Nibbles and Sips Around Town: ‘8th Annual Oyamel Tequila And Mezcal Festival Kick Off’ by Cary Pollak

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Jose Andres’ Oyamel Cocina Mexicana restaurant is celebrating its Tequila and Mezcal Festival now through March 15th. The annual event, billed as a “Toast to the Heritage of Mexican Spirits” features specialty cocktails and dishes from around Mexico.

Complimentary tequila and mezcal tastings will be available in the newly expanded Butterfly Bar today, Thursday, March 5th, Monday, March 9th through Thursday, March 12th from 4 – 6 pm. Food and drink specials will be available from March 2nd – March 15th and company representatives will be on hand to explain what makes their brands unique.

Freshly made guacamole, salsa and chips.

Freshly made guacamole, salsa, and chips.

Although most dishes and drinks in the festival are laced with some variety of chili pepper, professional fire-eaters need not apply. On the contrary, the chefs and drinkmasters have been careful to assure their beautifully balanced flavors shine through while allowing just enough heat to add a certain piquancy to finished cocktail. The wide variety of chili peppers incorporated into the recipes makes this festival a tasty tutorial on the complexities of Mexican culinary preparation.

Cocktails concocted by Beverage Manager and ‘Mezcalier’, Jasmine Chae, will warm your spirits. And the hint of chili spice swirled into each drink cheers the palate. ‘Media Naranja’ is prepared with Fidencia Clasico mescal, sour orange, habanero, egg white and bitters. Mezcal also is employed in ‘Paloma de Oaxaca’, mixed with grapefruit-jalapeno soda. Adding sweet vermouth and guajillo chili to Tequila Anejo creates ‘La Capital’. Or try ‘Pica Pepino’, a refreshing blend of Tequila Blanco, cucumber, serrano pepper, and lemon.

The Media Naranja is colored with a splash of bitters on top.

The Media Naranja is colored with a splash of bitters on top.

As is typical of the festivals and special events put on by Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup, Executive Chef Colin King and the culinary team at Oyamel have created outstanding dishes to complement the lyrical libations. The variety of types of chilies and their uses in the hands of these experts is impressive.

Executive Chef Colin King with Cary Pollak.

Executive Chef Colin King with Cary Pollak.

Birria de Cabra, is Oyamel’s version of the Mexican goat dish ‘birria’ made with chilies and other spices.  Aguachile Costeno Amarillo is a ceviche style dish featuring Hawaiianono sliced and served over jicama, red onion, avocado, radish, and cilantro with a spicy sauce of chile costeno amarillo and a puree of Mexican papaya. Panuchos de Pavo con Salsa Chilmole features the habanero chili with tender shreds of braised turkey leg served over a bean-stuffed and fried tortilla, topped with sour orange, habanero and tomato salsa along with pickled onions and avocado.

Oyamel is in the Penn Quarter at 401 7th Street, NW, in Washington, DC, 20004. For more information or to make reservations, go to their website.

Photos by Cary Pollak.

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