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 But for those in the know, those misconceptions are fast becoming outdated, and if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a world of beautiful tequilas that tantalise the taste buds, either straight up, or mixed in delicious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…
Top tequila stories
Those of you following our Taco Tasting Tour on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook will have seen some of the snaps from our regular research trip to Mexico. These trips offer a chance for us to check out what’s hot in the motherland and keep us stocked up with fresh ideas to bring back home for you to try out first hand in our next menus, so whilst it might seem like we’re having the most incredible time ever, we’re doing it for you.
Yesterday, thanks to our great friends at Olmeca Altos, we were given an exclusive tour of their distillery just outside Arandas, in the highlands of Jalisco.
After checking out the tequila distillation process, taking us from agave plant to 100% agave tequila, via the integral tahona stone, and the seriously funky bottling line (Who doesn’t love a bottling line?), we were given the chance to tour the agave fields in style, on all terrain quad bikes.
The tour took us past some of Jalisco’s most breath taking scenery, through villages where the agave harvesters, or jimadores live and into the fields themselves to give us a chance to get hands-on with the realities of the agave harvest.
This backbreakingly tough work is done entirely by hand after the agave plants have swollen to the perfect ripeness during 8 years of Mexican sunshine, by a group of guys armed only with a coa – a long handled metal blade that’s sharper than your average Gillette could even dream of. Having removed the agave’s seemingly impenetrable spikes, its heart, or piña, is revealed, a huge and staggeringly dense mass of natural sugars destined to be made into the tequila that we know and love.
The whole day was a fascinating insight into what has to be the most painstaking and lengthy production process used for the manufacture of any spirit. So next time you’re sipping on a classic margarita, remember that it might just be thanks to the meticulous work of the team up in Arandas and the incredible care which they put into their work that makes it taste just a little bit like the Mexican sunshine. So cheers to them.
If you’re a fan of all things agave, then here’s an event not to miss. On 22nd and 23rd November, The Tequila & Mezcal Fest will be bringing the finest Mexican agave spirits to the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel.
The Tequila & Mezcal Fest has been created by our friend and agave spirit aficionado, Eduardo Gomez, to educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico.
Expect cocktail master classes, with the tequila world’s most knowledgeable, who will be exchanging their wealth of knowledge in the heart of the festival. Learn how to differentiate between the Blanco, Reposado and Anejo categories sipping your way through blind tastings. Salt and lime will be banned at the door along with novelty sombreros; this will be a sipping only zone.
Tequila & Mezcal Fest is the UK’s first ever and only festival dedicated exclusively to showcasing the best of the agave spirits, so don’t miss it. You can grab tickets at www.tequilafest.co.uk
Mexican football fans, we salute you.
Ah, the glory of one’s team winning the greatest Cup, those are the dreams of every single Mexican. Especially after having a little taste of it at the London 2012 Olympics, where Mexico took on Brazil on the final match and unexpectedly took home gold.
Come to Wahaca on Mexico’s match days wearing the Mexican team football shirt and claim a FREE MARGARITA to sweeten your World Cup experience.
Mexico’s match days are:
Friday 13th of June: Mexico vs Cameroon
Tuesday 17th of June: Mexico vs Brazil
Monday 23rd of June: Mexico vs Croatia
T&C’s: Free Classic Margarita to over 18’s wearing a Mexico Team football shirt only on the dates above at any Wahaca Restaurant. Simply quote the offer to your waiter when ordering.
In a few days time (with not even the slightest smugness) an elite Wahaca team are heading on our regular fact finding mission to Mexico. We’ll be eating in as many market stalls, cantinas and restaurants as we can find, searching out the tastiest bites, top drinks and even more inspiration from The Motherland.
This time we’re taking on Guadalajara and heading to Tequila to visit the agave fields and distillery of our friends at Altos Tequila to understand exactly what goes into their 100% agave spirit (nothing but agave and love apparently). We’ll also be revisiting Mexico DF which will include stopping in to visit Ednica, the charity that we support through sales of our Street Food Specials. We’ll be hearing about their work helping to feed and educate the children working on the streets of Mexico City and have been set a challenge to cook them a British lunch, so wish us luck!
We’re always keen to try out new places, so if you have any suggestions of not to be missed bites and highlights, bars and karaoke dives, we’d love to know. Just post a comment below.
