To hear Whitney Terrell, Patrón’s social media manager, describe it, getting an invitation to the Patrón Secret Dining Society dinner is a lot like winning the lottery. Launched approximately seven years ago, the itinerant underground supper club pops up in just a handful of cities each year.
The dinners are usually limited to 30 people or fewer. The last time it made a stop in Houston was four years ago. I remember because I’d heard about it after the fact and immediately signed up for the Patrón Social Club (more on that later).
The purpose of the dinner, of course, is to give back to Patrón consumers. But there’s more to it than that. “When people think of Patrón, they think of shots and tequilas,” Terrell says. “But the aim of the society is to showcase the versatility of our tequilas.” To accomplish that, Patrón partners with renowned chefs who create a menu that is then paired to custom cocktails crafted specifically for each dinner.
For example, when it popped up in Nashville, the society partnered with Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan for a meal showcasing Indian cuisine. Says Terrell, “The cocktails that our mixologists came up with had guests saying, ‘Wow, I’ve never had a Patrón cocktail with turmeric in it before.’”
Along the same vein, when the society came to Houston, it tapped acclaimed chef William Wright of Helen Greek Food & Wine for a Greek-themed dinner. Patrón mixologist Lisa Selman, who is based in Chicago, was in charge of the cocktail pairings.
Neither the chef, mixologist or location was revealed until the day before the dinner. Confirmed guests were asked in advance, via email, to provide an address where an in-person delivery could be made a day before the dinner. When the day came, a courier arrived with the special delivery — a personalized invitation wherein the chef and location were revealed, along with a gift box of handmade Patrón-infused chocolates.
The dinner itself was limited to 26 attendees, and was held on a private rooftop with views of the downtown skyline at the 1111 Studewood building in the Heights.
The aim of the dinner — which was exclusive and glamorous, yet edgy with a sort of speakeasy vibe — was to ensure that everyone had a good time. Cocktails, naturally, were free-flowing and delicious.
During the cocktail hour, guests were served the first of the evening’s signature cocktails. Selman, who was on hand to make seconds or thirds for those who wanted them, named it the Soul Reviver, saying that it was a riff on the classic Corpse Reviver cocktail. Served in a coupe martini glass and garnished with an orange peel stamped with the Patrón bee logo, it was made with Patrón Silver, Lemon Juice, Lillet Blanc and Patrón Citron Orange. A finishing spray of Ouzu mist added a Greek touch that paired with Wright’s Greek-themed canapés.
The dinner itself involved three Greek-themed courses paired with three specialty Patrón cocktails. Each course was meticulously prepared and phenomenal, eliciting exclamations of delight from all in attendance.
For the first course, a grilled vegetable salad, Wright combined lightly grilled green cauliflower, baby heirloom carrots and confited baby fennel with watercress, and pickled red grapes. A Meyer lemon tahini dressing and crispy garlic chips gave each bite a punch of flavor with delightful texture. For the pairing, Selman served a “Cham a Little Closer” cocktail, made with Roca Patrón Silver, St. Germain, Luxardo Grappa, lime chamomile syrup, basil and orange bitters, garnishing each glass with an edible purple flower.
Wright described the second course, a roasted chicken and mushroom youvetsi, as a classic Greek dish. Spicy tomato sauce combined with orzo pasta formed the base of a dish topped with feta-brined roasted chicken and hen of the woods. The pairing, titled “Desire and Beauty,” was my favorite of the night for its presentation and creativity. Using Roca Patrón Reposado as the base, the fizzy, Prosecco-topped libation with eucalyptus bitters and a fresh twig of rosemary cut through the heft of the tomato sauce, adding a sprightliness to the pairing.
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By the time the final course of honeyed feta pie — a still-warm-from-the-oven phyllo dough shaped into a round and filled with creamy feta, walnut and local honey — arrived, a warm and fuzzy feeling seemed to have blanketed the crowd. Fitting, because the final cocktail, “Pear to Love,” made with Patrón Reposado and Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, gingerbread syrup and apple bitters, tasted like a comforting pear pie in liquid form.
So, how do you get in on the lottery pool for the next time the Patrón Secret Dining Society comes to town? “Go to PatrónTequila.com and sign up for the Patrón Social Club,” advises Terrell, then keep your eyes open for an email announcing the event. When the event comes back to Houston — sooner than four years from now, one hopes — all you need to do is register to be added to the lottery pool. And if the invitation does come in? Don’t hesitate, because you’ll be in for a treat.