Moving Beyond Frozen Margaritas

This Cinco de Mayo, ditch the blender in favor of refined craft tequilas.

If your only experience with tequila has been shots or frozen margaritas (and the wicked hangovers they can engender), you don’t know tequila. “Many people have the perception that tequila is not refined, but, in actuality, it is very refined,” says Chef Rafael Palomino of Sonora in Port Chester, which recently completed the transformation of its lounge area into one of Westchester’s largest tequila bars.

As people begin to discover the diversity of Mexico’s regional cuisine, they’re also discovering that tequila production goes beyond Cuervo and Patron, to include both artisanal and craft brands. At Sonora, Tromba Anejo—a small-batch tequila aged 20 months in American oak whiskey barrels—evokes the woody spirit. Puro Verde, another of Palomino’s favorite brands, is 100 percent organic and meant to be sipped neat, like Scotch. 

At Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila in Larchmont, owner Edgar Brambila estimates the bar stocks 150 to 180 brands of tequila and at least a dozen mezcals. “In the last five or ten years, [tequila production] has become very competitive,” says Brambila. “There are a lot of handcrafted distilleries that produce only so much tequila, and each bottle is numbered and comes with a little certificate.” On Tuesdays, Rio Bravo offers a “tequila of the week” at a discounted price, as an incentive for curious customers to try new brands.

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