Revered and feared, tequila is a spirit that brings most people out in a shudder, recalling bass-thumping clubs and bad decisions. For me, tequila brings back a specific memory: too drunk and/or stupid to understand the process of taking a shot (1. salt, 2. tequila, 3. lime, 4. regret), I panicked, bit the lime, shotted the drink (missing my mouth, for the most part) and stood stunned looking at the salt shaker I had just tipped upside down in the process.
Infinitely more sophisticated now, I found myself at Mestizo in Warren Street, with a row of tequila bottles lined in front of me. It looks like it might be the beginning of a particularly gruelling initiation ceremony, but I am in fact here -as an adult- for a tequila tasting session.
And what better place to dig out more on this misunderstood spirit- Mestizo has London’s finest collection of tequilas and mezcals- 260 line the bar. We are introduced to a few of them (I might be young still, but not so young that knocking back 260 shots on a school night seems like a fun idea any more) by Gaby, a tequila specialist.
Tequila is one of the world’s most regulated spirits, that can take anywhere from 6 to 12 years to produce. Once fully grown, with the best of the world’s suppliers not in continual growth (these el jimadors are pretty chilled out, it seems), imported ex-cognac and Armagnac barrels house the tequila as they ‘rest’ for any time from a week to several years. All this waiting around improves the taste- making patience a virtue for tequila fans and meaning these spirits are there to be luxuriated over, not necked back to the tune of Justin Beiber’s latest banger in a strobe lit sweating room.
Gaby guided us through a Blanco (white, fairly young, a feisty glass), Resposado (rested, a little subtler, smoother) and Anejo (aged, dark in colour and more depth to the flavour- almost sherry like) from the respected Don Fulano producers- a family run specialist. The Anejo was my favourite- the Blanco reminded me too much of those student clubbing days- and the darker, sophisticated flavour of Anejo had less bite that it’s younger companion.
And it wouldn’t be a Mexican celebration without food, and lots of it. Mestizo piled upon us traditional Mexican fare- and though we couldn’t stay for all ten courses I can certainly vouch for their empanadas and tamal. With a series of Mexican Independence Day events and parties lined up to celebrate the 15th September (including a hangover brunch- these guys have it all covered off) Mestizo certainly has the spirit of Mexico in spades, as well as lining the bartender’s shelves.
Mestizo, london.mestizomx.com, 103 Hampstead Road