New Release! Fortaleza Still Strength Blanco

After two years of waiting – it’s finally here!

Fortaleza stands among the Hoodooist’s favourite tequilas available in the UK, and with good reason. The Blanco, Reposado and Anejo revel in gorgeous flavours of pine and agave, and the Still Strength Blanco is no different – now available in the UK.

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In its purest form, what sets the Blanco Still Strength apart is it is delivered straight from the copper pot still, at 46% – compared to the Blanco at 40% – and it comes through in the flavour. Still packed in those man-blown bottles and hand-made stoppers, the bottling is classic.

Still beautifully smooth as we expect from Fortaleza, I….I actually prefer this to the Blanco.

The nose is earthy, strong notes of olive and agave, and as I’ve come to expect from the distillery (at least for me) pine. It’s livelier, earthier, slightly more vegetal, with the salty-peppery kick on a velvet feel.

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The olive aroma really comes through when made into a Tequila Martini (not quite a 1942 without the bitters), for a strong kicker to wake you right up.

For the Hoodooist though, drinking it neat is the ticket.

Don’t mess with perfection.

 

Tequila Fest 2o16 Preview!

Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings 0f 2014, are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez, as we grab our tasting cups.

After last year’s major success, TequilaFest 2016 is not an event to be missed – on September 17th and 18th at the Boiler House Brick Lane!

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Hosted at Lupita, Shoreditch, the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of agave for the Hoodooist, such as Meteoro‘s pure Espadin mezcal – it even comes with a backstory – a crater from a crashed meteor in Oaxaca became the cooking spot for this mezcal’s agave. Delightfully smooth, the Meteoro Joven is a fantastic sipping tequila. Bold, muscling in with powerful smokiness and a bright trail left behind, it lives up to it’s media campaign, #ItFellFromTheSky.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Another of the TequilaFest newcomers to expect will be agave giant Patron with theirSilver, Reposado, Anejo and XO Cafe range – and in a few days will be unleashing their Incendio chilli-chocolate tequila onto #Drinkstagram tags everywhere.

Herencia de Plata has entered the ring as well, with their bright, peppery range, and can carry it’s weight in combat with the other stars of the show.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Expect to see old reliables like Ocho, who have unveiled their Curado – a Blanco tequila that has been infused with agave – carrying their Blanco’s feel and kick, with a fruity wave of agave, addictive this one.

Stars of last year are back, from the smoky caramel Espadin San Cosme mezcal, to classic Altos and Siete Misterios Espadin, with that spicy, earthy smokiness and sugary dried fruit (so, so beautiful). And you certainly can’t go wrong with a Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

After the food provided by Lupita was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist realises that this year’s TequilaFest at the Boiler House Brick Lane is going to enormous in comparison to the previous year – this is an event he – and you – should certainly not miss.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, “Real tequila.”

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

Fortaleza Tequila Takeover @El Nivel!

Rarely seen in the UK, Fortaleza Tequila is finally making some more noise in London!

Appearing at London tequila bars El Nivel, Covent Garden and El Camion, Soho, Global Brand Ambassador Stefano Francavilla came in for a few days with several bottles of one of the highest rated tequilas in the city.

Obviously, the Hoodooist was not missing this.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

The Fortaleza Anejo

The powerful citrus and pepper nose of the Blanco prepares you for a drink that is strong with lime and cooked agave, with hints of vanilla among the green herbaceous flavours, which – as a Stockholm-hailing friend described it – like sipping a Swedish pine sauna. A very easy going and complex blanco.

The Reposado does a face heel turn: 8 months in American Oak gives it a caramel and agave nose, with the oak’s butterscotch flavours paired with some agave, vanilla and warm (cinnamon?) flavours. A lasting spice length to this gorgeously smooth tequila.

18 months in American Oak make the Anejo a long, deliciously smooth, surprisingly sweet drop. Sweet fruity and winter spice dominate the nose, the palate is rich and sweet. Toffee and butterscotch play alongside the agave and light citrus – but over time, the sweetness of hazelnut comes bursting through, and the tequila turns to full on liquid candy. You need to take your time with this luxurious spirit.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

And here’s the kicker: an unreleased expression stored in a just-dodgy-enough plastic container was behind the bar at El Nivel: a 46% Fortaleza Blanco, expected to release in a few months.

