Many bar-goers are saying yes to tequila, as this 76-80 proof agave-based distilled beverage is being incorporated into menus way beyond tequila bars and Mexican restaurants.
Bartenders are starting to use more creativity with tequila as they realize how highly versatile and delicious it is as an ingredient in cocktails, notices Philip Ward, co-owner and Beverage Director of Mayahuel, one of New York City’s hottest Mexican restaurants and bars located in the trendy Lower East Side. “As quality bartenders increase in number, the need for more quality ingredients also increases. The top mixologists are looking beyond only the traditional usages of tequila and are doing much more with it than just the traditional Margarita.”
Photo provided by Mayahuel
Ryan Magarian, co-founder of Aviation Gin, agrees with this affinity to tequila, especially in the summer months. “For as long as I can remember, tequila has always screamed ‘warm weather celebration’ and further has moved beyond use in the traditional Mexican venue thanks to the modern craft bartender's deep love of the spirit and use of it regardless of venue.”
Over the past few years there have been a couple of brands that have done a great job of getting tequila out there and gaining more consumer interest in general, says Revae Schneider of femmeducoupe.com and mixologist for Siena Tavern in Chicago. “With that, people tend to then look for tequila on menus outside the traditional venues it would be served.”
So what are some of these latest trends with tequila? Although many of us think of the agave craze in tequila cocktails as a way to cut calories, the professionals know better and see this much more as trend birthed from taste and quality. “Agave nectar works great in a lot of Tequila cocktails. When using a citrus component, one needs a sweet component to balance and what goes better with citrus than agave?” asks Ward. “One of the things I enjoy most about mixing agave spirits, however, is their affinity to the spicy and savory type of cocktail.”
But agave’s not all. Magarian adds that he’s seen Anejo tequilas as substitutes for whiskey in traditional whiskey cocktails such as old fashioneds, manhattans, etc. and alternative vintage tequila drinks such as the Diablo and Paloma finding a resurgence in common and craft bars alike. Schneider also notes that their seeing more people asking for mescal’s as the interest in tequila grows.
And how about batched tequila cocktails? Is the popularity of tequila developing the need for bartenders to serve them up in mass quantities? A resounding “no, no and no” comes from Ward. “Most of the bars I know are focusing on quality in small amounts rather than large amounts.” Probably the wrong question to ask someone whose cocktail menu contains well over 50 agave spirit based cocktails with not one of them being a Margarita!
Schneider, on the other hand, believes that batched cocktails are going to be more and more popular as the demand for higher quality beverages become more prevalent at high volume venues. It provides consistency and less room for error. In addition, Schneider loves the fact that we're “seeing slushy cocktails pop up more often now; with fresh citrus, you almost can't beat it!”
Magarian, concurs on the slushy trend. “I am definitely seeing a lot of restaurants and bars making things ‘fun’ again, by incorporating frozen drinks into their cocktail programs. Both Trigger and Sunshine Tavern in Portland have gotten their fair share of press for their high quality frozen margaritas.”
Looking for some fresh, unique recipes to try? How about some celebrity favorites direct from Hollywood’s AV Nightclub!
Preparation: Combine all ingredients into shaker. Add ice. Shake well. Strain over fresh ice into rocks glass. Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper. Glassware: Rocks glass
Preparation: Into rocks glass, muddle slice kumquats, agave nectar, lemon juice and fallernum syrup. Add tequila. Stir all ingredients together. Add ice. Garnish with one slice jalapeno on top. Glassware: Rocks glass