Tequila Truths

For many people just the word tequila summons up memories of nasty tasting shots, drunk in one gulp with a wince and a fast ensuing hangover. But for those in the know, those misconceptions are fast becoming outdated, and if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a world of beautiful tequilas that tantalise the taste buds, either straight up, or mixed in delicious cocktails. Start exploring here…

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Tequila tasting at Wahaca Soho

On Wednesday night we hosted the second of our tequila tastings in Soho, with the aim of selecting a new range of special guest tequilas to put on our bar list over the next year.

Since opening Wahaca, we knew we had a job to do when it came to tequila in the UK. It is such a misunderstood drink here, and there’s good reason for that – The prominence of low quality tequilas that leave you with a burning throat and a lingering feeling of regret has done huge damage to its reputation as a quality spirit. So we pledged to only stock tequilas that were of superior quality, 100% agave, and that had passed our own taste test. Move forward 4 years and we’ve got a list of tequilas that we’re really happy with, and we are developing this pledge further. We have been working with the Mexican Tequila Board to search out tequilas that are not available outside of North America. Tequilas that have been made with quality in mind, rather than mass production. The kind of tequilas that are sipped by those that really know what they are talking about. Our aim is to not only be able to offer these tequilas to you, but also to give these smaller suppliers the opportunity to give their products international recognition for the first time.

The Mexican Tequila Board very kindly sent us an early Christmas present of around 35 bottles of just such tequilas. None of which are available outside Mexico, none of which we had tasted before, and all of which sounded like they would be welcome additions to our bar list. But we don’t want to just add any product to our list, so they needed tasting. You don’t get this opportunity every day, so we thought that we’d share them around with our most deserving friends. 

We invited our facebook fans to write in and tell us why they should be chosen to join us and we had a great response. We narrowed the field down and selected our panel of experts, who would be lending us their taste buds for the evening.

The evening was masterfully compered by Henry Besant, of the World Wide Cocktail Club, and who is about the most knowledgeable tequila aficionado in the country. He introduced us to a mixed selection of 9 tequilas that he had picked from our consignment and we diligently set to work tasting.

We ended the night having sniffed, slurped and swilled our way through 3 blancos, 3 reposados, 2 añejos and 1 extra añejo. There was debate, an exchange of words such as vegetal, herbal, woody and even bacon, and a pleasant feeling of having been involved in something that signified another small step in the right direction for tequila in the UK. Our voting system led to 4 winners, but there was a general consensus that in fact 3 of these had something extra special which made them stand out: A blanco named Tequila Gran Orendain, an Añejo named La Fortaleza (or Los Abuelos) and an Extra Añejo named Tequila Campo Azul.

Now, we should say here that the funny thing about tasting tequilas that you’ve never heard of before and which aren’t available outside of Mexico, is that occasionally you realise why that’s the case!  We did taste some slight duds on the night, especially in the Reposado category. We happily supplemented them with a comparative tasting of our current house pour, El Tesoro Reposado, and were all agreed that there wasn’t any need to force the issue, none of the Reposados could measure up on the night, so they’d stay in Mexico for the time being.

Thank you so much to Kate, Ed, James, Yashoda, Jesús and Paul for responding to our request and coming along and lending us their taste buds and opinions. Thanks also to the Mexican Tequila Board for supplying us with tequilas that wowed, challenged, delighted and surprised us in near equal measure. And finally thank you to Henry for leading the way once more.

You will be able to see the final results from all of our tastings up on our blog soon, and most importantly taste them for yourself as they each take up their monthly guest spots over the coming year. We really hope you’ll enjoy our choices.  If you have any thoughts on our tequila list, or general musing about this magical drink, please feel free to let us know in a comment below.

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Do you want to be on our tequila tasting panel?

ALL SPACES ON OUR TEQUILA TASTING PANEL ARE NOW TAKEN

Following a flurry of excitement amongst our facebook fans, we are now looking for an exclusive panel of 5 tequila experts from amongst you lot, the followers of our facebook, blog and twitter pages, to join us for a tequila tasting with a difference, to be held at Wahaca Soho on Wednesday 23rd February 2011 at 6.30pm.

Do you know your agave from your auto-clave, your piña from your pot still? What on earth would you do with a Tahona Stone?