As part of The Waterloo Quarter’s food festival, our friends at Olmeca Altos are hosting a tequila tasting dinner for 30 people in our new Waterloo restaurant on Thursday 4th July, 6.30pm.
Altos brand ambassador Matthias Lataille will take you on a journey through the tequila fields of Mexico, sampling their 100% agave tequilas alongside some specially designed cocktails. The tasting will be followed by a selection of our favourite Mexican street food paired with tequila cocktails.
Tickets are a steal at £20 per person just drop us an email to email@example.com to reserve your place, telling us how many tickets you’d like and a contact number to call you on.
Wahaca Waterloo is at 119 Waterloo Road, on the corner of The Cut, opposite The Old Vic, offering our much loved street food menu from 12 – 11pm daily. If you’re not able to join the tequila tasting, drop in for a drink and some tacos. We’d love to show you our new place.
=== JOIN US FOR 2014’s DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATIONS IN BRIXTON ====
Lots of you will know we’ve been celebrating Day of the Dead in our restaurants since we opened. We love this amazingly emotive and visual festival celebrating the lives of relatives and friends who are no longer around and thought that it was right to make the party bigger. Much, much bigger. So we’re putting on a 4 day festival from 31st October – 3rd November. Together with our friends at The Old Vic Tunnels and with support from The Embassy of Mexico in the UK and Nomad, we’re taking over a maze of railway vaults hidden underneath Waterloo Station and creating a celebration of music, food and art. This year’s Wilderness Festival headliners, Rodrigo y Gabriella will be kicking off their European tour with these 4 nights, blasting out some phenomenal new tracks alongside work by a host of acclaimed artists from Gabriella Iturbide, to Le Gun and Hew Locke. There’s going to be a live score composed by the Cabinet of Living Cinema to run alongside Alejandro Jodorowsky’s classic film Santa Sangre, just waiting to be discovered too.
There will be food on offer from a specially constructed Wahaca Street Kitchen serving up mouth-watering pork pibil and seasonal veg tacos and there will be drink courtesy of award-winning tequila Olmeca Altos, all fuelling what promises to be a series of unforgettable nights. Exploring the tunnels further you’ll find other stages playing host to more music and performance including a set from London based bands ‘Vado in Messico’ and ‘Keston Cobblers Club’ and a show from visual artists Frida Alvinzi and Raisa Veikkola’s ‘Theatre of Dolls’, an other-worldly visual experience using 4-dimensional art pieces, puppets as storytellers and their own bodies as sculptural landscapes. You might also stumble across a new collection of Nancy Fouts’ three-dimensional works that she’s created especially for the Day of the Dead Festival that poke fun at the contemporary western concept of death. Communion DJs will be adding to the soundtrack of the night. You can buy tickets now from oldvictunnels.com or by calling the box office on 0844 871 7628. Tickets include wahaca food from our festival’s temporary street kitchen as well as entry to the funtimes which run from 7pm – 1am each night. All profits from the event will be going to charity. Saturday daytime entrance at £5 (2pm – 6pm) offers an opportunity to view the exciting visual artists on show and enjoy screenings of the Alejandro Jodorowsky classic film Santa Sangre with The Cabinet of Living Cinema performing a matinee live score. We’ll look forward to seeing you down there.
The Wahaca Southbank Experiment is our new temporary restaurant, opening at Southbank Centre alongside Waterloo Bridge today. It’s not like a Wahaca restaurant that you may have seen before, we’ve challenged ourselves to be more innovative. It’s built from 8 recycled shipping containers and we’ve introduced a new menu with monthly changing specials, the most popular of which will take up residency in all of our restaurants. We like to think it’ll help to keep us on our toes.
Our 8 shipping containers have been modified to create an interlinked open space on 2 levels to include panoramic windows offering some pretty stunning views of the river and the passing parade of people floating by. If you’re after a cocktail, it also has a dedicated tequila bar serving award winning tequilas and single village mezcals.
We’ve enlisted the help of street art curator Tristan Manco who has invited 2 graffiti artists, Saner and Remed, to decorate the space for our opening, bringing some extra colour to the riverside.
Tommi has been up to her elbows in new recipes specifically for this site following our recent trip to Mexico and LA. We’re starting off with some punchy chilli tacos, salmon ceviche (a Mexico City fusion favourite) and a couple of different ways of eating beautifully slow cooked carnitas.
