our happy hour sipping on our creations by the water side. Thus ending a very informative and fun workshop. What a great way to learn about a new product and experience it first hand. My biggest takeaway was discovering a tequila that I could take in without a grimacing scowl after every sip.
For more on Herradura Tequila and where yuh get yourself a taste, visit the link below.