Phoenix Tequila Festival Begins With Margarita Challenge, Ends In An Anejo Blur
The fourth annual Phoenix Tequila Festival at U.S. Airways Center brought shots upon shots of reposados, anejos and blancos to the Valley this past weekend for all of the tasting we could handle. In our circles at least, tequila has a bad reputation for mindless shots chased with lime and salt with little flavor disparity or appreciation to speak of. However, the festival, which featured tequilas made all over the U.S. and Mexico, proved to be a prime place to dive in head first to the tequila tasting world.
Heather Hoch Some of the seven margaritas competing in the Tequila Fest's Margarita Challenge.
Kicking off the day on Saturday, we hit up the Margarita Challenge. The competition featured seven local mixologists trying to wow the crowds and a panel of judges with their takes on the classic tequila-based cocktail. Armed with massive immersion blenders, infused spirits, fresh juices and herbs and unexpected liqueurs, the competitors whipped out sample after sample of their entries.
Heather Hoch Mixologists from all over Phoenix strutted their cocktail making skills on Saturday.
More simple examples included tamarind, basil ginger and watermelon, which had drinkable, but not necessarily groundbreaking flavors. Richie Moe of Citizen Public House, who was probably the most well known mixologist in the line-up, competed with a "black and blue" margarita, which combined reposado tequila, roughly chopped blueberries, (sulfuric...) black salt, blended limes, peppercorn and mate syrup and a few other fruit juices on top. While the consistency was perfectly pulpy for a blended drink thanks to the limes, the whole drink was very bitter with mild spicy undertones.
Our favorite of the seven margaritas came from Herb Box's Thea Sommers. Her Cactus Heat margarita, which is now available at the Scottsdale restaurant, combined pineapple and vanilla bean infused tequila with pineapple and lime juices, Tuaca, jalapeno slices and agave nectar with a cinnamon, cayenne and sugar rim. The result was a strong vanilla aroma, paired with a fruity and lightly spiced and spicy undertone with an impossibly smooth finish. This might be the closest thing we've ever drank to a holiday-spiced margarita and we highly recommend that you stop by Herb Box and try it out for yourself.
In the end, Richie Moe took top honors, with Modern Margarita's watermelon and honey margarita coming in second and Sommer's Cactus Heat only coming in third. Although we felt we should demand a re-sip, there was plenty more tequila to taste, both straight up and in cocktails so we moved onward.
Heather Hoch The judges deliberate over sips of unique, craft margaritas.