“Mezcal is Tequila’s big, beefy brother.” Promptly, little shots of Mezcal were sent out to everyone attending the cocktail masterclass. I declined mine just as promptly, sipping demurely on my non alcoholic beverage. If the little brother had done such a number on me all those years ago, I wanted very little to do with Big Bro!
Steve covered a lot of facts about Tequila. For instance, Tequila comes from the heart of the Blue Agave plant. The agave plant is not a cactus, even if it looks like one. Blue Agave plants can take 8 to 12 years to harvest. This can be a costly business as there is no predicting whether demand will equal supply. To get around this, a lot of Tequila can be mixed, with only half containing the Tequila from the piña (heart) of the Blue Agave, and the rest being liquor of unknown provenance. These are also the ones that leave you with the killer hangovers! The best Tequila is 100% agave, and aficionados drink theirs neat, without any help from salt and lime. As for the salt and lime, that’s used to mask the taste of bad tequila. So, guess what, if you were doing the salt and lime routine, you probably weren’t drinking good quality Tequila!
Of course, even as I sat and absorbed all this information like a sponge, the people around me were having a party. With every new bit of information he imparted, more shot glasses filled with a variety of Tequilas were sent out to everyone. Each one I politely declined, wondering if I could order a glass of wine instead. Who would hear me above this rambunctious crowd?
Then came time to start making the cocktails. Six random people were picked to go behind the bar and practice a bit of cocktail mixing. From icing, rimming, stirring and shaking, six lucky people got to demonstrate their skills under Steve’s watchful eye. He dealt with mishaps and clumsiness with good humour and jocularity. More drinks were sent out.
Steve caught my eye after one round and said “YOU I will get to soon!” Of course, everybody in the room now knew that I was the numpty with the Tequila allergy. A bit like being the only atheist in a room full of believers. Earth open, swallow me whole!
Amazing what a bit of alcohol, freely imbibed, can do to people’s inhibitions. This room full of strangers was now a room full of friends, ribbing each other, exchanging tips on drinks, war stories on hangovers and bonding over all things Tequila.
“Time to make a good Old Fashioned.” Steve pointed at me. “Come on over.”
With a bit of trepidation I walked behind the bar with five other selectees.
“Can you drink bourbon?”
Heck, yes! I nodded enthusiastically.
“Only the best for you sweetheart.” Steve gave me a bottle of his finest bourbon to add to my Old Fashioned. Who says patience doesn’t pay?
A cocktail broken down is really a mix of alcohol, sugar and bitters or citrus. My Old Fashioned had sugar syrup, two shots of bourbon, four dashes of Angostura bitters, lots and lots of ice, even more stirring and finally the oils from an orange rind to top off the exquisite taste of my very first cocktail of the evening. Boy, did I savour it!
From that point on, the evening got better, but the details got hazier.
I remember sniffing quite a few Tequilas. I remember Steve saying we have about 6000 taste buds in our nose! Who knew? I remember filming V doing her own bartender routine, and giving that shaker a good, almighty shake, whacking the glass on the side, upturning it and pouring the cocktail into the glass. All done with consummate ease (I think?). I remember Steve debunking the popular myth of the worm in the bottle. Legend has it that if a worm was added to a bottle of Tequila and it decomposed, then the liquor wasn’t good enough. The worm would stay preserved in high quality alcohol. But Steve said that was nonsense, and was it Tequila or Mezcal? I remember it getting noisier and friendlier. I remember Steve saying the most popular drink made with Tequila was named after a daisy. A daisy?
“What’s it called folks?”
And everyone shouting in unison- “Margarita!!”
The two hour masterclass came to an end much too soon. I stood in awe of this man who had not just held our attention but also kept his head having drunk alongside the class the entire time. This was his second cocktail masterclass of the day. Hollow legs or what!
As far as Birthday experiences went, this was right up there with the best. Maybe doing a class with a spirit I could actually drink would push it to the top slot?
V & I talked about our next planned experience, my birthday pressie of a Segway ride. I wondered if we could practice our new found cocktail making skills afterwards. A nice Old Fashioned after trundling through the forests would do very nicely indeed.
And this time, with all due respect to Tequila, I would stick to a spirit of my choice. This worm would turn and how!