If you would like to join this tasting, send an email to ola@wahaca.co.uk explaining in no more than 100 words why you are qualified to help us select the next top tequilas that will be featured on our bar list. The deadline for entries is the end of Monday 20th February, so get cracking.

On the night, we’ll taste a range of tequilas which have been sent to us by the Mexican Tequila Board that aren’t available outside of North America. They’ve kindly searched out 30 top quality tequilas from Mexico’s smaller distilleries just for us. It’s not just for fun though, at the end of the tasting, we’ll pick out 4 favourites, which will be appearing as guest tequilas in our bar over the next year. We’re hoping that by putting them on our list, we’ll help to introduce these brands to the international market, and their amazing products can start to be shared with the world.

The tasting will start at 6.30 with a cocktail to get us in the mood, then it’s down to the serious business of choosing our top tequilas. The tasting will be led by the all-knowing tequila aficionado Henry Besant, who will help guide us through a range of platas, reposados and añejos and will finish at about 8pm.

Don’t get confused, this is not the same event that is being organised by QYPE (That’s one’s going to be just as good though!) This one is just for all you Wahaca fans out there in the world-wide-webernet. (If you’re looking for the Qype event, head over to their page for details).

We’ll look forward to hearing why you think you’ve got what it takes to help choose our next favourite tequilas. Those still looking for a worm in the bottom of their bottle need not apply.

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Wahaca comes to Soho

It’s been quite a journey over the last 6 months turning 80 Wardour Street from a local boozer, into the 4th member of the Wahaca family. There’s been plenty of fun and games along the way, and we can hardly believe we’re saying it, but with a massive grin we’re happy to declare Wahaca Soho OPEN.

There have certainly been some highlights.

Since our first table went up in July we knew this place was going to be a bit special. Building site chic was never going to last though.

When we lost one of our pigs back in September, with a bit of help from our facebook fans, the lovely Catty found it sniffing out its new home! It was a total sty back then.

We soon realised that style is the name of the game in Soho. We thought that the new place would appreciate its own T-shirt, so its own T-shirt it would have. And not just any T-shirt, oh no, a competition winning T-shirt. We asked you lot to get to work and send us a design that brought to life the spirit of Wahaca. Over 50 local designers and Photoshop-savvy folk from around the country had a go, and it was no easy task selecting a winner. In the end we chose a design by Matt Burke, who is none-other than Head of Art, just down the road at Addiction London. They can now add the honour of Wahaca T-shirt designers to the growing list of accolades. Matt’s going to be a pretty regular feature in the new restaurant. His prize was a year’s worth of free food at 80 Wardour Street.

Artistic talent has been hanging around the site in hoards in the past few weeks, and to name just a few we were delighted to invite Remi/Rough in to graffiti the place.

Whilst Barton Hargreaves spent months circling Soho with his camera so he could build the montages which you’ll see climbing our bare-brick walls.

Jose was put to work constructing our foosball tables, which have already seen some seriously close-fought battles down in our tequila bar. Surely with 2 tables to practice on someone will be able to take on the mighty Hassan at Wahaca Canary Wharf.

Nate, a familiar face from Wahaca Covent Garden, has been hard at work with the new bar team – training them on the list of over 20 top class 100% agave tequilas and turning our basement into the best tequila bar in the town, and the perfect place to enjoy some of our new cocktails.

In fact, we’ve not made it easy on ourselves. From Wahaca’s very beginnings we wanted to minimise the impact we make on the environment and community around us. So throughout the build we have done everything possible to keep our waste levels down. In fact 90% of all rubbish generated from the building work has been recycled. You might notice that the wooden floors from the old Slug and Lettuce are now our ceiling, walls and bar (Don’t worry we made sure we gave them a good clean). And we’ve put plenty of clever little things in place to continue that commitment as the restaurant does its thing. Hidden in a back room are a handy glass crusher, and cardboard bailer that help make recycling easier. Two weeks ago the last arrangements were made so that now 100% of the restaurants’ waste will be recycled, we’re very proud to say that nothing from our Soho site will be going to landfill.

And now after some tremendous effort from so many marvellous people it’s time for us to stop talking about it, get the doors wide open and hand this restaurant over to you. We hope you like it.

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The Cacao Margarita

There’s a lot going on around London this week. Not only is it The London Restaurant Festival (Don’t forget to come along and try out our award winning menu before Monday 18th), but it’s also London Cocktail Week – A Celebration of London’s mixology heritage and a tribute to the world’s capital of cocktail culture.

