“When did you first try tequila?” It was the question Tres Generaciones’ Tequila ambassador Armando Zapata wanted each attendee at Monday’s Sunda dinner to answer. College hangovers, bad margaritas, and a dead worm lurking in the bottom of a bottle were memories Zapata tried valiantly to replace with a more refined, sophisticated experience. To some degree, he and the fine folks at Sunda were successful.
His approach to solving tequila’s image problem started with the location. Sunda is an upscale Asian Fusion restaurant, and was chosen deliberately to break associations with Mexican cuisine and to highlight the versatility of tequila. We mingled and enjoyed a variety of mixed drinks served alongside spicy starters of corn fritters with ginger sauce and crispy rice topped with tuna and jalapeno. The drinks were fruity and definitely cut the spice of the appetizers, but I wasn’t convinced that tequila was the necessary ingredient to make it happen.
We sat down to dinner and a pour of Plata. Zapata talked us through the tasting – a touch on the tongue to enjoy the sweetness, letting the tequila roll off the sides of the tongue to appreciate all aspects. The language and motions of tasting were reminiscent of every wine and whiskey event I’d ever been to. However, Zapata didn’t discuss why this young, peppery tequila was paired with the shredded chicken and peanut-jalapeno dressing. This course paired well, but I wanted to know more.
The next course was shaking beef with a lime-pepper sauce and for the fussier eaters, a lovely cod served over eggplant. The pour was a Reposado, an aged, golden tequila that owed its smoothness to the triple distillation process. I realized by that point that I had heard Zapata mention triple distillation at least three times. He wanted us to know that Patron, the ugly P word of tequila, was 50% sugar and wasn’t triple distilled — he blamed their bad process and successful marketing for our bad first tequila experiences. I’m sure that it was part of the problem, but to be fair to the P-people, age and price were a factor back then, too.
Triple distilled and three generations of experience — the message kept coming along with the final pour of Anejo, a coppery aged tequila that was smooth and carmel-y. It was a delicious drink, but did nothing to enhance the avocado mousse we had for dessert. The food and the tequila were both good, but the experiences paralleled each other rather than enhanced.
My take-away? I’ll still think of tequila as something to have with Mexican cuisine, but I now have a better appreciation for what I’m drinking. My thanks to Tres Generaciones and Sunda for the opportunity to learn more.
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On a personal note — having now met a whiskey, bourbon and tequila ambassador this year, I’m left with a mental image of a United Nations of liquor, with bartenders as interpreters and PR folk as handlers who whisk the ambassadors into cars with tinted windows to meet at restaurants for closed door deals. I’m sure the term ambassador adds needed gravitas, but it still cracks me up.
This was a media dinner. All food and drink were provided gratis.