The Wahaca Southbank Experiment will be our new development kitchen and because the most popular dishes will be added to our regular menu, you are all our new recipe testers. Welcome to the team. We can’t wait to get the experiment started.
The Wahaca Southbank Experiment is located on the terrace under Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. It will be open daily for the next 18 months from midday – 11pm (10.30pm on Sundays).
If you’re looking for your Valentine’s Day to go out with a bang, then look no further than Wahaca, home to more aphrodisiac ingredients than Aphrodite’s larder. Just check out these (in no way spurious) claims that indigenous Mexican ingredients carry:
Avocados: Whether it’s mashed up in a guacamole or whizzed into a salsa, this silky smooth fruit of the gods is a great way to get things started. William Dampier, a nineteenth century English adventurer, said “It is reported that this fruit provokes to lust” and if that wasn’t enough, The Aztecs called it ahuacatl, meaning “testicle tree”. So, if you can get that image out of your head, woo your Valentine with some guacamole and tortilla chips.
Chillies: It’s long been known that the capsicum contained in chillies provide the right amount of heat to spice up any Valentine’s evening. But where does this rumor come from? Well, chillies contain vitamins A and C, as well as increasing the metabolism by as much as twenty five percent after the ingestion. So don’t forget to liberally pour over your chile de arbol salsa and let the heart start racing.
Chocolate: It’s no coincidence that chocolates are the most popular Valentine’s gift and the best way to a ladies heart. In fact, the tale is told that the Mexican Emperor Moctezuma drank fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day to enhance his libido and assure the continuance of his line. Probably didn’t do great things for his teeth mind you. It’s a complex food source containing theobromine, a substance related to caffeine, which gives an energy boost as well as phenylethylamine and seratonin, which are mood-lifting agents. We’d recommend trying some chicken mole tacos which have a salsa made with chilli and chocolate. Double trouble.
Vanilla: Another indigenous Mexican ingredient, which yes, is said to get things stirring in the right direction. In fact, Mexico’s Totonac people, whose region is the original home of vanilla, tell a folk tale in which Xanat, the youngest daughter of a fertility goddess, fell in love with a local youth. Since she was a goddess and he a human, they were unable to marry. Bad times. But to express her eternal love, she transformed herself into the first vanilla plant, whose aroma would always provide him with pleasure. Ahhhhhh. If that’s not enough to get you ordering our flan de la casa (with its wicked caramel sauce), then you’re a lost cause.
Passion fruit: Well the name says it all(even if it’s actually nothing to do with that kind of passion), and we think it’s best ordered in our Passion Fruit Margarita to sip throughout your meal. As you’ll probably know the tequila we use is made from 100% pure agave. And as the agave plant, is widely believed to boost the libido. That would make for 100% pure potent passion in a glass. So watch out.
On Tuesday 13th September, we’ll be opening up Wahaca number 5 (or 5 and a half if you’re counting the taco van), and taking a taste of Mexican Market Eating to East London’s newest marketplace, Westfield Stratford City, which you’ll find right at the entrance to the Olympic park.
Right now, we’re installing all of the state of the art kitchen kit that we need to cook up our delicious Mexican market food and putting the finishing touches to our very funky looking margarita bar which will be serving cocktails, wine, beers and our award winning range of tequilas. There are also some new design elements that we’ve brought to the site so that you can eat in serious style. A table hung from the ceiling anyone?
We’re pushing ourselves even further with the sustainability of our restaurant build, monitoring our whole fit out using a BREEAM retail assessment, which means that someone is checking up on how well we do with using recycled and sustainable materials – Don’t miss the cork walls and recycled bottles that we’ve used throughout, which have earned us extra green points.
We’re especially excited to have commissioned the skills of one of East London’s most prolific street artist, Pure Evil to bring his own style and some very cool colour to the walls. We we’re looking for something raw and provocative and we thought you might like to have a sneak preview of what he got up to last night.
Looking good, we hope you’ll agree.
So if you’re in the area and need a bit of a break from the shopping, or a bite after going to the cinema, or are heading over to check out how things are going down at the Olympic site, then come and say hi. You’ll find us at number 6 Chestnut Plaza in Westfield Stratford City, open every day from midday.
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.