Citrus and smoke

The Alchemist tasting panel discusses their favourite tequila and mezcal

Blue Weber agave plants grow in Jalisco, Mexico. Also known as agave azul, the plant takes up to a decade to reach maturity, and contributes citrus and pepper notes to the tequila.Getty Images photo

For years, we’ve been reading that tequila is about to become the “it” spirit. This year, it seems, it’s finally happened. Mind you, some of us have been enjoying this Mexican agave-based spirit, along with its smoky cousin mezcal, all along. Agave spirits have increasingly become luxury products savoured by connoisseurs, which may surprise those who’ve only had a disastrous brush with cheap mixto and are still feeling the hangover. A good tequila is made from 100 per cent farmed blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any number of wild agaves. Mezcal is also typically enjoyed unaged, while tequila can be unaged (also known as plata or silver), “rested” in oak for up to a year (reposado) or aged (añejo or extra añejo). Agave spirits are complex, fascinating and delicious, so we asked our tasting panel to share their favourite and what cocktail they’d make with it. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Adam Domet, Robyn Gray, Jay Jones, Trevor Kallies, Jeff Savage and Kaitlyn Stewart. ¡Salud!

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Margarita

Margarita. Getty Images photo

The classic, ideal for sipping all summer long, is Trevor Kallies’ suggested cocktail.

• 1.5 oz Altos Silver Tequila

• 0.5 oz Curacao, Triple Sec or Cointreau

• 1 oz fresh lime juice

• 1 tsp simple syrup (1:1)

• Garnish: salted rim

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Division Bell

Division Bell. Getty Images photo

Robyn Gray recommends this contemporary classic with a subtle smoky note.

• 1 oz Los Siete Misterios Mezcal Doba-Yej

• 1 oz Aperol

• 1 oz maraschino liqueur

• 1 oz lemon juice

• Garnish: grapefruit zest

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Paloma

Paloma. Getty images photo

Sabrine Dhaliwal offers her take on the easy-drinking Mexican classic.

• 2 oz Volcan de mi Tierra Blanco

• 1.5 oz grapefruit juice

• 0.75 oz lime juice

• 0.75 oz agave nectar

• Soda water

• Garnish: salted rim, grapefruit half-moon.

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Fever-Tree Paloma

Fever-Tree Paloma. Supplied photo

Mexico’s favourite cocktail, the refreshing Paloma, is also the easiest to make.

• ¼ tequila (we suggest a 100% agave, like Patrón)

• ¾ Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit

• Garnish: grapefruit wedge

• Optional: salt rim

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La Joya

La Joya. Matthew Benevoli photo

Matthew Benevoli’s La Joya uses his homemade ginger bug.

• 1.25 oz blanco tequila

• 0.5 oz elderflower liqueur

• 0.75 oz ginger bug

• 1 oz orange juice (preferably fresh-pressed)

• 0.25 oz lemon juice

• Garnish: lemon twist, orange slice or vibrant flower

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In the mix

Photo courtesy of Volcan

When it’s hot out, nothing tastes better than a bright, citrusy Margarita. But who has the energy to squeeze all those limes? Luckily for the lazy among us, Volcán De Mi Tierra Tequila has come to the rescue with a new made-in-Canada Margarita pre-mix designed to perfectly complement the tequila’s citrus, cherry and white pepper flavours.

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Stray Bullets

Stray Bullets. Photo courtesy of Donnelly Group

Available at Brass Fish and The Three Brits. This one quickly became a staple at Brass Fish when we opened in February 2020. It found its way onto a few other menus and holds its own in the overall sales of cocktails in the pubs.

• 2 oz silver tequila (preferably Olmeca Altos 100% Agave)

• 0.5 oz simple syrup (1:1)

• 0.5 oz lemon juice

• 1 oz passionfruit purée

• Soda

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Margarita Popsicles

Margarita Popsicles. Joanne Sasvari photo

Note that you will need popsicle moulds and, if you don’t have plastic holders, wooden popsicle sticks for this recipe.

0.5 cup sugar

1 cup water

0.75 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 juicy limes)

0.25 cup silver tequila

0.25 cup orange liqueur

Garnish: flaky sea salt (optional)

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Return of the Sumac

Return of the Sumac. Chickadee Room photo

Recipe by Chickadee Room bar manager Sabrine Dhaliwal. This new addition to the menu is a rich and savoury cocktail flavoured with sumac, a tangy, citrusy spice popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

1.5 oz Sumac-infused blanco tequila (see note)

0.75 oz amontillado sherry

0.5 oz Cynar

2 dashes Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters

Garnish: lemon peel

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