Self-confirmed tequila sceptic, Freya Morris, takes a tentative sip of George Clooney’s mercurial tequilas paired with some impressive Latin American dishes at Mayfair’s Peruvian restaurant Coya.
I’ve never liked tequila, nor did I think that an evening of drinking it would change my mind. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was surrounded by tequila-lovers, likely to be offended that my relationship with their favourite spirit is ‘on the rocks’.
I was confident that this was not an occasion where drinking something straight would result in a wonky walk home. I struggle to finish a shot of the stuff, let alone enough to get drunk. But along I went.
The evening had been organised to promote Casamigos, a brand of premium tequila. It’s brought to us - according to the invitation - ‘By Those Who Drink It.’ But ‘Those Who Do Not Drink It,’ was the mental note I applied to myself. I was determined not to be press-ganged into the salt-licking, lemon-sucking tequila mob.
We were hosted by the Mayfair-based Peruvian restaurant, Coya. It’s a Latin American cave of moody, Aztec & Inca inspired décor which hinted at the exotic taster menu to come. The bar area exudes South American charm, with the right blend of rustic and modern. It’s new enough to be chic, old enough to be convincing. Cocktails are served in alarming totem-faced glasses which leer at you from the gloom, and they added to the general consensus that there was much tequila to be drunk.
George Clooney has a part-share in the brand and so one assumes he shots tequila with the same poise and sophistication with which he sips a Nespresso. His vision, alongside co-founders Michael Meldman and Rande Gerber, was to create smoother, better-tasting spirit. Neither ‘smooth’ nor ‘tasty’ are words I have ever associated with tequila.
That evening I eyed the bottle suspiciously, surprised to find it was tastefully designed. Delicate, type-writer style font earnestly informs you of the name, number and alcohol content of the liquid. Its sophistication makes the act of uncorking the bottle and getting stuck in feel like good manners.
And this we did over an array of Peruvian dishes. The Ceviche de Lebuna Clasico, a fragrant combination of sea bass, red onion, corn and sweet potato included in the first course, was a particular favourite. Its lightness was made even more appealing by my conviction that there was no need to line my stomach as I intended to drink as little as possible.
Whilst I congratulated my prudence, the first tequila – ‘Blanco’ - was presented. It’s rested for two months to ensure a crisp cleanness of flavour, according to Matthew, the brand-promoter. And he instructed us to take a sniff, two small sips and then a deeper one. None of this I dared to do.
But the murmurs of approval were encouraging. I tendered my resignation to a tequila-free night with a small sip. It was scaldingly sharp. The subtle hints of citrus and sweet agave we’d been told to detect were obliterated by my conviction that I was tasting the inside of my nose. Others were not deterred and commended its ‘bite’. Meanwhile I nursed my taste buds.
The second tequila, ‘Resposado,’ was teamed with meatier dishes. These included tuna tartare and tender slices of grilled sirloin with chimichurri and tamarind salsa. Both were irresistibly pink. ‘Blanco’s’ failure to amend my prejudice did not convince me that its successor would do otherwise.
However I was wrong. ‘Resposada’s’ seven month aging process produces a silken, oaky note. It was a pleasant surprise. There was a detectable sweetness and the scepticism with which I had viewed Matthew’s earlier remarks about flavour dissolved into sheepishness. It’s honeyed amber colour also made it look the part.
The third tequila, ‘Anejo’, was voted as the party’s favourite and served with dessert. I’m not sure how many fellow proxy voters I had around the table – my vote really lay with the salted caramel ganache that was served alongside it. But again I’d say there was definite hint of spiced caramel. That wasn’t just the tequila talking. It was definitely flavoursome.
Was my dislike of tequila enough changed to warrant me guzzling the three mini bottles provided in the gift bag in the taxi home? No. But I no longer viewed the spirit as a personified sombrero gallivanting around in search of salt and lemons.
‘Casamigos’ tequilas invite respect. They look good and taste like they’d win in a fight. If the brand was sold on supermarket shelves, you wouldn’t be looking at the two for one label, you’d be admiring the bottle. Can you ‘Taste the Difference’? Yes, I’d say so, but you won’t find this sprit in Sainsburys.
If I met George Clooney, I’d still tell him that I’d prefer a Nespresso to a shot of his tequila. But the tequila is clearly good stuff; although it’s unlikely that you’ll look as good as George Clooney when you drink it.