So to mark this momentous occasion in the discerning drinker’s calendar we thought we’d give you a sneak preview of one of the new cocktails that will be hitting our menus in the next couple of weeks – The sublime Cacao Margarita.

Seldom has such a wonderful match of flavours been left undiscovered for so long, than that of tequila and chocolate, and the Cacao Margarita is the perfect way to indulge in this mystical pairing. Think velvety spice, with undertones of agave alongside the subtle kick that this slow burn margarita gives.

And here’s how you make it:

Be sure to use a good quality 100% agave tequila, any cheaper imitations just won’t do it justice.  We’ve used a blanco tequila in this recipe, but it works very well with the slightly sweeter reposado and añejo too.

35ml measure of 100% Agave Blanco Tequila
10ml cinnamon syrup
35ml milk
60gr chilli chocolate

First make your cinnamon syrup by melting 100g of sugar with 100ml of water and a stick of cinnamon. Once the sugar has completely melted, bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until it becomes a syrup. You can use the remainder to sweeten hot chocolate, or in your coffee.
In a saucepan, warm the milk and add the chocolate. Stir and continue to heat gently until completely melted.
Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with cubed ice. Shake well and strain the liquid into a chilled glass. Serve with a sprinkle of chocolate and a cinnamon stick. 

If you have a go at making the Cacao Margarita for yourself, we’d love to hear about it. Post a comment below, or why not whack a photo up on our facebook page.

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Mexican Cooking comes to The Dock Kitchen

Stevie is an old friend who I met at Ballymaloe, rather a long time ago now. He is an amazing cook with a passion for exotic spices from around the world, beautiful ingredients and unfussy food. The result is a wonderful mix of simply presented food from around the world, never with too many ingredients competing for attention. His flair with spices produces some sensational marinades, delicious chutneys and daals and he makes a mean biryani. One day he is going to teach me how to make his chaat masala too.

He occasionally lets me come and play at the Dock with him. A coulple of weeks ago we cooked Mexican together. We sat down with three-week old Samuel, his first-born and devised a menu together which we cooked all of this week at the Dock (I only did Tuesday and Wednesday as had other menus to do at Wahaca).

It’s a delight cooking there, as like Petersham Nurseries, you can just pop out of the kitchen to the herb garden to pick whatever herb you think might make all the difference to your chillie paste, sauce or soup…

The kitchen is also completely open lined with glass, rather than the conventional walls. How Stevie moved from the River Cafe, with all that beautiful light, to the only other kitchen in London that I know of, that is also an ode to light, is beyond me, but fairly typical of his natural jamminess. On August 21st they are closing for a fortnight and building a souped up kitchen courtesy of Wolf/Sub-zero, possibly the sexiest, coolest kitchen makers in the world, and the restaurant will double the number of seats it has to 80. What excitement.

Meanwhile a brief sypnopsis of our menu. We started with some corn which we shaved off the cobb and sauteed with sweet onion, garlic, a chipotle paste I made and masses and masses of butter. The result, a sweet, smoky, fiery filling for a white corn taco. It was so popular that I think I am going to put it on the wahaca menu next summer. Yum.

Next up was courgettes, a thoroughly Mexican vegetable, sauteed with girolles and summer herbs…

And then a plate of octopus which we rolled in crumbed crisy pig skin, deep-fried and served with a fruity, fiery habanero salsa…

This recipe was thanks to a friend Roberto Solis of the restaurant Nectar in Merida. Totally yummy, thanks for the idea Roberto, I hope you are enjoying Noma this week, you lucky so-and-so.

We did a sopa de guia next, which is a broth flavoured with wild herbs and leaves, which I first had at Casa Oaxaca, cooked by the wonderful Alejandro Ruiz…

And finally a slow-cooked shoulder of saltmarsh lamb, marinaded in ancho, chile de arbol and pasilla de oaxaca chillies and slow cooked over a bed of carrots, celery and onions and served with the classic shredded cabbage, radish and coriander slaw.

The pudding, which I failed to capture (please excuse my crummy photographs) was blackcurrant, hibiscus and tequila made by the lovely Hannah (ex-Ballymaloer) and Mexican wedding cookies made by the equally lovely Lewen (also ex-Ballymaloer maybe?). I had to go back to take these picces on Thursday, when I was no longer cooking and bumped into Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, who was eating there! Quelle excitement! I love Mary’s love of independent shops, what a woman. She was looking as stylish as ever.
So all in all an idyllic week, cooking with Stevie’s amazing team (here is Stevie and Lewen).

