No body shots were done in the making of this class. Nor were any limes sucked on. And the only salt to be found wasn’t poured onto someone’s hand, but dusted around the rim of a cocktail glass.
This event dedicated to all things tequila is a classed-up affair, a far cry from the usual sordid night out that involves shots of tequila at a nightclub, drinking liquor that “smells like disgrace and shame” (as put so colourfully by one of the two presenters for the night – Paul Ramsay, aka Pablo Ramirez, the manager of host bar Little Blood).
‘TOMA Tequila’, the name of the class, means to ‘drink tequila’ in Spanish, which is exactly what attendees spend their time doing throughout the course of the evening. From the get-go, Paloma cocktails are handed out (fresh lime, grapefruit soda, and of course tequila). This bodes well for the remainder of the night, where attendees are lovingly guided through the various types of tequila, and get a chance to make a cocktail of their own. They can even have a beer or two – there’s no standing on ceremony here.
But first, a little history lesson. TOMA Tequila is hosted by the frontman of the hip Aussie/Mexican brand Tequila Tromba, Nick Reid. With assistance from Pablo – who helps run the PowerPoint and explains some of the finer points of distillation – Nick showcases where tequila is from and why you should start drinking more of it.
While he obviously has knowledge of the brand through working with Tequila Tromba, there’s none of this buy-our-product-or-else rigmarole. Nick merely wants everyone to appreciate tequila for what it is, not for what it isn’t. Meaning: it’s not from a cactus. Not. From. A. Cactus. Nick hammers this home several times during the slideshow, even showing a photo of a cactus next to several agave plants (which is where tequila does come from). The agave is the star of the show tonight, and drinkers get a true appreciation for the amazing plant. As Pablo further explains, making tequila is the opposite of whiskey. With whiskey, it takes six months for the barley to grow and 5-10 years for the whiskey to age. Contrast that to tequila: 7-12 years for the agave to grow, and six or so months to age the tequila. With a plant this special, no wonder great care is taken over it. Nick even screens a video of the contest Tequila Tromba organised in Mexico last year, pitting jimadores (tequila cutters) against one another to find the best in the country.
But enough of that – there’s tequila to drink and Mexican food to eat! Just like a whisky tasting, you’re guided through various types of tequila. In this case, you start off with the Blanco (the youngest), move on through the Reposado (tequila, barrel rested for 6 months), and end with the Añejo (aged tequila - upto three years in a cask). To cut the pure tequila, guests take turns sipping verdita (a green beverage of pineapple juice and coriander, with a kick of jalapeño) and sangrita ('little blood' in Spanish, made of tomato, orange juice and chilli). All that drinking making you hungry? Halfway through the class, out comes the Mexican food on individual platters: chilaquiles, taquitos, tostadas, and salsa verde. (Don’t know what these mean? Don’t worry, they’re all delish combinations of pulled pork, tortillas, salsa, cheese, black beans – everything wonderful from Mexican cuisine, all on one plate.)
The showstopper of the class comes last, when Pablo Ramirez steps behind the bar and shows how it’s done. Guiding the class through how to make the Toreador (a 1937 Margarita-style cocktail made with apricot brandy instead of Cointreau) and a Tequila Old-Fashioned (with orange instead of Angostura bitters for a twist), you get to try them before making your own tequila cocktail: Tommy’s Margarita.
As you sip your very own Blanco tequila cocktail, you’ll know this class has been time well spent. You now know where tequila is from (not a cactus! Not a cactus!), where it’s grown, how it’s made – and just how freakin’ delicious it is when drunk properly. That’s all that Nick from Tequila Tromba wants out of the experience: “for people to be refreshed by the tequila.” Job done.