The Tahona Society, hosted by Olmeca Tequila, was a one-day interactive seminar for bartenders to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of tequila, its flavour profiles and its bar rail versatility. What’s more, participants were also given the chance to strut their creative stuff in a no-holds-barred margarita mix-off.
After the barkeeps took part in an intensive tequila master class, a panel of four judges was given the enviable, but difficult task of sampling the many unique concoctions in the search for one ultimate winner to represent Toronto at a special Tahona Society symposium in Mexico.
Stand-out concepts included molecular tequila caviar from Nishantha Nepulangoda of Toronto’s Blowfish Restaurant and Sake bar; a café espresso, spicy mole creation from Toronto Institute of Bartending’s Clint Pattemore; a classic, slightly bitter, grapefruit margarita adaptation from Bartender One’s Gavin MacMillan and a hibiscus tea-infused blend from Colborne Lane’s Scott McMaster.
At the end of judging, and a long list of well-crafted, brilliantly balanced cocktails, the top three were announced over tacos, guacamole bean dip, chipotle pork ribs and, of course, margaritas, at Toronto’s Chimichanga Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar.
Placing third, with her locally and seasonally inspired spiced pumpkin margarita was Böhmer Restaurant’s Renata Clingen, while second place went to Brad Gubbins, creative director at the Toronto Institute of Bartending, for his skilfully balanced orange sorbet infused offering.
However, the night’s big winner, who will now head to Mexico, to take part in a week-long tequila crash-course with other global contest winners, was The Miller Tavern’s Rob Montgomery, who wowed judges with his pitch-perfect margarita, dubbed the Revolución 33 and a third. It featured Asian citrus, maraschino liqueur and smoked welsh sea salt.
In all, both contestants and judges left the day with a fuller appreciation for the cocktail versatility of not only the classic margarita, but also the nuanced flavour profile of tequila itself.
Those who live in one of the cities slated for the Tehona Society tour — Vancouver recently held a similar competition and the crew is headed to Edmonton and Calgary in the coming weeks — can look for the fruits of the competition’s labour on local cocktail lists.