Adulations for Agave

Chris Condon, founder and CEO for the new TRAGO Tequila goes uptown and upscale with his new ultra-premium spirit with highly unique packaging and a discernibly high-end taste profile.

It is official.  Tequila has at last come of age.  While Tequila has found its way into the mainstream via shots and margaritas (and their blended fruity cousins) for decades, leave it to trendsetting restaurants throughout the west to translate the distinctive flavor of the finest tequilas on the market into more sophisticated, international variations of these guaranteed to change people’s attitudes on just how versatile the trusty agave spirit is.  Like Clark Kent turning into Superman, in the hands of inventive buyers and bartenders, and in all kinds of settings, tequila soars to new heights and saves the day for the ordinary cocktail menu.

Trago Tequila
Introduced for the first time this month, TRAGO Tequila is an ultra-premium brand that advances packaging to the next level while maintaining a superior taste profile. Produced at the Los Alambiques Distillery in the higher-altitude Arandas region in central Mexico, TRAGO is the result of 100% Webber Blue agave grown in some of the best growing conditions in Jalisco.

The distillery is owned and operated by Felipe Camarena, son of the famous Don Felipe, known throughout the world as the “Father of Tequila.” The family has been producing tequila for over a century, their distilleries winning awards year-after-year. In 2005, one of their family distilleries won “Distiller of the Year” from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Entering into a 15-year commitment, Los Alambiques will supply TRAGO International with consistently high-quality, 100% Webber Blue agave tequila.

Represented by Young’s Market in California, TRAGO’s opening order is impressive, the bottles of Anejo, Reposado and Silver taking on a new image for the spirit. While tradition is strong inside the bottle, “the image for TRAGO is more Rolls Royce than Old World Mexico,” says brand founder and CEO Chris Condon.

Snapping open his steel briefcase, Condon delivered the goods, armed with three magnificently designed bottles.
TRAGO, which translates from the Spanish. “to sip,” has three amazingly different expressions:

Trago Silver: Right from the first pass, the scent of lime agave wafts pleasantly on the nose, a melding of pepper and spice.  Lean grassy notes sing to a spicy serenade on the palate while lime agave grips in a tart, mouth-snapping finish. Deluxe all the way.

Trago Reposado: Aged four months in American oak, this is Trago’s softer, sexier side with citrus and brown sugar leading to a sassy peppery bite of agave. Not as hot as it is alluring, this one’s a tease, and a great one at that.

Trago Añejo: Aged for 18 months in used American oak bourbon barrels, this one’s smooth as silk. Buttered caramel drips on the palate while lengthy lingering notes of licorice envelope a subtle lime back. No smoke, no bite but more on an elegance in its full body; a deft, sweeping dance on the tongue.

Arizona’s Windows on the Green

Windows on the Green’s sommelier David Sullivan demonstrates the way tequila can go upscale with Chinaco Emperador or creative with a Sauza infusion.

David Sullivan, Sommelier at Windows on the Green at Scottsdale’s The Phoenician Resort, is more than just a fan of tequila.  He makes it his business to make the fine tequila list as compelling as the wine list that has put its parent resort on the culinary map. Windows features nearly 50 100% blue agave tequilas from very small tequila production “houses” in Mexico, along with a blanco, reposado and anejo tequila from each house appearing on the menu. Sullivan is so serious about fine tequila, in fact, that his bar offers at least four hand-wrought infused tequilas (with a Sauza Blanco base, and in such flavors as habañero, strawberry, mango, and pineapple among others) as well as a $100 Chinaco Emperador Margarita.

“Chinaco Emperador is aged in bourbon barrels for more than six years, making it one of the finest and rarest on the market,” says Sullivan.  “The secret recipe of our $100 margarita includes Chinaco Emperador and Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire blended with our own house-made sour mix.  Our highly popular Enchilacito, a ‘Bloody Maria’ made with our habañero infused Sauza Blanco tequila and fresh tomato juice and garnished with fresh olives.”
Why the focus on tequila? Sullivan explains that Windows on the Green has a southwestern menu focus brilliantly executed by acclaimed Executive Chef Roberto Sanchez, blending Mexican, American Indian and Continental influences.  Therefore, it is only natural to offer the best tequila in all of its refreshing forms.  They also offer such fine selections as El Tesoro Tequila, Del Maguey Tequila and Herradura Seleccion Suprema.

