Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toreador (Drink # 9)

Let's start by discussing tequila for a moment.  As I indicated yesterday, I've given tequila a couple of chances in the past as a stand alone drink, with mediocre results.

The first time I tried tequila as a stand alone drink was back in the summer before college.  My good buddy Jeremy and I were about to head off to our respective institutions of higher learning, but before doing so we decided to purchase a couple of cigars (legally) a bottle of tequila (not legally) and sit on the edge of his parents' driveway, taking in the last of the summer.

He bought a bottle of Patron Silver, and was told that it was for "sipping" and not for taking shots.  At the time, taking shots of tequila was all we knew.

Sipping tequila proved difficult.  I could tell even then that the quality of the Patron Silver was markedly better than whatever I had drank in the past.  Even so, I didn't yet have the taste for drinking 80 proof alcohol neat, and I wasn't familiar with the tenant that some spring water can be used to open up the alcohol.  So I drank the Patron Silver, trying each time to like it more than the last sip, but it was not to be.  The cigar was welcome refuge from the taste of the tequila.

Fast forward to about 6 months ago, my second attempt.

Having just read an Esquire magazine article about tequila, entitled Things We Think We Know About Tequila, and featuring an accompanying article listing good tequilas, I was convinced to give it another try. 

I bought a bottle of Cuervo Tradicional, a modestly priced selection that the article said tasted of "Figs and chocolate" and was a "great value" at $25.  I poured a glass, throwing in a couple of small ice cubes.  I didn't love it.  I gave it a serious college-try too.  It was as though the pool water was just warm enough to put my feet in the wading area, maybe even my ankle.  But I didn't get much further though, the water was just too cold, the tequila too, I don't know, tequila-y.  I stopped sipping about half-way through the drink.

Here we are again, another try at the agave king.

So on my way to the soccer game (we lost in a crushing 3-2 defeat), I stopped by a liquor store I've never seen or been to, but apparently has been in the same location since August of 2008.  Funny how that works - a store sits in same the place for years and you only notice it when you need it to appear (kind of Lost-ish, in a way).

This liquor store was fantastic too, and will be on the short list of places to buy alcohol in the future.  On this visit, I needed the silver tequila for the Toreador cocktail.  My friend Eric had mentioned that 1800 Tequila is pretty good stuff, so I went looking for a bottle of their standard issue silver tequila.

This is what they had:

Now, in fairness, it wasn't all that they had.  In fact, this cool looking bottle was the same price as the neighboring regular 1800 Tequila Silver bottles.  From the picture, you've no doubt gathered that I bought the funked out bottle.  Apparently, 1800 Tequila commissioned artists to create these limited edition bottlings.  Learn more about it here, if you're so inclined.

With the tequila and the crème de cacao, I was good to go.

One other quick side note worth mentioning...this recipe, as you'll see below, calls for white crème de cacao.  The difference between white and dark crème de cacao is the color of the syrup used to make the liqueur.  And, the word "crème" in a name indicates that there is no cream used in the production of the liqueur.  A bit counterintuitive at first thought due to the sound of the word, until you realize that the word "cream" itself is used when cream is included in the contents of the liqueur (now it all makes sense).

Let's drink!

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 301

1 1/2 ounce silver tequila
1/2 ounce white crème de cacao
Whipped Cream
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Shake the tequila and crème de cacao vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float a dollop of whipped cream on top, and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Wow, this is an interesting drink!  There is no doubt that this is tequila based, but it is well-paired with the crème de cacao.  The crème de cacoa doesn't provide too much noticeable flavor, but with the sprinkle of cocoa on the top, the chocolate aroma comes through really nicely.

And it makes sense that tequila and chocolate flavors and aromas should go together.  Latin cuisine is filled with a litany of chocolate flavors mixed with spicy flavors we're not used to coupling together.  If you've at all traveled to Mexico, or some other country south of the American border, you've probably seen hot chocolates made with various spices, chillies, or even anise flavored liquors - a real change from the hot chocolates available at the nearest Starbucks or Lavazza location.

This drink is similar to those hot chocolates south of the border.  The whipped cream though, doesn't impart itself into the rest of the drink when it moves about the glass with each sip.  Tip the glass into your mouth, and the whipped cream floats to the other side, as if it is taunting you.  Sure, some of the whipped cream creeps away from the mainland of foam, but not often enough.

I'm a fan of this drink, but I struggle thinking of the occasion in which I would make it again.  Before a night out?  Probably not.  Random weeknight?  I suppose it's possible, but I'd rather make the Sidecar if given the choice. 

I think it's best chance is when making food that is related to its flavors, and likely its origin.  Fish tacos with chipotle mayo, or enchiladas with a spicy red sauce - something along those lines.

Has the drink changed my opinion of tequila entirely?  Not really.  But, I haven't given up on tequila just yet.  Consider this a push.
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