And I have to say, it was probably my favourite.

Nose strong with agave and lime, pepper and probably tropical fruits and aloe gives way to a spicy, herbaceous, incredibly complex Blanco that has surprisingly sweet and malty highlights.

Keep an eye out for this one, kids!

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Specifically for the event, El Nivel prepared a series of cocktails: The Cocktail # 4 mixed the Fortaleza Anejo, QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, and Benedictine, making a drink that began with the bitter Benedictine, followed by the tobacco smokiness of the mezcal, ending on the orange zest and butterscotch sweetness of the vermouth and Anejo. Wonderful.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

Concoction numbers 1 and 4!

Don’t you worry, readers – the Fortaleza range is here to stay. As it gains ground in London, it will probably hold more of a place as a sipping tequila than one for cocktails, but as we saw in the #4: this promises to change.

And for you tequila fans and connoisseurs, worry not: more Fortaleza Tequila can be found behind bars at El Nivel, and El Camion! So go ahead and treat yourself to some of the finest agave spirits to make it across the Atlantic.

Honestly, you’ll thank yourself for it.

Tequila Fest 2015 Preview @ Barrio East

Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings 0f 2014, are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez, as we grab our tasting cups.

After last year’s major success, TequilaFest 2015 is not an event to be missed

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Hosted at Barrio East, Shoreditch (keep an eye out for their next Brixton opening, Barrio South), the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of agave for the Hoodooist, such as Meteoro‘s pure Espadin mezcal – it even comes with a backstory – a crater from a crashed meteor in Oaxaca became the cooking spot for this mezcal’s agave. Delightfully smooth, the Meteoro Joven is a fantastic sipping tequila. Bold, muscling in with powerful smokiness and a bright trail left behind, it lives up to it’s media campaign, #ItFellFromTheSky.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Another of the TequilaFest newcomers to expect will be agave giant Patron with their Silver, Reposado, Anejo and XO Cafe range – and in a few days will be unleashing their Incendio chilli-chocolate tequila onto #Drinkstagram tags everywhere.

Herencia de Plata has entered the ring as well, with their bright, peppery range, and can carry it’s weight in combat with the other stars of the show.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Expect to see old reliables like Ocho, who have unveiled their Curado – a Blanco tequila that has been infused with agave – carrying their Blanco’s feel and kick, with a fruity wave of agave, addictive this one.

Stars of last year are back, from the smoky caramel Espadin San Cosme mezcal, to classic Altos and Siete Misterios Espadin, with that spicy, earthy smokiness and sugary dried fruit (so, so beautiful). And you certainly can’t go wrong with a Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

After the food provided by Barrio East was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist realises that this year’s TequilaFest at Old Spitalfield Market is going to enormous in comparison to the previous year – this is an event he – and you – should certainly not miss.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, “Real tequila.”

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

World of Zing Flavoured Salts Tasting @ Agaveria El Nivel

World of Zing is the UK’s first ‘Contemporary Food & Drink Emporium’ – bringing together some of the UK’s most exciting flavour experts – from chefs to street foodies and mixologists – to create an inspiring range of produce and ingredients to add a touch of ‘Zing’ to our everyday culinary lives – and their latest indulgence is flavoured sea salts for Margarita rims!

How else to celebrate #NationalMargaritaDay, eh?

And where better than Covent Garden’s Agaveria, El Nivel (Click HERE for Review!), for the venue? Zing owner, Pritesh Mody, hosts with El Nivel’s legendary Jesse Estes behind the bar to serve up OCHO Tequila Margaritas to accompany the La Beleine sea salt from the Augues-Mortes saltworks in Camargue, France.

 

A selection of six sea salts were presented: Hibiscus, Red Rose, Seaweed, Applewood Smoked, Mexican Chilli Cactus, and Citrus.

And that’s listed in order of least to most favourite, so let’s have a quick run through!

