El Agave Revisited

We are not huge fans of tequila.  If you grew up in the Midwest and South, tequila was this sour tasting concoction with a worm in the bottom of the bottle.  Not that we ever saw a worm in a tequila bottle, but a couple of Hispanic friends (who actually never lived in or, from what I knew then, ever visited Mexico) assured us that real tequila (as opposed to the tequila sold in the local State Store) had a potency that put vodka to shame and indeed was always flavored by worm).

As we grew older, we mostly took our tequila in frozen margaritas first sampled at Fat Tuesday’s on South Beach, the sample here being a 16oz plastic cup of this flavor and that, sold from giant rotating barrels though we couldn’t tell you a whole lot about any differences after we got halfway through the second one. This was followed a couple months later in their bar on Bourbon Street and then, frankly, in at a least a half a dozen other Fat Tuesday’s along the eastern seaboard.  A Fat Tuesday’s margarita was not the tastiest drink in the world but Fat Tuesday’s had 10 different flavors, always served in large plastic cups and knocked you on your ass for less than 10 bucks.

After a while, we drifted away from margaritas.  Our tastes grew more towards straight whiskies – bourbon or rye or a single malt was the ticket.  Slow sipping on something with deep flavors and a bite is our preference these days.

A couple of months ago we were in San Diego and sampled some of the numerous Mexican restaurants the city has.  Our friend Richard, a San Diego transplant from Atlanta, suggested a Tequileria called El Agave in the Old Town area.  We had our doubts – our previous excursions into the touristy Old Town had not resulted in any memorable food;  forgettable was probably a better adjective.  And our Mexican beverage of choice remained Cerveza.  A Tequileria specializes in, well, tequila.

Richard was insistent.  His promise to buy a couple of rounds of tequila for us all was as about as much arm twisting as we needed.

We learned two things that evening at El Avage.  Number one, it turns out one can get pretty good Mexican food in Old Town.  El Avage had a classical mexican menu – a dozen different moles, wonderful combinations pescados and carne, and the best Sopa Mariscos I have ever encountered.

We are better whisky tasters than food critics.  Which leads us to the second thing learned that night – tequila drunk neat is pretty damn tasty.  The number of tequila’s the Tequileria had must have been in the hundreds – the place would put a Scotsman to shame.  We still can’t vouchsafe for worms in the bottle because after our third round, we could barely see the bottles in the dim light.  Richard assured us there were worms.

The tequilas’ tastes were as complex as bourbons or scotches. Some smokey, some dry; they had a tremendous range of subtle flavors that spanned from peppers to cinnamon to nuts to cherries.  Some had a nasty bite to them, but most were almost creamy smooth.    We were impressed.

We are not ready to join the tequila fan club just yet.  But we added Cinco Cantina and El Vato Tequila to our favorite Miami bar list.  We are going to keep testing these babies out.

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