Summer school used to be a considered a punishment but the summer school session of Ortega 120’s Tequila University is a lesson you won’t want to miss. Combing a class on the history and distilling of tequila with delicious food, cocktail demonstrations and of course a flight of tequilas to taste, summer school was in session.
While wine tastings abound throughout the state, spirit tastings are far and few between, surprising with the resurgence of classic cocktails and the abundant number of new creations on the market.
Our classroom was set on the restaurants inviting patio ornately decorated with artwork and lighting and was hosted by Demi Stevens, Ortega 120’s co-owner and Grace Gomez from Pura Vida Tequila Company. Fresh guacamole and homemade chips along with house signature margaritas welcomed the group while our flight glasses of tequila were airing temptingly at each setting.
Our history teacher this evening, Grace introduced us to the Pura Vida tequila line by taking us on a journey of the history of tequila in general and then specifically into the impressive history of the Vivanco family and their tequila making traditions dating back to 1923. Throughout the class you’ll learn to understand the complexity of the tequila distilling process, growing blue agave, and the regulations that are strictly enforced in, harvesting, production and the sale of tequila. You’ll also be treated to the family traditions (such as playing music for the agave) as well as the modern distillation methods and the ultimate partnership of the Skloss and Vivanco families to bring you the first-class tequila produced today.
You don’t have to be a tequila lover to enjoy Tequila University. It’s not a class on how to take a shot of tequila – on the contrary, the salt, shoot and lemon biting method was touted as “the way to cover the taste of bad tequila”. Pura Vida is enjoyable straight and as you sip each taster you can begin to identify the characteristics of the individual spirits. Pura Vida silver with a clean lightly herbed finish; Pura Vida gold picking up notes of the crops that grow around it such as banana and coconut; and Pura Vida Anejo aged at minimum one year and bolder, sweeter and spicy with caramel notes.
During the tastings we paired the white and gold tequila with delicious chicken and short rib street-style tacos and the anejo variety with sweet churros dipped in Abuelita chocolate sauce. Demi then showed us how to make two original cocktails using tequila and tasting samplers were passed of those as well. Having over 200 varieties of tequila in-house, Demi knows her way around tequila and paired with Grace you get two experts on the subject in one of the most entertaining classes you’ll ever attend.
Of course, every class has a test and if you were a good student and had taken notes in the rustic leather-bound notebook we received on arrival you stood a good chance of winning a bottle of Pura Vida to take home with you (which I did).
Like all good classes, Tequila University fills up quickly. For current class schedules check out the calendar at www.ortega120.com.