Creating food, talking to great people and feeling that life is good.

Thanks so much for having me guys, good luck with the refurb and thanks for the cooking tips.

tommi xxx

The Bloody Maria

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The Bloody Maria

The second May bank holiday is coming up and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have nice weather! Either way, we’ll definitely be enjoying great food and great drinks, which brings us on to our second Wahaca cocktail, The Bloody Maria (not to be confused with her poor cousin, The Bloody Mary).

In the UK, The Bloody Mary is a very popular cocktail, usually enjoyed over brunch (or as hair of the dog!). The history of this great drink is much disputed, with more than one famous cocktail legend claiming the recipe as his own. But did any of them ever consider that the Bloody Maria may have been the real original?

Let’s look at the facts.
1) The main ingredient is the tomato – and tomatoes originate from Mexico. It was the Spanish explorer Cortes who brought the tomato to Europe from the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan which is now Mexico City back in the 16th Century.
2) Mexico produces the tastiest food and drink in the world. You just have to come to Wahaca to know that.

So there we have it.

The main difference is that The Bloody Maria uses Tequila as its primary spirit (as opposed to Vodka in The Bloody Mary). The Tequila gives the drink a greater depth of flavour. A well made Bloody Maria has the distinctive taste of the agave plant breaking through the fresh tomato juice. Another difference is that The Bloody Maria is generally made with a “Sangrita” mix, rather than the Bloody Mary’s tomato, tobasco and worcestershire sauce mix. The Sangrita mix is arguably fresher and definitely provides an interesting new dimension to the drink for those who haven’t tasted it before.

Here’s how we make ours:

1 part 100% agave tequila
2 parts freshly squeezed tomato juice
1 part freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 part fresh lime juice
Fresh minced green chilli to taste

Shake all of the ingredients together and strain into a highball glass, then add a slice of lime that has been dunked in chilli powder for garnish.

Come to our new upstairs bar in Canary Wharf to try our version, then impress your friends with your new found cocktail expertise!

If you make a Bloody Maria, please let us know how you get on and send us your pictures so that we can upload them to our flickr group!

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Tamarind Margarita

One of our favourites, the Tamarind Margarita is a great tangy cocktail using one of Mexico’s most loved fruit used in drinks, sweets and desserts.

The fun thing about cocktails is that you can experiment with different ingredients and different quantities so that you tailor them to your own tastes. We make our cocktails the way we do because that’s how we like them and we hope you do to! Don’t be afraid to play around.

To make our Tamarind Margarita, add the following to a cocktail shaker:
– 35ml 100% agave tequila
– 12.5ml triple sec
– 20ml sugar syrup
– 12.5ml fresh lime juice
– 20ml tamarind puree

We always use 100% agave tequila and we recommend you do too. Just like food, cocktails made from good quality ingredients = good output. Tequila has to be made from at least 51% agave, so 100% just means that it’s all of the good stuff.

Add ice to the shaker and attach the lid so that it stays on during your Tom-Cruise-in-Cocktail impression, then mixxxx it up. We don’t suggest you start throwing your shaker around immediately, the aim is to shake vigorously until the contents of the shaker are combined, not wreak havoc in your kitchen.

Dip the rim of your glass in fresh lime juice and then into salt to create a salt rim. Now pour the content of the shaker into your glass through a strainer to catch the ice.

Now all you need to do is enjoy this authentic taste of Mexico and send us your pictures and comments to let us know how you got on.

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Tequilas for sipping

For many people just the word tequila summons up memories of nasty tasting shots, drunk in one gulp with a wince and a fast ensuing hangover. But for those in the know, those misconceptions are fast becoming outdated, and if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a world of beautiful tequilas that tantalise the taste buds, either straight up, or mixed in delicious cocktails.

We’ve got a whole range of plata, reposado and añejo tequilas and all of them are 100% agave, meaning that they don’t contain any sugars that aren’t taken from the blue agave plant, making them great quality and giving them a beautiful flavour. You can come and try them in any of our bars including our newest opening overlooking Canada Square in Canary Wharf, but as you’ll see in the video below, we’d recommend that these shots are best sipped!