 

The floral Hibiscus, and Red Rose salts were the least interesting as Margarita rims – and raised an entire discussion regarding the importance of ‘subtlety’ in situations like a Margarita. What was notable was that the Hibiscus was rather more… perfumed in comparison to the Red Rose, but otherwise came off as, well – salt. There is unfortunately not much to say about these two.

Tequila Margarita Salt

The Seaweed salt, however, stood out a bit more – if you managed to get some seaweed onto the rim – perhaps being more evenly distributed would help, but as a flavour was actually rather enjoyable. I can see the flavours of the seaweed salt going particularly well with the OCHO or with a Herradura Platas Margarita. Perhaps freeze-dried and powdered seaweed might distribute better than the larger chunks we get here, but still a fun salt to experiment with.

The Applewood Smoked salt is certainly a major step up, this is where the distinctions between the salts begin to stand out. Characteristically smoky, dark and luxurious – I would love to have tried this out with an Anejo tequila. I can imagine a Margarita using Grillos or Ambar for this salt. Wonderful.

Tequila Margarita Salt

Now the toss-up between the top two. The Mexican Chilli Cactus brings a bite, a spicy kick, and has something fennel about it. Perfect for a Margarita, its spiciness is coupled well with a flavour reminiscent of agave.

And finally, the one that none of us were sure of until we tried it: Either it would be uninteresting with all the lime in the Margarita, or might complement it wonderfully: along with the Mexican Chilli Cactus, the Citrus turned out to be a winning flavour.

Intensely citrus, yet smooth and only the slightest of bite, the Margarita is complemented wonderfully by it, though I suspect it will go best with blanco tequila based Margaritas.

Tequila Margarita Salt
The only concern would be that the salt could be finer than it was, but it certainly didn’t diminish the flavours!

Though the Hoodooist himself prefers his Margaritas salt-less, he certainly enjoyed this experience, and thinks it would be a fantastic addition to a house party to have guests customise their Margaritas. He certainly looks forward to trying the rest of the salt collection available on World of Zing’s website!

http://www.worldofzing.com/product-category/inspired-ingredients/salts-inspired-seasonings/flavoured-salts/

Tequila Fest Weekend 2014!

The much-awaited weekend finally showed up! Let me mention though, that a 5 day birthday bender is not a good way to prep yourself for this fest – but hey, I got a job to do.

We have an article about the Tequila Fest Press Preview a few weeks ago (Click HERE for Review!), where we covered a good list of tequilas and mezcals that caught our attention (Oh, that Ambar Extra Anejo *sigh*), so today we’ll post a few pics of tequilas and mezcals that were not covered in the previous article!

For one, this massive fest brought a whole new selection of spirits under the same roof, alongside cocktail and food stands, specialty Mexican cheeses and sauces, and of course, London’s La TienditaAy Que Chula! – your source of Mexican candies, randomness and accessories (We’ve met them at the Yelp! Elite Endless Summer Garden Party, Review HERE!). And don’t forget the extensive masterclasses and pairing sessions. And luchadors. Certainly don’t forget the luchadors.

So bring on the snaps! Remember, this is a no salt and lime zone.

TeqFest

 

Cocktails

 

On the left, we have The Lost Steps from the Megaro Bar (Click HERE for Review!)The Lost Steps (Ocho Blanco, cardamom sweet tea, Chartreuse elixir)  is a tequila fan’s dream; the nose is strongly citrus, and since I last tried it at the bar, this creation had a more intense cardamom flavour. The tea allows the notes of the tequila to unfold in a manner to savour the tequila’s various layers, smoothly and pleasantly.

On the right, the Metaxa: Tequila meets white armagnac and Bittermen’s Orange. Surprisingly smooth, the tequila’s edge is dulled for a relaxed drinking experience. The aftertaste of Bittermen’s Orange seemed to be enjoyable to some, but not others. Personally, greatly enjoyed it.

Herradura

 

Herradura, the classic horse-shoe logo, presenting one of the most charismatic blanco tequilas present – the Herradura Plata. A long-rested blanco (45 days), brings out the agave, making an excellent sipping blanco.

