As the beverage director of Tequila Factory and all of Casino Del Sol, Aaron DeFeo knows a thing or two about a tequila cocktail that’s a step above your average margarita. For SAACA’s 2014 Salsa & Tequila Challenge, DeFeo has drawn on the flavors of Mexico and India, which he says are, in many ways, very similar. Read on for a sneak peek into what he’ll be mixing up for the judges…
TF: How does your featured cocktail celebrate the culture and history of Tequila or modernize it?
AD: The drink (“A Fistful of Rupees”) draws on the rich culinary history of India and Mexico. In many ways, they are very similar: the serving techniques, the spice ingredients (cumin, coriander, cilantro, cinnamon, etc…). There’s some coconut milk in there that lends a cooling effect to the drink that goes a long way when you are serving it with spicy salsa. I’m not trying to reinvent cocktails here, just presenting something you don’t see every day that should have a broad appeal to culinary-minded guests. I guess you can classify it as a modernized tequila cocktail, but it’s tough. So many tequila cocktails are similar because tequila plays really well with citrus and produce, so you end up with a lot of familiar combinations. Anything outside of that box is usually approached with trepidation.
TF: Will you be using any regional ingredients in your drink and sample menu?
AD: We’re serving a lovely machaca taco alongside the cocktail, and machaca is really well known as a Tucson/Sonoran specialty. We’ve got some great rich spices in the machaca, along with a traditional salsa mezon & a fantastic cheese blend that Chef uses. On the surface it’s a basic street taco, but flavor-wise it’s so much more than that.
TF: How and why did you choose the tequila you are using in the cocktail?
AD: Don Julio is a fantastic Highland tequila that goes really well with the spices and herb flavors present in both Mexican and Indian cuisine. I wanted a tequila that people knew, and in that realm there are so many tequilas that end up flat in cocktails. I’ve always had a lot of confidence pouring Don Julio in whatever I’m making.
TF: Why is it a winner?
AD: Because it’s very balanced, and packed with amazing layers of flavor. Isn’t that all you can ask from a cocktail?
TF: Will the cocktail be available on the restaurant menu after the competition?
AD: We’ll have a tamarind drink on the menu, but it won’t be quite the same. It will have a decidedly more Mexican angle, and will probably end up being a margarita. This isn’t a margarita competition, and I think that the flavors and style of the cocktail will reflect that.
For more information, please visit the 2014 SAACA Salsa & Tequila Challenge Tucson Foodie post. For more information about Casino del Sol, please visit them on the web at casinodelsolresort.com.