Last Thursday, July 26, 11 tequila purveyors went head to head at El Pueblito for their second annual margarita festival. Think the Olympics inspire intense competitors? Those athletes have nothing on the ferocity of brand representatives, each determined to produce the best margarita for what appeared to be a very discerning crowd.
Upon entrance to the festival, all patrons were given a card for vouchers for 11 samples of the competing margaritas and space to cast their ballot for the número uno libation.
As a general rule, I avoid any activity that involves standing in long lines in the heat for minuscule amounts of food. El Pueblito's margarita fest proved, however, to be a welcome aberration from most food and drink festivals. It was pleasantly crowded, but traffic was free-flowing and the patrons polite and in good spirits. Queues at the competitor booths moved quickly and the samples themselves were rather generous. And the swag wasn't bad, either, with some labels handing out complimentary shot glasses.
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I also surprised myself by exercising some restraint with regards to imbibing. I wanted to try all 11 margaritas, and try them I did, in very small sips. That technique was still sufficient to pick my favorites (including a winner) and feel like quite the tequila connoisseur by the end of the evening. Standouts include a fragrant Lemongrass Ginger margarita from El Tesoro and a coconut margarita made with the new 1800 Coconut Tequila. I also admired the craftsmen-like design of the Tanteo bottles (whose contents weren't bad, either).
The margarita par excellence, however, was the "twisted margarita" created by Republic Tequila. Equal parts all-natural jalapeño lime and prickly pear spirit blends and blanco tequila, the twisted margarita had a latent background bite of pepper that was pleasantly offset by the botanical flavor of the prickly pear cactus. It was sweet but definitely sassy -- and it had the potential to leave one very twisted by the end of the night.