TEQUILA DON JULIO, which bills itself as “the first ultra-premium tequila,” helped usher in the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence Day, and debuted their new Don Julio Luxury Drop concept with a crawl through three of New York’s top agave boites.
“All of process is for quality,” master distiller Enrique de Colsa explained to a small group of journalists and tequila enthusiasts as he walked them through a tasting of the label’s portfolio at the subterranean Midtown tequila den La Biblioteca. de Colsa worked Don Julio Gonzalez (yes, there is a real “Don Julio,” and he started the label) for a few years before Gonzalez’s retirement. “He’s still alive, and at 83 or 84, he is still a great agave lover. The label began as a private reserve of the best samples of Don Julio’s original brand Tres Magueyas (which the company still produces), stored in barrels in his office (when no one was storing tequila in barrels, according to de Colsa). Friends loved the “reserva” so much, they pressured Gonzalez into producing a Don Julio label.
Don Julio is of the best and most popular premium tequilas in Mexico (“there, the reposado and anejo are most popular, here is is the blanco and 1942,” according to de Colsa). I was introduced to the company’s Real (its extra-anejo) at a bar in Guadalajara, once the surly bartender realized I had a true appreciation for fine tequilas. It remains one of the best tequilas I’ve ever tasted.
At the group’s next stop–Phil Ward’s Mayahuel in the East Village–bartender Eryn Reece, along with Don Julio brand ambassador Brian Van Flandern, introduced the brand’s latest social drinking concept, the Don Julio Luxury Drop. More than simply a lime and a shot, but not exactly a cocktail, these creative shots were crafted by some of the finest mixologists in the world, including Dale DeGroff, Salvatore Calabrese, Hidetsugu Ueno and more. In addition to the specific concoctions, each Luxury Drop comes with its own ritual, perhaps a karate chop, ebullient “cheers,” or other social ice-breaker. All-in-all designed to add a little steez to the classic Spring Break dealmaker or breaker.
“Some people love tequila shots, some don’t,” says Van Flandern. “But everyone does one.” Reece’s riff on a margarita was designed to “play off the spices and vanilla in Don Julio Reposado,” she said. The drink she served the group includes tequila, fresh lime juice, Allspice Dram (a spiced rum liqueur), simple syrup and Angostura bitters (recipe below). “I wanted to pair the drink with a sophisticated toasting ritual,” Reece continued. In this case, slamming the Luxury Drop down on the table, Russian-style, before shooting.
At the final stop of the evening, the new and very popular Casa Mezcal, the group took over the upstairs private party space to try our hands at creating our own Luxury Drops, competing to see who could craft the best overall experience. Teams of two or three were given access to a table of fresh fruits, herbs, juices and a variety of sugars, along with a brief mixology lesson from Van Flandern. While most of the groups took advantage of fresh strawberries creating a pleasing rose color, the winning team’s Craig Bridger (GiltMANual.com’s resident spirits writer) and Maxim Magazine’s Nick Leftly opted for a green tone (from copious amounts of muddled basil), dubbing their concoction “The Swamp Thing.”
As the party wrapped, Casa Mezcal was hosting its own Mexican Independence Day party, complete with pseudo mariachis, to an overflowing house. And, while Mexico’s Bicentennial celebrations in the city may be winding down, there’s no reason you can’t welcome fall in with a tasty Don Julio Luxury Drop (or create one of your own).
Want to keep the Independence Day party going? Over 30 NYC restaurants are participating in New York Authentic Mexican Restaurant Week, including Hell’s Kitchen, Maya Restaurant, Mesa Coyoacan and Casa Vieja. Visit participating restaurants and enter to win a chance to win a trip to Mexico. Visit www.saboresusa.org or www.mexiconowfestival.org for more information.
GIVEAWAY: UPDATE: Scott G. from New Jersey was the first (of many – thank you!) to respond, and he wins the Don Julio Luxury Drop Cocktail book! Thank you all, and expect more giveaways soon! Do you want to craft your own Luxury Drop? Start with Don Julio’s Luxury Drop cocktail book. This elegant booklet, bound in dark brown velvet, contains over 20 inventive recipes. Be the first to contact me at nydrinksexaminer at gmail dot com (and be over 21) and its yours. Please put “Don Julio Giveaway” in the subject line.
La Biblioteca de Tequila is located downstairs in the restaurant Zengo at 3rd Ave and 40th St. They host a reservations-only tequila tasting on Tuesday nights.
Mayahuel is located at 304 E 6th St. They do not take reservations.
Casa Mezcal is at 86 Orchard St. They do not take reservations.
The Spice Luxury Drop (by Erin Reece, Mayahuel, pictured above)
1 1/2 oz Don Julio Reposado
1/4 oz St Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 oz oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Combine tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and Allspice Dram into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a shot glass. Ritual: Finish with two drops of bitters, fanning out drops so they look like agave leaves. bang the shot on the table, toast and shoot.
The Swamp Thing Luxury Drop (by Craig Bridger and Nick Leftly)
10 leaves Fresh Basil
1.25 oz Don Julio Blanco
.75 oz Agave Nectar
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Muddle basil well in a mixing glass. Add tequila, agave nectar and lemon juice and ice. Shake the holy he** out of it and strain into a shot glass. Wet back of hand and sprinkle pepper (instead of salt). Lick the pepper and shoot.
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
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