Monday, 11 April 2016

An update from my travels


Fun in Crete; The Greeks love agave spirits and cocktails.

Shake it!

More cocktail craft from our friends on Crete, a wonderful place to drink, eat and be merry!

Raicilla Country

Raicilla, the lesser known agave spirit is produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the same state where 95% or more of all tequila is made. Here is a 'vivero', (nursery) where baby agaves are being raised by seed which creates a genetically strong plant since the seeds are created by cross pollination. 
This region is west of the tequila region in the coastal mountains. The seeds are gathered by hand from wild Maximiliana agaves.

Here the seedlings are ready to take to the field to plant.

Here in the fields the planting is done at random in "semi- cultivation" style.

Here are Maximiliana agaves growing in the wild.

Here is Esteban Morales who brings Venenosa brand raicilla to market. He is checking out a field of "semi- cultivated" Maximiliana agaves (often called 'magueyes') in this region. Why "semi-cultivated" instead of being in neat rows as in the tequila culture? The idea is that these plants will resemble more the wild plants leading to eventual taste profiles in the spirit closer to that of the wild grown plants. Think of "terroir".
Look it up if you don't much get it yet.

A portable bar. Esteban, Anselmo and Ruben , the raicillero with Squirt, cola and raicilla. 
What else do you need?

Earthen oven to cook the agaves.

Another example of how to extract the juice from the cooked agave.

Fermentation pit. Yeast -and all sorts of other things- comes naturally into the "mosto". 

Fermentation at another "taberna". 

Distillation. The still for distillation.

Distillation. Other stills and condensers , these made of clay.

Another oven to cook the agaves. 
This one is above ground and the plant hearts are placed directly on top of the burning charcoal.

Mother Nature.

This is the way the juice is extracted . The cooked agave is placed in the "canoe" and the "hatchet" is used to maul and beat the juice from the fiber by hand. Maybe you thought the tahona (millstone) was primitive?


A break from Agave. A shop late at night in Tequila town.

Have a look at these blue tequiliana weber agaves. The way they've been trimmed they start looking like karwinskies. I wonder if their flavor as a spirit would be different?

Have a look at the history in this wall on the way from downtown Tequila to Tequila Fortaleza.

La Capilla

Jose Luis the man who first took Phil Bayly and I to La Capilla about 25 years ago.

Don Javier and his nephew Aaron receiving one of their 50 Best Bars in the World awards at La Capilla. Don Javier is revered the world over for being a model host in his bar. He says, "Everyone is welcome", I say , "Welcome by his love". Don Javier has been tending his bar since 1945. Let that sink in.

In the doorway in the soft, Mexican early afternoon, sitting on the floor against the wall is a figure that in most other settings is a pariah.  He is a Mexican man with down syndrome. In this place he is accepted, welcome as is everyone. I am again in La Capilla. 

I have arrived with Francisco Soltero –the Director General of the Mexican National Tequila Chamber – along with Miguel Cedeño- the Chamber’s Master Distiller- and Rodolfo Fernandez who Eduardo Orendain-also present- calls the walking library since he knows so much.  Rodolfo is a University Professor and an authority on many things, with a speciality in agave culture, including tequila.

Eduardo Orendain of the venerable “Tequilero” family is the current President elect of the Chamber. We have gathered in Tequila Town to present to Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of La Capilla his recognition for having won 20th best bar in the world according to the ‘Academy’ of Drinks International magazine.

We are having a few of Don Javier’s signature drinks, stirred with his usual butcher knife. We are taking photos and enjoying the celebrity of La Capilla and its owner Don Javier. This is a matter of national pride, number 20th in the world.

The talk is characteristically lively and Eduardo Orendain makes a dramatic announcement. He tells the group that Don Javier has served four generations of Eduardo’s  family in La Capilla, his grandfather and father when they were both young , he himself and his son. This is over a period of more than 66 years during which time Don Javier has been a barkeeper. Think what the world was in 1945 when he began.

Jose Luis Partida is with us, he being the one who first brought me to La Capilla more than 25 years ago. He has often reminded me that we are all one family, something I have repeated and retold many times to others.

I tell the group that for me there are numerous significant levels to the award to La Capilla. One is the recognition to Mexico itself another is to tequila since both are integral to the bar. The last and most important part of all the attention is that Don Javier is given appreciation for running a place that as he says, “Is about love”. We are benefactors of this love, the family that has gathered here, including the man sitting in the doorway.

Aaron making drinks at La Capilla.

Good times at La Capilla.

La Capilla. Sophie and her 'little one' getting blessings from Don Javier.

Again in La Capilla with Don Javier, my pilgrimage.

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