Agave beverage director Jason Silverman says consumers are increasingly interested in artisanal smallbatch tequilas

Agave beverage director Jason Silverman says consumers are increasingly interested in artisanal, small-batch tequilas.

Tequila takes off

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No Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without the quintessential Mexican spirit: tequila. But tequila’s appeal transcends a single day.

Technomic has identified tequila as a growth category for bars and restaurants this year. Tequila sales volume rose three percent in 2012 and is expected to do the same this year.

The biggest gainers tend toward the high-end to super-premium end of the spectrum, says Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of Technomic’s adult beverage resource group.

Producers are clearly paying attention: Some 20 new tequilas were rolled out last year, along with 10 mezcals, Crecca says. Hot brands include Patron, Herradura, 1800, El Jimador and Familia Camarena.

“Mezcal is integrating into tequila programs everywhere and is at an all-time high in sales and popularity and prevalent in agave-based cocktails,” says Jason Silverman, beverage director at New York City’s Agave Restaurant & Tequila Bar.

Silverman has noticed a lot of interest in artisanal, smaller-batch tequilas such as Ocho, Alquimia, Nobleza, Tributo and Crotalo “that are really made with passion by smaller producers who care about the quality and the taste,” he notes.

“Larger brands still move, but people are excited about trying these handcrafted products,” he adds.

How are people drinking their tequila? Old standbys like margaritas are making room for tequila flights and alternative tequila-based cocktails.  

“There's a lot of experimentation with tequila in mixology today,” Crecca says. “Bartenders are playing with different juices, flavorings and syrups and other ingredients ranging from cucumbers to peppers.”

Crecca likes how Oyamel in Washington, DC, combines more nuanced ingredients like St-Germain and Lillet with tequilas. “When skilled bartenders get into the flavor variations that exist in the different aged expressions, then things can get very creative and interesting,” she observes.

At Agave, Silverman says top sellers incorporate fresh-squeezed juices, fresh herbs and simple flavors that highlight the agave. Here are two of his recipes.

Grapefruit Paloma

1.5 oz. Corazon blanco tequila
1.5 oz. fresh grapefruit  
dash of fresh lime
dash of agave nectar
2 oz. ginger beer
lime, for garnish

Mix first four ingredients together in a Boston Shaker and strain into a salted glass over ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime.

Oaxaca Margarita

2 oz. El Peleton Mezcal
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. agave nectar with a splash of water

Mix well and strain over new ice into a rocks glass with sal de gusano rim. Garnish with lime.