Sierra

 

Ah, Sierra. Responsible for the worst hangovers of your sixth-form years. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but was pleasantly surprised – the Sierra Milenario Extra Anejo was actually a rather decent tequila, priced incredibly well around the 50 pound range for an Extra Anejo. Most notable was a milk chocolate smoothness, you could actually spend quite a while sipping this. As phrased by its representative, Sierra is kind of a victim of its own success, or/subtext, “We also actually make rather good tequilas,”. I do hope it is products like this that highlight Sierra more than sticky-floor-mini-sombrero association many initially think of.

Grillos

 

A young company here in the UK, Grillos could use the attention to get a chance to import their Anejos. Their Reposados were a bit sharp, but delightfully woody. I can sense a rather good Anejo in here somewhere.

Honourable mentions in Tequilas would be Arrette’s Anejo, with its pronounced violet flavours.

Onto the Mezcals!

Qui

 

Course, we can’t talk about mezcals without mentioning one of the most popular ones on the UK market, QuiQuiRiQui, named after the previous name of 184 Hackney Road, who you MUST check out for their Mezcalitas!

San Cosme

 

San Cosme is easily surging to the top of my favourite mezcals. Smooth as the devil, a fantastic introductory mezcal to initiates. I’m keeping an eye on this up and coming company.

Bruxo

 

Okay, Bruxo. These guys are exciting – presenting 5 different mezcals, each made with different – or a different combo of – agaves, creating a wonderful choice of mezcals, and great tasting flights for your cabinet. I noticed one of them being reminiscent of the rarely seen out of Mexico Fortaleza Tequila, only to find that the parent company is responsible for Fortaleza as well! Fantastic job. (For more on Fortaleza, click HERE).

 

And those are the tequilas and mezcals I haven’t covered before, but stood out on the incredible weekend that was Tequila Fest!

And if you had any sense about you, you’d keep an eye out for the next incarnation of the festival in the future.
¡ Salud !

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

 

Day of the Dead with Jose Cuervo, Southwark

A convoluted walk through Southwark to the OXO Tower Creative Spaces brings us to the enormous art gallery that is the Bargehouse. Serving up some Day of the Dead realness, Jose Cuervo is another in the line (like last week’s El Nivel, click HERE for review!) of tequila events leading up to the Tequila Fest 2014, sponsored by the Mexican Embassy in London. From the 30th Oct to 2nd Nov, artwork is geared to depicting the Day of the Dead and with themes of the passed and loss, accompanied by drinks provided by Jose Cuervo tequila. Also included in the festival are Jose Cuervo masterclasses, a variety of children’s art and crafts workshops, and a screening of The Day of The Dead 1984 cinema classic, “Under the Volcano”.

Entering the gallery to a mindblowing DotD float crowned in sugar skulls and marigolds, traditional to Dia de los Muertos, guests make their way through the sprawling galleries to finally the two Jose Cuervo bars serving up a small selection of tequila drinks to accompany you through the artwork. As per 2014’s obsession with the drink, Frozen Margaritas make an appearance, as do Palomas and Sours, all priced at a perfect 6.50 GBP.

The Paloma is standard, but worth it at the price, but the star of the night would be Tradicional Sour, A tequila sour with egg white and fig puree – a much better choice than infusion since the perfectly seasonal, ripe sweetness of the fig comes through excellently. A must try this weekend!

Muer2

Drinks wise, yes, it is an event to definitely visit. Art was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help but feel that the event did not capture both aspects of the Dia de los Muertos. True, there is a remembrance and honouring of those that passed, with an appreciation for feelings of loss and grief; but there is also celebration in their memory, and in terms of the art here, the festivities are lost with the artwork being predominantly focused on grief, old age and suffering, and even horror. This may or may not have led to the rather sombre attitude of the crowd most of the night.

Nonetheless, great pieces of artwork, with excellent drinks at 6.50 – what’s not to love?

Enjoy your Dia de los Muertos all, and a Happy Halloween!

