As our first day of classes began out in beautiful San Antonio we hoofed it down along the Riverwalk to what would ultimately be the delicious doom of our livers. Classes began today and everyone was out in force as staff members guided us to the right rooms and everyone tried to find some food inbetween seminars.
Our first of the day, and one of the ones I had the most anticipation for, was Rhum Agricole lead by Chris Morales, Wyatt Peabody, and Ben Jones. Beginning our day with a tasty Ti Punch we noticed that unique Rhum flavor that you only get from fresh pressed sugar cane spirits. In Martinique your presented with the ingredients and glasses for your Ti Punch and told “Everyone prepares their own death”. This phrase would stick with me in the morning as I nursed a headache. The only A.O.C outside of France Martinique is held to strict standards to keep their rum classic and spot on much like Cognac or Champagne. Martinique’s unique volcanic soil, Atlantic breezes, and Caribbean temperatures provide a unique terrior to their cane and provide alot of depth and difference between the brands. It’s important to think about rhum agricole and tequila as one would wine in regards to terrior. For it’s their unique climate and cane field locations that can even change the rhums flavors from year to year. Fresh cut cane must be pressed and begin fermenting the same day by law and at Clement it’s done within the hour. Expect us to play more with the funk of Agricole in the coming months and gallons of Ti Punches for guests when we get home.
The second class of the day was a side by side comparison of scotch and tequila. Milagro and Glenfiddich representatives talked about the spirits and traded friendly jabs in an attractive tequila bar on the riverwalk called “The Worm”. Though agave and barley are quite different in flavor profiles they both make a refined spirit that are excellent for sipping. Tequila’s aging is mostly on the front end with the agave taking many many years to grow and mature. The heat and Caribbean aging make it age far faster in barrels than scotch and bourbon do up north. The angel’s share likewise is much greater. Scotch is aged on the back end with a wide variety of oaks used to help give the distilled barley beer desirable flavors and textures. When it comes to scotch we’re Islay fans, but when it comes to tequila I tend to take blanco or reposado. Which team won? I say team taster came out ahead of either. I will state however that Tequila does make a much better Margarita than scotch.
Our final class was presented by Dale Degroff himself and the owner of Pisco Porton John Schuler. I have to admit I was nervous and excited to meet Dale, but he was so affable and charismatic King Cocktail put the whole room at ease. We’d used Porton before and found it to be rather delicious. I’d often wondered what the single grape pisco’s tasted like however and we got the chance to try three at the Seminar. The Queberanta was grassy, minty, and reminded me of green papaya, young pineapple and basil. The Italia was fruity and rich in fig and cherry with a big bold nose. The Torontel was a bit oily and had amazing body and earthy flavors. In Peru each of their grapes has a Puro or single varietal expression. Soon Torontel and Queberanta however will hit store shelves in the US for our bartenders to play with. Thanks again to you Mr. Degroff if your reading for the great drinks and the autograph in my book.
After the classes we took a barge up the River to experience food and cocktails made with local Texas spirits. The party rocked on into the evening with a hopping band belting out Elvis and country classics. As we headed back home to sober up and get ready for another day of classes we were all glad no one had to drive. For any would be cocktail conference goer just remember water is your friend, Until next time…
“You get Hammered America” – JFL