Phoenix Tequila Fest

Sample tequilas during Phoenix Tequila Fest this weekend.


If you shelved the tequila when you closed your pool for the season, open the liquor cabinet and welcome it back to the bar.

Winter is a wonderful time to enjoy tequila.

Though more readily associated with the margaritas of Cinco de Mayo and summer pool parties, the spirit can be "warm and fuzzy," says Ramon Gonzalez of Tres Amigos Tequila, a Valley-based distiller.

"Tequila is something that's really meant to be enjoyed and savored."

More than a dozen tequila makers will show fans of the liquor just how to do that Saturday and Sunday at the Phoenix Tequila Festival in downtown Phoenix.

They'll dispense samples of tequila that run the gamut from silver to gold, rested to extra-aged, organic to infused with flavors of mango, pineapple, watermelon, habañero pepper and coffee.

The Gonzalezes, who grow and distill their organic tequila on land owned by the clan for generations in Jalisco, Mexico, enjoy tequila yearround, using ingredients like peppermint or Hot Tamale candies to create seasonal margaritas.

But margaritas aren't tequila's only trick.

"One that we like to do is what we call the TnT, the Dynamite. It's a little bit of Sprite, añejo tequila and agave nectar, and it's excellent. People love to sit with that after having a meal," says Gonzalez.

Some tequilas are so smooth, they can be enjoyed straight - in slow, body-warming sips, instead of thrown back quickly in a mind-fogging shot.

"My grandmother - to this day, God bless her - she's the matriarch of the family, and every day in the morning, she will have her shot of tequila. She's 87 years old and as fit as a fiddle, and she sips it. She enjoys her tequila. It warms up the blood and gets the heart going, and she's ready for her day."

What you choose to sip is a matter of taste. The Tequila Fest is a good opportunity to find out what you like before dropping anywhere from $20 to $100 on a bottle of tequila in a store.

"If you prefer having that charred wood flavor in your palate, the reposados and añejos are the ones you're going to go with. If you like that pure, agave flavor, the blancos are what you're going to be drawn to," says Gonzalez, himself a "blanco" fan.

At the festival, several restaurants - among them Dos Gringos and America's Taco Shop - will hand out carne asada, shrimp ceviche, taquitos and other Mexican fare.

Los Angeles-based Latino rock band Monte Negro will perform at 3 p.m. each day. Strolling mariachis and dancers will entertain throughout event.

The 20th annual Christmas Mariachi Festival caps off Saturday evening's tequila party. The concert, featuring Antonio Aguilar Jr. and Beatriz Adriana, begins at 7 p.m. inside U.S. Airways Center. A 50 percent discount to the Phoenix Tequila Fest is available with Mariachi Festival tickets purchased online.



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