There’s more to agave than just tequila—just ask Windi Tapawan, the only certified master of agave spirits in Asia.
“Are we seriously drinking tequila on a Tuesday night?” I asked my fellow guests several times while we were waiting for the media event at A’Toda Madre Mezcaleria to begin.
To be fair, there were a few reasons to celebrate that evening: the launch of the bar’s online shop for agave spirits and preparations for A’Toda Madre’s tenth anniversary early next year, among others. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t drunk alcohol in the middle of a work week—we do pop a bottle of wine sometimes at the end of a stressful day—but tequila shots within a busy week seemed like a one-way ticket to a knockout.
Perhaps it was my younger self speaking from a time when tequila shots meant crawling back home from college parties with no memory of what happened hours prior. Windi Tapawan of A’Toda Madre understands this well, to which she immediately points out that it’s tequila mixto (made with 51% agave spirit and 49% sugars from other sources) that knocks people out more often than not—the added ingredients, not the agave spirits, are the culprits.
Windi assures us that 100% agave spirits provide an experience similar to wine or whisky tasting sessions, wherein one can enjoy the complex flavors of mezcals, tequilas, and raicillas, among others, from start to finish.
Windi opened the evening by introducing six bottles for the night: two tequilas (Código 1530 Tequila Rosa Blanco and Arette Tequila Blanco), three mezcals (La Herencia de Sánchez, Derrumbes, and Los Vecinos del Campo), and a raicilla (La Venenosa).
The first certified master of agave spirits in Asia explained that, similar to champagne, agave spirits get their names based on which region in Mexico they are made, which varietals are used, and which processing methods (pit roasting, steaming, etc.), among others. Windi, who wrapped up her one-year certification course in Oaxaca, Mexico earlier this year, admitted that it takes a while to get used to the naming conventions.
Unlike how most are acquainted with agave, Windi didn’t ask us to take shots, squeeze a lemon slice, and take a lick of salt; instead, she encouraged us to warm up our mouths by first damping our lips with the spirit, then allowing a sip to settle below our tongues, and finally downing the liquid. We weren’t required to finish all the shots, but Windi cheekily reiterated that agave spirits have less calories than other drinks like beer. (Read: feel free to finish everything!)
Windi herself admitted that it’s challenging to describe the taste of an agave spirit, but you’ll definitely know it once it drenches your mouth. Alongside that distinct agave flavor comes a variety of notes, from floral and citrusy shots to the more gritty, peppery, and a tad bit funky agave spirits. As with whisky tastings, the flavors you identify per shot will depend on how expansive your existing palate and knowledge of flavors are; similarly, by consuming agave spirits a la Windi’s method, you get to pair the drink with a variety of dishes. (Throughout the evening, we had generous servings of nachos, tacos, and other Mexican fare, which pair well with agave spirits anyway.)
Perhaps it was the alcohol talking, but as the night progressed, I was honest enough to tell Windi that agave spirits aren’t my most favorite; hence (and ironically), I got more motivated to attend the masterclass. After all, I may have been drinking them incorrectly (or being deprived of the good stuff)—true enough, after tasting pure agave spirits in a more methodical fashion, I was able to get through the tasting with a smile on my face and just the right hit for a Tuesday night.