If you have a favourite tequila cocktail, we’d love to hear about it, just leave a comment on this post below.

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Cocktail & Mezcal Bar – Opening Canary Wharf

Wahaca CW © Amy Murrell-21

Opening today! Wahaca is proud to open its first Cocktail & Mezcal Bar serving a list of delicious Wahaca cocktails as well as our favourite Mezcals & Tequila, Mexican beers, wines, refreshing Aqua Frescas and snacks such as our Tortilla chips with freshly made Guacamole. Come visit us soon!

Wahaca CW © Amy Murrell-44

With views out over Canada Square Park, the cocktail & Mezcal bar is located on the second floor of the Park Pavilion – just above the wahaca restaurant. With a Mexican table football, swing chairs and a living plant wall that creates a vibrant, buzzy and unique spot for after work drinks.

Wahaca CW © Amy Murrell-41

A little information on Mezcal
Heralded as the “elixir of the Gods” Mezcal is the best kept secret to be smuggled out of the Americas in the last 20 years.  Mezcal comes from the maguey or agave plant which is grown mainly in Oaxaca.  There is a saying in Oaxaca “para todo mal, mezcal…y para todo bien tambien” (for everything bad there is Mezcal…and also for everything good).  Mezcal has a wonderful smoky/ peaty texture to rival the best Scottish Malts. The flavour comes from the agave plant being baked in huge pits in the ground.  The plants are then crushed to extract their rich, sugary juices.  Tequila is a form of Mezcal and comes from the Blue Agave plant (there are hundreds of different varieties of Agave plant) and has a smoother, less smoky taste. Wahaca’s tequilas are all 100% Blue agave and taste of vanilla, caramel and peppers.  Both plants need to sunbathe for up to 12 years before they have soaked up enough solar energy to produce the sugars to make the alcohol….so drinking them is like drinking sunshine in a bottle!

Wahaca CW © Amy Murrell-71

For all those that have ever had a bad night out on Tequila, we challenge you to discover the real thing at Wahaca.  With no impurities and made from 100% agave they are 100% delicious. Wahaca’s cocktails blend the best of our mezcals and tequilas with other Mexican flavours like tamarind, lime, hibiscus, grapefruit and mint.

Wahaca CW © Amy Murrell-88

For wahaca recipes – click here and here to visit some blog posts with some of our favourite recipes from Sammi.

Do you have any suggestions for Sammi? Let us know any ideas for some of your favourite cocktails and you may have your very own cocktail on our menu soon!

Photos taken by Amy Murrell

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A few of our favourite Day of the Dead recipes

Day of the Dead Cocktail

For Day of the Dead, we got Sami our barman to dream up a delicious Day of the Dead cocktail which is so good we’ve given it a permanent place on the menu.

In a cocktail shaker add:

35ml of aged 100% agave tequila

80ml of fresh pineapple juice

and the juice of half a lime

Shake vigorously and pour into a tall glass filled with ice.

Carefully top with a good splash of red wine and garnish with mint. (To get an eerie effect pour the wine in over the back of a table spoon so it sits on top).

Chorizo, pumpkin and thyme quesadillas

Quesadillas, crispy and oozing with melted cheese and anything else you fancy is always a winner.  The sweet flavour of pumpkin seems to go incredibly well with chorizo.  This very easy recipe will take very little time to put together and makes a delicious, relaxed dinner.  I like to eat it with a crisp Cos lettuce, sesame seed and avocado salad.

Enough for 4 large quesadillas

500g slice of pumpkin, peeled and cut into rough chunks

½ onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

200g chopped chorizo sausage meat

A small bunch of thyme, shredded

Olive oil

200g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated

200g grated mozzarella

4 large corn tortillas

Steam the pumpkin until tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool, before dicing up into small pieces.  Cook the onion in a heavy-bottomed pan with the chorizo until the onion is soft and translucent and the chorizo has started to release its oil.  Add the garlic and cook for a further five minutes before adding the diced pumpkin and thyme.  Season to taste.

Spread the chorizo mix on one half of the tortilla and sprinkle with the cheese mix.  Fold the tortilla over so that you have a half moon. Brush it with a little olive oil (so the tortilla doesn’t stick to the pan) and place in hot, dry frying pan or griddle and cook until golden and crisp.

Cut into wedges and serve with a roast jalapeno salsa or fresh tomato salsa and sour cream.