Bargehouse

Bargehouse Street, South Bank
London SE1 9PH

http://www.oxotower.co.uk/events/day-dead/

Tequila Fest 2014 Preview @ Agaveria El Nivel

There are many ambassadors of Mexico to the UK,” announces the Mexican Ambassador behind the bar, “Tequila is one of them.

Working alongside event organisers, the Tequila Festival in London is being proposed almost as a diplomatic event – with good reason. Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like 184 Hackney Road are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez as we grab our Mexican passports.

Literally.

Literally.

Hosted at Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings this year (Click HERE for review!), the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals, either neat or in a margarita. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of tequila for the Hoodooist, such as Ambar’s selection of Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo; where the aging of tequila isn’t dissimilar to that of cognacs, as the vanilla and wood notes begin to grow over time. Delightfully smooth, the Extra Anejo is a fantastic sipping tequila.

It also works surprisingly well in cocktails – a Tommy’s Margarita bursts with flavour here, and saved the Hoodooist’s butt in a cocktail competition that evening. Who knew that a blander Margarita made with a blanco tequila of an unnamed company can be spruced to life with a splash of Ambar Extra Anejo? Definitely remembering that concoction.

Ocho Tequila obviously makes an appearance – but I still vote for its use in cocktails moreso than to sip.

Siete Misterios still a winning mezcal for me, as is the Del Maguey, which I discovered at the Cocktails in the City show (Click HERE for review!). And whereas I was recommended the Papadiablo, it came off a bit harsh on the throat for myself.

On the note of mezcals, you can’t go wrong with a nicely smoky Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

After the food provided by El Nivel (incredible as usual) was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist retires to the bar for a cheeky little sip of a Fortaleza Tequila – who knows when he’ll get a chance with this rarely-seen-outside-Mexico tequila. On the nose the warm pine is almost identical to the interior of a Swedish sauna, strangely; with smooth length, and sandalwood aftertaste. Unlike any other tequila tasted that day. Incredible.

Opinion of the night? Fantastic execution, one of the better press nights I’ve been to in a while, so major thanks to the organisers and Cutlass Communications! If the organisers keep this up, I can’t deny that Tequila Fest is going to be an incredible weekend that I’m already looking forward to!

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, and what the ambassador calls, “Real tequila.”
UPDATE: London Tequila Fest 2014 has been reviewed! Click HERE.

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday, feat. Ocho Tequila

Yes, that wonderful cocktail shed in Shoreditch has celebrated its 8th birthday this week, partnered with Ocho tequila (Ocho, geddit); if you haven’t been acquainted with Casita yet, check out its review, HERE.

And unlike most birthday parties, Casita had the idea of inviting spectacular bartenders from around the city to showcase their skills over the course of 8 hours – and what a brilliant idea that was. As if the wonderful Sophie Mackay and Oskar Klimaszewski weren’t enough, owner Will Foster shared the stage with the likes of Chris Dennis of Trailer Happiness, and Jesse Estes of El Nivel (Find review of El Nivel HERE). Only rules for the cocktails: All drinks had to be made with Ocho (not that anyone was complaining!).

CasB1

Will El Generalisimo Foster’s ‘El Fenix’ encapsulated Casita’s spirit perfectly: a long spicy-sweet tequila drink of jalapeno, basil, and raspberries topped up with pink Ting – it’s by Casita, you know it’s going to be good, just go with it.

Jesse Estes, working with his own tequila brand, Ocho – knocked it out of the park as expected. The ‘Mexican 55’ – Ocho blanco, lemon juice, agave syrup and sparkling wine – was exactly what I was waiting for all night. A clear, refreshing drink that was a perfect pick-up after the dark and heavy ‘N’Ocho Average Negroni’ (Ocho blanco, spiced Guinness, Campari), by Penkul & Banks’ Simon Toohey.

CaB2


Trailer Happiness
’ Chris Dennis presented another winning drink: the ‘Bipolar Daiquiri’. Ocho blanco, green chartreuse, lime juice and Falernum made an excellent tangy drink that wasn’t as herbal as one would suspect at first glance. Finally, Ian Macintyre of the wonderful NOLA (Find the review of NOLA HERE) presented the ‘Baloma’: Ocho blanco, grapefruit shrub, Campari and Sagres – a drink with a distinctly NOLA flair. One of us ordered the Baloma with Ting instead of Sagres and both had to admit that the Ting worked better with the drink than the Sagres, which drowned out the flavours of the other ingredients.

