“I will not use sour mix….” and other notes from Austin

“I will not use sour mix.”  A reminder posted (over and over and over again!) above the bar at Second Bar & Kitchen, in Austin TX.

This is probably a good lead-in to talking about other bibulous notes from the IACP conference in Austin. I’ve already posted about Tipsy Texan’s Rumble Sour, but I haven’t yet gotten into the details of what brought me to Austin in the first place:  moderating a panel on Tequila, Texas, and Terroir. (If you care to, you can buy access to video archives of my panel and others here.)

My panelists were local tequila expert/author Lucinda Hutson, who made a fabulous picante sangrita, and bartender extraordinaire Bill Norris.

A couple of nights before the panel, I tried out drinks at Haddington’s, where Norris  runs the bar. In addition to the conversation-stopping Duck Fat Sazerac, my favorite drink on the menu there was The Dubliner, a mix of Jameson’s, Aperol…and Dr. Pepper reduction. It sounds unbelievably odd, but it worked beautifully, and put me in mind of the barrel-aged Trident I had at Clyde Common in Portland.

But I didn’t get to try any cocktails made by Norris until my seminar, when he made Diablos, with silver tequila (we used Siete Leguas). Here he is in action, in the “staging room” before the seminar. (Why is the culinary volunteer to the right so distracted? NOLA chef John Besh was in the room too….causing one of the other volunteers to have a celebrity-induced teary meltdown.)

And here’s the finished Diablo:

Diablo Cocktail – from Bill Norris

1.5 oz Silver/Plata Tequila

.5 oz Creme De Casis

.5 oz lime juice

Ginger Beer

Combine tequila and lime juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain over crushed ice-filled collins glass.  Top with ginger beer and float casis on top.

5 Things I’ve Learned About…Tequila

The May 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out, and it includes (among other things) my review column on Tequila.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.  Here’s what I learned:

1. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing!

2. 100% agave, or don’t bother. Go big or go home.

3. Like wine, terroir plays a part in tequila’s taste. Most tequila originates in Jalisco, Mexico; those from agave plants grown in the highlands tend to have a fruity, floral, herbaceous quality, while in the lowlands, volcanic soil yields an earthier, drier tequila. Further, a number of smaller producers specify particular estates where the agave plants were grown.

4. The unaged version is referred to as blanco, silver, or plata; it may be barrel-aged for up to two months and still be considered blanco. Reposado tequila is “rested” in oak barrels from two months to one year, while anejo is aged for longer than a year.

5. In general, most blancos are light and crisp, with lightly honeyed agave-nectar, peppery, or citrusy characteristics. But barrel-aging changes the game:  after some barrel time, many tequilas were reminiscent of light whiskeys, with sweet agave giving way to more caramel, cocoa and butterscotch flavors, and peppery notes evolving into sophisticated smoky accents.

Shameless plug alert!  If you enjoyed this post, please consider joining me in Austin, Texas, on June 4, for panel on “Tequila, Texas, and Terroir” at the International Associations of Culinary Professionals national conference. I’ll be joined by Austin barman Bill Norris and tequila expert Lucinda Hutson, and we’ll be tasting tequilas and fab tequila cocktails!