Tequila is an uplifting spirit. Just a few sips will give rise to a high energy buzz. If it weren’t for all those bad happy hour margaritas out there, it would be perfect.
A few decades ago, the tequila shelves on most bars just held Cuervo. Since then, Patron and Cabo Wabo branded the premium shot and the industry has never looked back. Celeb spirits are quite the trend, but really, who wouldn’t want their name on a bottle? This is pushing premiums to hyper levels, and distinguishing the detailed and eccentric processes that go into upscale bottled booze.
The new kid on the block in celeb-quila is Casamigo, an ultra-premium brand developed by friends George Gerber and George Clooney. The name loosely translates as “house of friends,” and their love for tequila drinking has fueled their need to create a 100 percent agave blanco and reposado that has both followed old tradition but shows off a slick, modern look.
“There are actually a couple of points that differentiate Casamigos,” says Chandra Lam Lucariello, the director of Mixology and Spirits Education for Southern Wine and Spirits, which distributes the brand in Hawaii. “When George and Randy wanted to develop a tequila, they wanted one that stayed true to traditional tequila making culture, so they did it old-school and employed methods that aren’t typically done by other distilleries. They use the old, traditional brick ovens to cook their pinas and do it low and slow, for 72 hours, versus other distilleries that will speed up the cooking method, using autoclaves or steamers in order to make more product at a faster return. Another point of difference is that they actually age their blanco, which isn’t a requirement for the category. They like how the two months spent in barrel helps to smooth it out and give it a hint of creaminess and black pepper. Lastly, they utilize an extra slow, 80-hour fermentation process. What this does is pull more flavors out of the agave instead of cutting it short with a 48-hour fermentation.”
Think of the agave pinas as oversized artichoke hearts. The agave tequilana, also called blue agave or agave azul, is related to asparagus. It will flower once in a decade, and in its 12th year its heart is cut out, roasted and made into tequila. Pinas can weigh between 80 and 200 pounds. For blancos, aging is not required, and aging an anejo only takes a year as the warm climate in Mexico speeds up the process.
“Blanco is typically unaged, but can be aged up to two months in oak or stainless steel and is the most pure and simple expression of the agave,” says Lucariello. “You can sometimes pick up vegetal, earthy flavors, as well as perhaps some tropical fruit and white pepper. Reposado means ‘rested’ and has to be aged a minimum of two months, but can be aged up to a year. This aging process will give the finished product some notes of light toast, sometimes a little cinnamon and a hint of vanilla. Anejo means ‘aged’ and must be aged for at least 12 months, but can be aged up to three years. Because this sees the most oak influence, you will typically taste caramel, vanilla, baking spices and perhaps even hints of brûlée. You can absolutely use all of them in cocktails, but in different applications. You want the complexity of the flavors that the tequila gives to have synergy with the ingredients you are using in your cocktail.”
You should know all this because the Makena Beach and Golf Resort will host their March installment of the Liquid Chef series completely immersed in Casamigo tequila. They will be taking the event outdoors in a celebration to spring. At 6:30pm on Thursday, Mar. 27, on their oceanfront Maluaka Lawn, they’ll pair five cocktails with five Latin-inspired dishes. For $60, Chef Mark McDowell will ply your palate with tiger tequila shrimp, chipotle baby back ribs and jicama slaw, lobster and corn fritters with an amazing cilantro aioli, Kurobuta pork cemita sliders and a Hawaiian lime and cilantro ceviche.
“The spirit of Casamigos stems from friendship,” says Leo Mallari, the director of Food and Beverage at the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. “It was created by longtime friends and was meant to be shared among friends. We wanted to have an event that subscribes to this ethos.”
Lucariello designed the five cocktails that will be served. They include a customary shot done Mexican style with a sangrita back, a Vietnamese influenced cocktail and a guava rita. She says that Tequila is one of her favorite spirits to work with, and is a bit of a wiz when it comes to creating out-the-box drinks.
“Tequila, more than anything, is just fun,” says Lucariello. “So when I was experimenting with the recipes for this, I wanted to create some easy-going, playful cocktails and also some that were just a little wacky. You can go anywhere and have a margarita, but I wanted this event to be something that you leave with an experience that you’ve never had before with tequila. Because I’m such a huge fan of tequila, I’m hard-pressed to find flavors that don’t work well with it. I particularly like to play with savory flavors when mixing tequila. I find that I can be more experimental with it and broaden consumers views by giving them an experience with tequila that they haven’t had before.”
On Thursday, Mar. 20, the resort will also give a sneak preview of a few of the cocktails featured at Liquid Chef at their Molokini Lounge from 6:30 to 8:30pm when you order pupus. For more information or Liquid Chef reservations, call 808-875-5888 or visit makenaresortmaui.com.
How To Make A Paloma With Chandra
One foolproof tequila cocktail would definitely be the Paloma. It’s a famous cocktail in Mexico that’s simple and delicious. It’s a perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour and refreshing. In fact, I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t enjoy a well-made Paloma.
The recipe is simple: Start with the tequila of your choice, add about a half ounce of lime juice, a pinch of sea salt and Jarritos Toronja, which is a Mexican grapefruit soda. If you can’t find Jarritos, Squirt or Fresca will do as well.
Up for a challenge? Liquid Chef’s riff on the Paloma will be the “Cinco De Migos.” Make one by combining one and a half ounces of Casamigos Silver Tequila, three-quarters of an ounce of Aperol Liqueur, three quarters of an ounce of lemon juice, half an ounce of Housemade Vanilla Syrup and Jarritos Mandarin Soda in a highball glass and then give it a stir. Garnish with an orange slice and umbrella.
Casamigos Liquid Chef
The Sangrita: Shot of Casamigos silver with a Sangrita back. It’s the traditional Mexican way to enjoy a shot of Tequila Blanc, served with a pepper-tomato based chaser.
Something PHO You: Casamigos Silver Tequila muddled with classic Vietnamese PHO flavors
Cinco De Migos: Casamigos Silver Tequila and Mexican mandarin soda combined to create a fizzy and enjoyable cocktail
Red Chile Guava Rita: Casamigos Reposado infused with red chile and served with guava and lime. It’s a little kick to the smoothness of George’s Tequila
Hawaiian Style Ceviche: Fresh white fish, local lime, jalapeno, cilantro olive oil and bell pepper
Tequila Shrimp: Tiger shrimp marinated in tequila and spices, served with red chili-achiote rice and tequila lime butter
Chipotle Pork Baby Back Ribs: Braised spare ribs with mango chili sauce in jicama slaw
Pork Cemita Sliders: Chili-braised Kurobuta pulled pork, Oaxacan cheese, avocado, papalo and chipotle pure
Crab and Lobster Corn Fritters