Tequila & Mezcal Fest: A celebration of Mexico in London
Mexican-drinks aficionado Eduardo Gomez on bringing a taste of his native land to the place he now calls home
I'm originally from Mexico City but I've lived in London for 13 years. For the past 12, I've worked for Mexican drink companies: first, the beer brand Corona and then Amathus Drinks, importer of premium spirits from around the world. My focus was Latin American spirits such as tequila and mezcal. It was during this time that I realised the necessity of educating consumers about Mexican spirits and the country as a whole. There are many misunderstandings about tequila particularly and how it should be drunk. So, in 2014, I launched the Tequila & Mezcal Fest with the objective of informing both the trade and the public on how best to use and enjoy these drinks.
Over the past few years, Mexican cuisine has become more popular in the UK and that's prompted a rise in interest in the spirits. Although tequila has been commonplace for a long time, the difference now is that people understand they need to drink the good-quality versions. With mezcal, as it's an artisanal product made by hand, it's become part of the growing trend for organic and small-batch products.
You can make tequila only from one type of plant – a blue agave whose horticultural name is Agave tequilana Weber – and it's traditionally cooked in a brick-lined oven or stainless-steel autoclave. Mezcal, however, can be made using different varieties of agave – I particularly like those made from the agave arroqueno. These agaves are cooked underground in pit ovens over a wood fire and the type of wood used affects the final taste. It's a much smaller-scale production method compared to that for tequila, and a slower process altogether in terms of cooking, fermenting and distilling.
The raw material for other spirits such as grain, sugar cane, potatoes and rice grow relatively quickly, but the agave plants for tequila take five years, and seven to 25 for mezcal, so the taste is powerful. You have to respect this and the best way to drink them is slowly – I always recommend people sip it, not take it in shots. It goes really well with any fresh flavours, such as citrus and fruit. One of my favourite cocktails is a mix of just three ingredients: tequila or mezcal, fresh lime juice and agave syrup.
As well as the chance to try a range of different tequilas and mezcals at the festival in September, there will be food on offer from some of the best Mexican restaurants in London. There will also be plenty of live entertainment, including a Mariachi band, folk dancers and more. We even have the artist Honorio Robledo coming from Mexico to present a series of paintings that he developed about the production of mezcal. My aim is simple: that people should come and enjoy Mexican culture, drink well, eat well and have fun.
EDUARDO GOMEZ founded the Tequila & Mezcal Fest in 2014 with the aim of bringing an authentic experience of Mexican drinks and culture to the UK. The festival takes place on 17 and 18 September in the Boiler House at Truman Brewery, east London; tequilafest.co.uk