Bella in Hollywood

Bella co-owner J.T. Torregiani and bartender/drink creator Andres Simone are proud of their Italian twist on an L.A. favorite, made with Patron.

If you are looking for a little sanity in on Hollywood Boulevard in the form of a comfy neighborhood Italian restaurant, Bella is just the thing.  Though it comes from the same folks who brought us the trendy Dolce, Bella is all about a completely relaxed Italian dining experience blending old and new, from the focused menu of classic dishes, to clean and contemporary interior design (with a flourish of Murano glass chandeliers), a soundtrack of Rat Pack music and a flat-screen TV playing “The Godfather.” And all of this can be washed down with an Andres’ Bella Rita margarita in an elegant flute. 

…a Margarita? “Why, yes!” according to the restaurant’s co owner J.T. Torregiani.  “This drink was one of the most requested cocktails at Dolce, so it only made sense that we bring it into the mix here at Bella,” he says. Adds Andres Simone, manager and the drink’s creator, “Made with either Patron Silver or Patron Reposado depending on how intense you want the flavor, this tequila gives it a nice lift of woody and fruity notes.  As it is our most requested drink, we find that we often sell out of our Patron tequilas.  We put a generous 3 oz. of Patron of choice, along with 1-1/2 oz. of Sweet & Sour mix, 1/2 oz. of Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice.

Scottsdale’s AZ88

Bartender Shane Jacot takes AZ 88 diners in Scottsdale to “The Prague” by way of Grand Centenario Reposado.

At the trendy AZ88 in Scottsdale, AZ, bartender Shane Jacot  notes, “Good, reasonably priced food attracts the kinds of customers willing to spend a little more on interesting and creative cocktails.” He illustrates that point with The Prague, which goes far beyond being just a shot of top shelf tequila with its presentation and the addition of some harmonious flavors. Jacot nimbly pours a shot of Grand Centenario Reposado in a tall flute shot glass, then places it on a plate garnished with orange and sprinkles it with cinnamon to finish it off. “In my opinion, Grand Centenario has the best flavor and smoothness that enables it to be enjoyed straight or in a more complex cocktail,” he says. “People are surprised when they order The Prague to find that it is as flavorful and refreshing as any mixed drink.”

Gelazzi Gelato in Ft. Collins, CO

The Gelazzi Margarita, made with 1800 Tequila and fresh citrus gelatos, bringing the best of two cultures together.

At Gelazzi Gelato Italiano Café in Fort Collins and Denver, owner Jan Robert Horsfall brings a little Latin sizzle into some Italian dazzle with the grown-up Gelazzi Marvelous Margarita, made with one scoop each of homemade lime and lemon gelato, a 1/2 oz. of Cointreau, 1/2 oz. of Amaretto Disaronno and an ounce of 1800 Silver Tequila Silver, blended and poured into a iced martini glass with a salted rim.  “We chose 1800 Silver Tequila for the recipe because we felt it was aged with the best flavor remnants versus more conventional brands,” says Horsfall.  “The two weeks or so that it rests in the American oak casks provides a more floral, sweet and fruity tequila. It’s a smooth tequila which also finishes with a medium-not hard-finish. This is a perfect partner for the lime and lemon gelati in the recipe.” 

E&O Trading, San Jose

Bartender Salvador Martinez says the Pomegranate Martini, made with Don Julio Silver, is the perfect international escort for E & O Trading Company’s zesty Pan-Asian dishes.

In San Jose, CA., meanwhile, the popular downtown restaurant E & O Trading Company marries together a festive Pan-Asian Menu with the wildly popular Pomegranate Margarita. Salvador Martinez, the Bar Manager at E & O Trading Company, says that this cocktail emerged as a signature drink shortly after its opening. Today, orders continue to pour in, especially since Salvador made some improvements when he arrived on the scene two years ago.