To end, Casita’s Sophie Mackay presented a deep Mexico-meets-Italy drink in the form of the ‘Dirty Mexican’: Ocho blanco, Martini Rosso and Fernet Branca (In a party bag!) and the 86 co.’s Dan Warner came with an Ocho Paloma.

 

For 8 nights Casita presents these discounted cocktails, and what a winning combo they are! Props to Casita for a fantastic mid-week night out! Even after, as long as they have the ingredients, the Casita bartenders will be happy to knock one of these out for you (as long as you remember the ingredients!).

Casita,
5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW

Agaveria El Nivel, Covent Garden

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, Mexican
Damage££
Ideal for: Food, Tequila, Mezcal

The Hoodooist is in love. The Tomas and Jesse Estes venture upstairs at La Perla, Maiden Lane is a brilliant success. It is early days (Launch week), but it stinks of success. Absolutely reeks of it. Gifts of spirits from Megaro and NOLA, and the appearance of bartenders from various other bars speaks of its presence in the bartending world.

The La Perla/Café Pacifico branches have always been the chilled out venues to break into for a Margarita you know you’ll love, but the atmosphere up here at El Nivel takes on a more sophisticated, experimental twist. The wealth of knowledge in this tiny venue is expansive, the service impeccable. Sitting at the bar with drinking buddy Anastrophe and Cheese, was an absolute pleasure as the barmen served us tasters of various mezcal and tequila, and explained the process of their home-made cordials and accompaniments.

 

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Some of QuiQuiRiQui’s Mezcals

We began with the Mezcal Fix, my first, and favourite of the evening: Mezcaleria QuiQuiRiQui’s personal brand of 45%abv mezcal, roasted pineapple syrup, Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur and saltwater spray. Everyone knows I’ll snatch anything with Cynar in it. I was amazed by the incredibly harmonious combo of sweet with salty; how the pineapple’s roasting doesn’t give it a strongly pineapple flavour, but just its fruity sweetness that tames the mezcal – releasing only its smokiness. The Cynar does a wonderful job at just rounding out the drink for the saltwater spray to not overpower it. Unbelievable work.

The Fallen Angel was certainly an interesting drink. Gran Centenario Añejo, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Cynar. I’m not sure how to describe this drink except as the best sweet Manhattan you’ve had that wasn’t actually a Manhattan. A bit too sweet for my taste, but I know when to appreciate a well-made drink. The Añejo is an excellent twist on the classic, and my Manhattan-loving mate almost wept in excitement.

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The Mezcal Fix (L); and Fallen Angel (R)

The Horchata is a boozy twist on a classic Mexican refreshment: rice water, condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla with Ocho Reposado, garnished with an edible flower. As much as I enjoyed it, it might need a shorter serving, as the condensed milk gets incredibly heavy – but a pleasant drink no less.

Finally, the Siesta was a *very* citrusy complexity. AquaRiva premium Reposado, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, almond syrup, Campari and Merlet apricot, churned over crushed ice. The Campari is barely noticeable, but necessary to hold back the possibility of being too sweet. The first flavour is the tequila, until there is a sudden punch of lime citrus, to eventually settle on the apricot and grapefruit. A wonderful work for those less comfortable around tequila.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, they are working on mezcal/tequila flights!

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The Horchata (L); and Siesta (R)

 

Food is varied in substance and price, so I certainly look forward to returning for a boozy lunch – because return I will. El Nivel has all the makings of an excellent bar, certainly blowing its competitors on Maiden Lane out of the water – in terms of both drink and service.  I wish them all the best, though they probably don’t need it.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere:  ***
Service: *****

 

Agaveria El Nivel,

Upstairs @ La Perla,
28 Maiden Lane,
London WC2E 7JS

http://www.elnivel.co.uk/