783 Queen St. West, Toronto
Did you know that July 24th was National Tequila Day? I’ve never celebrated it before, as I’m not much of a tequila drinker. In fact, I never really knew much about tequila except that it’s the main ingredient in a Margarita. So when I heard that Milagro Cantina on Queen West was hosting a tequila party, I thought to myself, “this is my chance to learn about tequila!”
The restaurant on Queen West is one of three Milagro Cantina locations in Toronto. All of the restaurants serve authentic Mexican cuisine, and boast impressive varieties of tequila, mezcal and other spirits.
When my brother and I arrived at the restaurant, and were directed to the upper floor.
The restaurant itself is really attractive, but you can’t beat a rooftop patio on a nice warm day (see first photo). We headed straight for the bar, and grabbed a couple of drinks. I had the Margarita Tradicional made with Feria de Jalisco Blanco, Grand Marnier and lime. It had that wonderful tangy/salty flavour that you would expect from a classic margarita.
My brother decided to go with the Margarita Milagro. This spicy and smoky drink is made with Chile Ancho and Pasilla-infused Jimador Reposado, along with Grand Marnier and lime. This drink has kick!
The mixologists were really friendly, and we enjoyed watching them work. They make it look so easy!
We had arrived fairly late in the evening, and all of the food from the party was already done. Still, I figured that I’d be able to make it through the tequila tasting without too much of a problem.
Chef Arturo Anhalt guided us through the tasting, explaining the different varieties of tequila and mezcal. Here’s what we learned:
Tequila is a spirit, made from the fermented juice of the cooked core of the blue agave plant. The blue agave plant grows in South Central Mexico, in the region of Tequila (hence the name). There are three categories of tequila: Blanco tequila, Resposados and Anejos
- Blanco tequila is bottled after the second distillation of the agave plant. It is clear and has a strong flavour, and a distinct bouquet.
- Reposados are amber in colour and are aged in oak barrels for at least two months. They have a smoother and more mellow flavour.
- Anejos are dark coloured, and are aged in oak barrels for at least one year. They have similar characteristics to whiskey and bourbon.
The Blanco tequilas started off smooth, then had a strong finish. The Reposados were less intense, and the Anejos were really intense.
Mezcal is a spirit distilled from the Agave Americana plant. The plants are cooked for three days in pit ovens, which gives the mezcal a distinct smokiness. Various fruits, spices, vegetables and, in some cases, cured meats can be added to the plant “mash” to add flavour. Unlike tequila, mezcal is produced all over Mexico, using different agave plants. This means that the flavour of mezcal is highly varied from region to region.
I didn’t enjoy the mezcal that I tried… it was intense and smoky, and burnt all the way down. To be honest, I think that in general I prefer my tequila/mezcal to be in a mixed drink rather than in a shot glass.
Chef Arturo answered a question that I’ve always wondered about: “does tequila really have a worm in the bottle?” The answer is no, but, people do add worms to mezcal sometimes. Apparently, they add flavour…
I think we tried 6 or 7 of the 8 different types of tequila and mezcal, which is a lot for a lightweight like me. By that point I started to feel a bit… dizzy. Chef Arturo offered us some Sangrita, a popular tomato-based chaser that is usually enjoyed after tequila shots. I LOVED the Sangrita! It was like a Caesar cocktail, but so much better.
Chef Arturo offered to make us some tostadas, because he didn’t want us to leave hungry. I thought that was really sweet of him. I was also really grateful for the food because my head was really starting to spin!
I’m not sure how I managed to take these photos… but I’m glad I did. Look at how beautiful these dishes are! The photo above is the Cochinita Pibil. This is pulled pork in achiote, refritos (refried beans), pickled onions. I need to learn how to make refried beans like this, so I don’t have to eat the canned stuff at home…
We also had the Tropical De Pescado Ceviche. This dish has red snapper, mango, cilantro, red onion & slices of avocado. The mango was a really nice touch on this dish, as it added sweetness and a touch of acidity.
So, while I had a bit more to drink than I should have… and I discovered that tequila shots are not really my thing… I did gain a lot from this event. I learned a lot about the different kinds of tequila and mezcal. I finally learned the truth about “tequila worms”. But most importantly, I’ve discovered a new Mexican restaurant that serves delicious food. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy more dishes from their menu!
Chef Arturo Anhalt
This meal was complimentary, however, my opinions are genuine.
This is not a sponsored post.
Images without my watermark are used courtesy of Milagro Cantina.