You know Tequila right? Slice of lime, lick of salt and a shot of something that you want out of your mouth faster than you can actually swallow – wrong. Tequila can actually be a first class sipping drink and makes wonderful cocktails – and yes I was as doubtful as you are now before I joined The Liquorists on their latest spirits trail dedicated to this much demonised drink.
Starting the Tequila Trail just outside the Northern Quarter at The Liquorists’ headquarters, 22 Redbank, we were met by Jody and Tom who introduce the history and distillation process of Tequila – for instance did you know Tequila is a PDO and Mexican laws state that it can only be produced in limited regions in the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayrit and Tamaulipas?
Like good children, we were sat in silent rapture whilst Tom explained these facts, stories and the tasting notes of the drinks that Jody was dutifully and silently placing in front of us – a Jose Cuervo Traditional (no, not the Jose Cuervo you know about) and one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had (served properly with only half the rim in salt, so you can choose how to drink it). The Jose Cuervo is a small batch tequila, made as all tequilas are with blue agave (the heart of the plant) – this is classed as a reposado (rested) tequila and is aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels. This takes some of the harsh vegetative agave notes off the tequila and adds a moreish salty sweetness.
The Liquorsts aren’t stupid and whilst we were at 22 Redbank we were served a feast of lightly fried fish tacos with a lobster sauce, nachos loaded with guacamole and salsa, plus charred corn on the cob (my favourite) – this certainly helped set us up for the night ahead and the huge amount of drinks we still had to consume.
On to the Northern Quarter proper and first stop was moody Apotheca where out trotted another reposado – the Don Julio – much more toffee caramel than the Jose Cuervo with big after hits of vanilla. Apotheca also served us a mango and passionfruit margarita (the night was full of margaritas…); the exotics marrying with the vanilla in the drink but slightly masking the other flavours – however this would be a deadly drink, totally tasting of solero and not at all of alcohol. Good thing we were moving on…
Next to Northern Quarter stalwart, Socio Rehab, which was pretty quiet but meant we could take over and hear every part of the tales Tom was spinning about the drinks that were thrust in to our hands – a very lively, peppery, green tasting El Jimador Blanco (unrested tequila that hasn’t been in wooden barrels so isn’t as smooth). This tequila was a little akin to what I’ve been used to on boozy nights out – though with a lot more flavour/sophistication and less face pulling/retching. The cocktail at Socio Rehab was a palmero with ting – tequila topped up with a Caribbean soft drink that’s a bit like Lilt but much better.
On again and this time to the fun, frolicky, temple of tiki, Hula – the tequila tasted here was the Herradura Tequila Blanco – another unrested tequila, but one which uses the natural yeasts in the air rather than added ones – this creates a slightly less aggressive drink with some coffee and vanilla back notes. I thought Hula had decided we’d had enough and were giving us coffee, however this was a Tommy Margarita, served super cold in enameled mugs.
All good things have to come to an end and off we trooped to Northern Quarter newbie, Kosmonaut for our last, and I think best, tequila – a tapatio anejo (anego means aged for at least a year); which was super smooth and like a delicious sip of sweet vanilla caramel toffee, totally the best drink of the night. Our last cocktail was the Tapatian, made with the unrested version of the Tapatio – weirdly, but actually wonderfully, tasting of those soft banana sweets mixed with fruit salads.
And with that we left, melting tipsyly into the night our heads crammed with interesting facts, our bellies full of good food/drinks and our wallets surprisingly not that empty – indeed a trail averages at £35; which for a meal, five singles, five cocktails, food pairings and reserved tables at each bar is very, very cheap – book one whilst you can! The Liquorists