Agave Fest Now ‘Agave Heritage Week’; Expands To Include Rialto, Carriage House, Concerts, Dinner & More

Agave Heritage Week

May 3 through May 8

More Info

Agave is more than tequila and agave syrup.

Thankfully, we live in Tucson, where agave is part of our heritage and we can find other agave-based spirits suchas bacanora, mezcal, and rarer spirits such as sotol. To celebrate this, Hotel Congress is evolving their Agave Fest into the annual Agave Heritage Week.

This year, from May 3 through 8, the eighth annual Agave Fest is only part of a week of events celebrating the culinary heritage, art, culture and science of the indigenous agave plant. The full week allows strong influences from both sides of the border and allows other downtown venues are getting in the agave action, such as the Rialto Theatre and Carriage House.

“We wanted to create a much larger awareness around this plant and the people and culture associated with the harvesting and production,” said Hotel Congress general manager and creator of Agave Heritage Week Todd Hanley. “We also wanted to keep this event authentic and unique by staying away from the standard stock events.”

Even though Mexico has its own annual Agave Fest in Mexico City, Hanley is looking to build Agave Heritage Week up with exclusive components and partnerships to make it the signature event around all things agave.

“This plant and its culture offer so much more and we didn’t want to minimize the importance of this plant with only a few days of food, beverage, and entertainment,” Hanley said. “Almost all agave spirits outside of mainstream tequila are smaller farmers and producers highlighting what are best about each product, which is the personality of the producer.”

Though agave grows in southern Arizona, the plant takes years to mature. As a result, sustainability is a concern during production. Apparently, Three Wells Distilling Company is the only Tucson-based company distilling agave. Three Wells is providing their Agave Silver for the cocktail competition at Agave Fest.

“Simply put, agave spirits are complex, new, unique and slightly mysterious,” Hanley said.

While some of Tucson’s top talent such as Chef Janos Wilder and Casino Del Sol Property Mixologist Aaron DeFeo will participate, there will be no shortage of internationally recognized experts in attendance. Master mezcalier Sergio Inurrigarro and artisanal chocolatier Anayency Gomez will be present thanks to a partnership with the Mexican Consulate. Aside from assisting financially, the Consulate has been instrumental in opening various communication channels.

“I hope the Consulate’s role grows to a point where they’re the providing the resources to ensure we can offer the Agave Trade Show by facilitating our communication with the producers and Mexican government,” Hanley said.

Though Agave Heritage Week is a huge step up compared to last year, Hanley remains ambitious. While he wants to continue growth on the culture, art and entertainment aspect with more partners such as Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Fox Tucson Theatre, he’d also like to add an agave art gallery and a trade show highlighting spirits currently not distributed in the United States.

What’s the favorite agave spirit of this agave enthusiast?

“I actually like mezcal, and in particular, a brand not available in the United States that was given to me by Sergio,” said Hanley. “I like the complexity of the taste and the smoky finish.”

Let’s hope we get that trade show so restaurants can expand their agave options and we can have what he’s having.

Agave Fest 2015 (Credit: Hotel Congress)

Agave Fest 2015 (Credit: Hotel Congress)

Here is the full list of events:

Tuesday, May 3

La Ley Performs at Rialto Theatre

The Latin Grammy Award-winning group La Ley kicks off Agave Heritage Week at Rialto Theatre.

This all-ages show begins at 7 p.m. General admission is $40 to $45. Tickets and more information are at and 520-740-1000.

Thursday, May 5

Cinco de Mayo at Hotel Congress

Mexican Moonshine Tequila bars will be featured in Club Congress, with $6 cocktails, $5 shots, and $3 Dos XX.

This 21-and-up event begins at 6 p.m. Entry is $3.

At 7 p.m., Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers play at Club Congress. Tickets are $30 and available here.

USBG Seminars at Maynards Market & Kitchen’s Drawing Room

Learn all about agave from the experts of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.

Classes are $20 per person, per class. Cost includes your entry into our special seminar, a commemorative t-shirt, and a traditional mezcal tasting glass.

At 5:30 p.m., master mezcalier Sergio Inurrigarro teaches about all things agave with support from Aaron DeFeo and Layla Linn. Purchase tickets here.

At 6:45 p.m., Layla Linn, Aaron DeFeo, and Sergio Inurrigarro bring their mixology skills to life with an agave-based cocktail seminar. Purchase tickets here.

Friday, May 6

Agave Dinner with Janos Wilder at Carriage House

Join Chef Janos Wilder and Master Mezcalier Sergio Inurrigarro for the 2nd Annual Agave Dinner, part of Hotel Congress’s Agave Heritage Week. You’ll have a four-course agave-paired dinner and a traditional mezcal tasting glass to take home.

This event is expected to sell out. Be sure to get your tickets here.

Hors d’oeuvres:

  • Local beef cheek mini tacos, smoked poblano & mushroom flautas
  • Paired with a cocktail of blanco tequila, raspberry, habanero shrub, sparkling wine

First course:

  • Ceviche blanco — wild Mexican shrimp, pickled nopalitos, local chiles, mizuna greens, Anita’s corn tortillas
  • Paired with Agua Amarga — blanco tequila, apple almond orgeat, lime, Averna

Second course:

  • La Codorniz con Tequila — quail cured in tequila and lime, agave chiltepin glaze, mesquite smoked beef tongue, roasted pan patty squash, garlic confit, prickly pear, yucca root puree
  • Paired with John Rose — reposado tequila, demerara, lemon, kosher salt, float AZ Red Malbec

Third course:

  • Dos Corderos Del Corazon de Mexico — double chop of lamb rack with chipotle recado, pepitas, Native Seed/SEARCH mole + roasted corn vinaigrette, lamb shoulder barbacoa, peruana beans, guacamole, pickled cholla buds
  • Paired with La Mordidita — Vida mezcal, apricot brandy, dry vermouth, Mi Casa bitters

Fourth course:

  • Magdalenas de Mezcal — ancho chile chocolate cupcake, raspberry and white chocolate Mezcal truffle, coffee caramel, berries, and whip
  • Paired with fresh brewed coffee

Saul Hernandes of Jaguares performs at Rialto Theatre

This all-ages show begins at 7 p.m. General admission is $26 to $28. Tickets and more information are at and 520-740-1000.

El Tambó Dance Party at Hotel Congress

This free event begins at 10 p.m.

Saturday, May 7

The 8th Annual Agave Fest at Hotel Congress

The main event with live music, food, and of course, all the agave you can handle. Your ticket includes entry into this year’s Agave Fest, 10 tasting tickets, food pairings, truffles, a traditional mezcal tasting shot glass, and a commemorative shot glass to take home.

This 21-and up event is from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is $35 to $40. Purchase tickets here.

Tickets also cover entry into the Agave 101 Seminar, which requires a reservation. More details below.

Agave 101 Seminar with Expert Mixologist Layla Linn and Master Mezcalier Sergio Innurrigarro

Learn from expert mixologist Layla Linn and world-renowned master mezcalier Sergio Inurrigarro about all things agave.

This event is from 6 to 7 p.m. inside Club Congress, but seating is limited. RSVP by emailing and include Agave 101 and your full name in the message.

Sunday, May 8

Bloody Maria Bar at Hotel Congress

Milagro Tequila is taking over the Hotel Congress lobby Sunday Bloody Mary Bar to offer an agave spin of Bloody Marias. This fresh take is garnished with nopalitos (prickly pear cactus) instead of cucumber. The bar opens at 10 a.m., so you can grab a Bloody Maria while waiting for a seat at Cup Cafe.

For more information, to purchase tickets, or to make hotel room reservations, visit

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.