A host of single-spirit festivals have sprouted up across the region over the past half-decade, one such is Seattle’s Northwest Tequila Fest that celebrated its third year on Saturday with a sun-soaked parking lot roped off and filled to the gills with agave spirits and their analogous enthusiasts.
Though a good many events choose to celebrate the Northwest’s proprietary beverage bounty (local beer, wine and whiskey events among them), the Northwest Tequila Fest is unique in introducing liquor lovers to something they can’t find brewing at the tap house or nanodistillery around the corner. The fest brought the flavors of Mexico to Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood’s community center and featured 124 spirits—that is, 100 percent of the agave brands in Seattle. Nearly all of these were available for sale onsite at wholesale prices: standouts included 7 Leguas Reposado, Avión Reserva 44 and Wahaka Espadín alongside local imports Sparkle Donkey Blanco and El Zacatecano Añejo. Other activities included a photo booth, Latin music by local KEXP DJ Chilly and punch bowls full of event sponsors’ signature cocktails.
Cocktails were shaken up onstage as well as off: the event’s main attraction was a cocktail contest whose finalist short list was several weeks in the making. Event organizers took on the daunting task of tasting dozens of submissions, narrowing the running of Seattle agave-focused bartenders to Zach Harjo of Ocho, Cameron George of Barrio, Sean Johnson of Canon, Amanda Reed of Tavern Law and Aaron Robinson of Aragona. In a fierce competition that included everything from a milk punch to specialty glassware with breaded rims, Tavern Law’s Reed came out with top honors from the panel of four judges. Her tequila-mango concoction, titled “The Wondrous Life of Mango,” was accented by Scrappy’s lime and celery bitters and garnished with a floating slice of brilliantly red pepper, and won her a trip for two to Mexico with Experience Tequila.
All in all, the fest showcased tequila for what it is—the most chemically complex distillate we consume. We’re looking forward to the fourth installation.