London was the proud host of the first ever Tequila Expo Nov. 18, and the crowd was huge – 2,200 advance tickets were sold, along with 500 tickets at the door.

The brains behind the expo was Pablo Tovar, who brought the idea to Aaron Brown, who is part of the Forest city Beerfest and the Appleseed Cider Fest. Both Brown and Tovar wanted to rewrite the stereotypes of tequila being a party alcohol.

Instead they wanted to represent the sophisticated side of the spirit.

Tovar said that his main goal was to expose Latin American culture through tequila, mezcal, food and music. Tovar recognizes that there is space for improvement, however, he is extremely happy about the turnout.

“Next year we are coming strong,” Tovar promised. “Coming with more brands and sponsors.”

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Brown saw this as the perfect time for a focus on tequila and mezcals.

He explained there has been a growing interest in the finer points of the alcohol, and more mezcal centered bars are popping up throughout Ontario.

Tequila Expo
Hornitos was among the many spirits on display at Tequila Expo.

The expo also included workshops by Sarah Parniak, who spoke about the agave spirits and the stylistic differences that lead to different mezcals. If you were lucky enough to sit in on one of the workshops, you got to try four different kinds of mezcals.

Taste the difference

I got a chance to try out what the expo had to offer. I started out my afternoon with a recommendation from premium cocktail bartenders Ryan McLeod and Brett Paulin.

Misterio is a cocktail concocted by mixing Blanco Tequila, Lot 40, Cynar (an artichoke liqueur), yellow chartreuse and some refreshing grapefruit bitters. To me it tasted like an exotic old-fashioned and I paired it with a corn tortilla with a beef filling from Ivanopoblano, an organic Mexican food truck.

Tequila Expo
Getting into the ‘spirit’ of things at Tequila Expo.

If you are looking for a smooth reposado, look no further than Heradura – aged for 11 months in toasted oak barrels previously used to hold Jack Daniel’s whiskey. They employ a natural fermentation process by using citrus fruits, which compliments the organic combination between tequila and citrus.

I had the pleasure of trying it, and it was dangerously smooth.

Hornitos also presented a whiskey-like tequila, using a similar process of ageing it in barrels used for whiskey. The key difference is the ageing period, which is 18 months.

New and improved

Tijuana Sweet Heat, a Sazerac product, was introduced at the expo.

For my first taste of it, it was suggested that I followed it with a slice of orange. The spirit on its own was smooth and sweet, and the kick of tequila only hits you at the end. Agave nectar is added to make it sweet.

The suggested cocktail was Serpiente, a combination of Tijuana Sweet Heat, grapefruit juice, soda water and fresh lime.

I also had a Bloody Maria which I paired with a tamale bathed in hot sauce… which I followed by getting tacos from Qdoba.

Tequila Expo
A perfect pairing.

It should be pointed out that Sauza’s representative Shawn also put on a show of bartending flare as he made everyone’s Bloody Marias. I must admit, the show did make the drinks taste better.

The expo gave me a Saturday filled with good food, fun music, great alcohol and a great excuse to hang out with my friends. So I know I will be looking forward to this time next year when Tovar and his team come back with Tequila Expo 2.0 and you should too.

Did You Know

  • Tequila is made out of Blue Agave, mezcals can be derived from many different types of the Agave fruit.
  • Sometimes a process called natural fermentation is used. Yeast is not added, but citrus fruits are used because they have natural yeast.
  • If you have ever tried a mezcal, there is a smokiness. That comes from Agave fruits being slow roasted for a few days before being fermented.

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