“Given the refreshing and light flavor, the Pomegranate Margarita is actually the perfect compliment for spicy Asian food,” notes Martinez.  “However, when I came on board, I decided to switch up the tequilas to Don Julio Silver because (in addition to it being my favorite tequila) it is a better tasting tequila to build a Margarita around in my opinion. It brings out the great flavors of the pomegranate and the other ingredients.  My recipe takes1-1/2 oz. of Don Julio Silver, 3/4 oz of Cointreau, 3/4 of sweet and sour and an ounce of Pomegranate juice.”

XXX Marks the Tequila Spot
In three short years, tequila sales have jumped a whopping 25% in the U.S., creating a *$3 billion market. While most of that growth occurred through the premium brand segment, value-with-quality, competitively priced brands are forging forward to claims stakes in the category.

One such brand that has grabbed attention over the past few years is XXX Tequila, a 100% blue agave from the Casa Noble distillery. Named “Hot Brand” by Time Magazine in June 2006, the  brand’s launch of its Gold and Silver expressions in Europe and Asia saw over 30,000 cases sold in one year.

Now represented in the portfolio of Progressive Brands (ProBrands), XXX Tequila Reposado, Gold and Silver is available to wholesalers in CA, AZ, NY, SC and GA. ProBrands is the brand’s exclusive importer and marketing partner by brand owner 123 Spirits. Founder and President of ProBrands, Bill Palmer stated, “XXX is the ultimate pary tequila for the next generation of party goers who want to ‘Play Dirty and Drink Clean.’”

‘*Source: Adams Handbook

Do the Tequila!

The brands that send the south-the-border staple uptown and to new heights

1800 Silver Tequila:  This elegant and user-friendly tequila is regarded as the only super-premium 100% blue agave silver tequila, giving it great versatility as an ingredient in a variety of margaritas and cocktails, or enjoyed in its most simple state.

Chinaco Emperador:  Cited by Robb Report as one of the “Best of the Best” in 2005, this tequila is “considered to be a treasure for collectors and connoisseurs.”  Created by German Gonzalez to honor his father and mark the 30th anniversary of the inception of Tequila Chinaco, this prized tequila made its United States debut in 2003.

Del Maguey Tequila:  Del Maguey gets its rare, unblended mescals from individual family producers in tiny remote villages scattered throughout the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Varieties of Del Maguey Tequila include the “Chichicapa,” originating from the village of Chichicapa two hours south of Oaxaca (the mixed climate of desert and tropical makes for flavor that is is sweet on the tongue, with a long smoky finish) and “Santo Domingo Albarradas” (from the village of Santo Domingo Albarradas, situated in a climate zone closely resembling Hawaii.

El Tesoro Tequila: El Tesoro Tequila comes from Jalisco, Mexico’s La Altena distillery.  Owner Don Felipe practices his family’s time-honored traditional method of handcrafting 100 percent blue agave tequila by harvesting each agave pina, hand-cutting them and slowly cooking them in brick ovens. Four varieties (Platinum, Anejo, Reposado and the ultra-premium Paradiso) are currently available on the market.

Grand Centenario Reposado: The soft and elegant ultra-premium, produced by a company owned by Jose Cuervo, is noted for its smoky agave and vanilla nose, also features a lightly oily agave palate. While it is a good sipping tequila, it is also ideal for stronger margaritas and more sophisticated cocktails.

Herradura Seleccion Suprema: This super, premium aged tequila has been likened to both fine cognac and single malt scotch with its velvety body and sweet flavors.  This fine tequila is the top of Tequila Herradura’s range of fine tequilas.

Patron Silver: The crystal clear, light and fresh ultra premium tequila is an ideal component of a traditional margarita, a fruit-based mixed cocktail or on its own over ice. In 2004 Patrón Tequila was recognized with the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Five Star Diamond Award received Impact Magazine’s “Hot Brand of the Year Award.” In addition to the popular Patrón Silver, the line includes Gran Patrón Premium, Patrón Añejo, Patrón Reposado, Patrón XO Café, Patrón Citrónge, Pyrat Cask, Pyrat XO Reserve, Pyrat Superior Blanco.

Sauza Blanco: This tequila is characterized by a pale silvery-grey color, medium body and essences of roasted hazelnut, toasted grain and caramel. The silky texture not only gives a very pleasant, smooth feel on the palate but also is an ideal partner for a variety of mixers or for tequila infusions.

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