If you've scrubbed tequila off your drinks menu because of that night, or if your tequila experiences have been limited to the lick, sip and suck model, it really is time for a re-think. And to do that, you should, ideally, head to the source. In lieu of a plane ticket to Mexico proper, however, there's always the possibility of a visit to Mejico (105 Pitt Street, Sydney). Since mid-October, the resident tequilier has been dealing out masterclasses that are likely to have you seriously reconsidering the oft-maligned spirit.
Arriving at Mejico's doorstep can be a chaotic affair. "I unashamedly want this to be one of best Mexican restaurants in the world," owner Dr Sam Prince toldGood Food when he opened up in 2013. And whether or not he's quite reached the summit of that sombrero, he seems to have won the crowd's hat, at least, in Sydney. In a city where Mexican cuisine has tended to be limited to the top-notch-after-a-long-night-out-yet-on-the-stodgy-side variety, Mejico has popped a piņata stick straight into the corn-beans-cheese-lettuce mold. Underpinned by a market-to-table philosophy, the menu is packed with exotic and deftly executed dishes, from Yucatan-style chicken, seared in a ginger, honey and lemon achiote and accompanied with mango habanera salsa, quinoa and candied almonds ($26); to roasted portabello mushrooms with goat's cheese, gouda and queso fresco, a pepita crunch and balsamic glaze ($14). When you order guacamole, a waiter brings the ingredients to your table and whips it up fresh.
For the masterclass, though, we find ourselves safely corralled into a quiet spot on the bar. Participants sit in a row, facing the tequilier, who's back dropped by the 230 tequilas and mezcals that make up the Mejico collection. Matters begin with a get-to-know-your-neighbour margarita, made in the house style (Jose Cuervo Traditional Silver, cointreau, fresh lemon, egg white and agave), before we move onto the main business: six tequila shots, poured straight.
They're not designed, however to be knocked back in one grimace-inducing gulp, or, worse, book-ended with the corrupting influences of salt and lemon. We're encouraged to smell and savour every single mouthful, as you would a high-end whiskey. Our educator walks us through each one, explaining whether it's 'blanco' (unaged), 'reposado' (aged for two-twelve months) or 'anejo' (aged for at least one year) and encouraging us to detect varying nuances, from the citrus and pepper tones of a smooth Don Julio 'highland' drop to the spice and caramel of a Don Nacho Premium 'valley'. What makes the evening really work is his obvious obsession with tequila. No one among us could come up with a question he couldn't answer.
At present, Mejico masterclasses are happening Thursday at 4pm, Friday at 3pm and 4:15pm, and Saturday at 4pm and 5:15pm. Each class lasts about one hour and will set you back $65 (with signature snack included) or $95 (with small plates). For a class to run, a minimum of four people is needed. Book at least one week in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.